An innovative challenge programme has launched in Tees Valley with the aim to connect voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations with big businesses to encourage volunteering. The project is developing innovative approaches to volunteering which harness the skills within large organisations in support of development of the local VCSE sector.
Through providing suitable opportunities for staff within big businesses to volunteer with local charities and social enterprises, the programme will help increase the availability of expertise to the VCSE sector. At the same time, it will provide real-world training for business staff and ensure big businesses are able to achieve their corporate social responsibility objectives by giving back to the communities they are based in.
The challenge will provide local VCSE organisations with expert support and grant funding of £5,000 each, allowing them to set aside the time and resources required to work up volunteering opportunities. It will also help them to connect with big businesses who could be the sources of expert staff as volunteers.
Simon Green, CEO at Edge Innovation, who is leading the work as part of the Tees Valley Business Challenge programme, described why the challenge has been set up.
“From talking to local social enterprises and charities, we discovered how difficult it is for them to bring in volunteers. The pandemic has made it even more problematic to engage with the volunteers that these organisations rely on to deliver invaluable services local communities rely on. At the same time, we were talking with larger organisations, who said they were willing to provide staff time as volunteers but found the current opportunities for volunteering of limited value in terms of staff development. This work aims to benefit both local charities and bigger organisations by bringing them together to co-design a volunteering framework.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our brilliant local businesses have a wealth of skills and expertise that would really benefit the charity sector. This programme will help give them the flexibility they need to develop their staff while giving back to the community with worthwhile volunteering. This is a win-win for both our companies and our charities and social enterprises, and I’d urge all those organisations looking for volunteers and firms keen to carry out valuable charity work to get involved.”
The Tees Valley Business Challenge is open to organisations based in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton on Tees. Tees Valley Business Challenge is receiving funding under the UK Community Renewal Fund. It aims to strengthen innovation maturity in the Tees Valley economy, build resilience for post-Covid economic recovery and unlock growth potential.
The Tees Valley Business Challenge is being delivered through a partnership between Edge Innovation, RTC North and the Academic Health Science Network – North East & North Cumbria, on behalf of the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority and Tees Valley Business.