Firstly, we needed to strengthen the sector with strategic support. When the Coronavirus emerged as a pandemic in March 2020, Cornwall VSF shelved ‘business as usual’. We spent time exclusively on supporting the voluntary sector‘s response to the crisis. Initially, we established the VCSE Emergency Response Alliance (VERA), a strategic core body. Together, we pioneered Community Response Hubs across Cornwall, the operational arms, to support the initial crisis response. We believe this strategic support creates a stronger sector.
Secondly, we worked very firmly within our strategic principles of Voices, Influence, Collaboration, Actions, just focussed solely on the COVID-19 response. This enabled the sector to support hearing community voices. We needed community to be included in high level conversations and be supported to ride out the crisis. Our aim was to support emerging stronger afterwards.
Subsequently, after the first wave had died down, we began to look at rebuilding, and restoring the sector. Our the focus has switched.
Strategic support: the Alliance model
As a result, we have been pioneering new approaches to collaboration. We are an umbrella organisation for the VCSE sector in Cornwall. Through our alliances, we help to mobilise efforts, facilitate collaboration, and coordinate the VCSE contribution to the Covid-19 emergency and recovery response. Our membership and beyond has really welcomed this way of collaborative working, through forging VCSE alliances. Organisations have been more collaborative and work more effectively with our public and private sector partners. The result is better meeting the needs of the residents of Cornwall.
formerly known as VERA – the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise Sector Emergency Response Alliance
VERA is a strategic alliance made up of CEOs representing the VCSE sector across Cornwall. These are individuals who have considerable strategic influence, and access to a bigger network to draw intelligence and resources from, during the COVID-19 emergency. Meeting initially four times a week, and dropping back as the crisis-management phase passed, the group currently meets fortnightly. Members discuss subjects pertinent to the crisis and recovery. We invite guest speakers to help further our thinking and action. Previously we invited Kate Kennally (CEO of Cornwall Council), sharing early ideas around Cornwall’s recovery plan. For more about VERA, including all the organisations and ‘business systems’ represented, see the VERA page.
formerly known as Community Response Hubs
Cornwall VSF worked hard in the first few weeks of lockdown 1 to establish 19 Community Response Hubs, across the 19 Community Network Areas of Cornwall. These groups were chaired by VCSE representatives, and also included other stakeholders: Cornwall Council’s Community Link Officers, Public Health officers, parish and town council officers, and faith leaders. These hubs are operational in nature and their role is to identify any immediate unmet needs that they can look to address wherever they can, bringing with them their networks and resources, positive influence, and possible resource-sharing, as well as brokering further support. For a list of all the Community Response Hubs, and their VCSE representatives, see the CRHs page.
Subsequent to the initial crisis response, these groups are being transitioned into Local Alliances. Some are becoming part of existing groups in their area, and others are operating independently. We invite Local Alliance Leaders to a monthly meeting. Here we discuss important issues that they are facing, such as sustainable funding, and resources to tackle the most pressing needs.
The members of VERA have begun establishing their own Thematic Alliances. These are using their links and networks VCSE organisations that operate in the same ‘business system’ to share insights and build partnerships. Our teams are getting these off the ground one by one, as the Members are gathered together and their chairs are ready. We have a full list of the current Thematic Alliances,. We want to establish them for each thematic area represented on the Strategic Alliance.
How can you get involved?
We believe we are stronger by working more collaboratively together. Your organisation can belong to more than one alliance (local or thematic). If you are interested in being part of this new Alliance Network, please contact us on Office@cornwallvsf.org, and let us know which alliance(s) you’re interested ion joining.
We require Alliance members to both sign the Agreement and become a Member of Cornwall VSF (which is free). This way, we can better coordinate the alliances and provide our Members-only resources on the VSF website and other shared areas. Please join here on our website.
We will keep you updated with the plans as these Alliances progress. Please ensure that you speak to the relevant one(s) for your area of operations (both geographical and thematic).
Assessing the state of the sector
Sector survey – May 2020
Cornwall VSF managed a survey in May 2020, with help from contacts in the sector and at Exeter University. Its purpose was to evaluate the social and economic impact that the current crisis has had on the voluntary sector. Many organisations saw demand increase. You also spoke of problems in sourcing funds.
We released the results of the survey in June. Please see our press statement, with links to the full survey.
Stress Test survey – December 2020
We repeated the questions to gauge impact.
We published Interim results on 16 December.
We are gathering stories to celebrate the sector’s achievements. We welcome news from any organisation in the sector.
You can find out more about them here:
- Volunteers from Guide Dogs for the Blind keeping in touch with people with sight loss
- disAbility Cornwall, Hayle Rugby Club and Cornish Kitchen creating Hayle Community Kitchen
- An outdoor education instructor from Band of Brothers now delivering prescriptions
- Cornwall Scrubs: When volunteers and their sewing machines come together
Contact Shanice on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an inspiring story to share.