The Golden Thread of Society

Rachel BlairI was pleased to attend the latest meeting of the Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Volunteering in the Scottish Parliament on 30th October.  The key purpose of the group is to raise awareness of volunteering in all sectors to increase participation rates. The group also seeks to ensure volunteering has a high profile in the Scottish Parliament and across departments in the Scottish Government.

Convened by Edinburgh Western MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, the overarching theme of the CPG meeting was looking at the presence of volunteering in Scottish Government policy. Representatives from the Scottish Government confirmed their commitment to increasing participation in volunteering which was referred as ‘the golden thread’ of society. Discussion turned to plans for next year detailed in the ‘Programme for Government’. There was significant focus on how volunteering can improve equality and inclusion which is to be a key consideration in the development of the National Volunteering Outcomes Framework. The Framework will “set out a coherent and compelling vision for volunteering and identify the key evidence and data to drive an increase in participation for all” (Programme for Government, p93).

Attendees were also made aware of the upcoming St Andrew’s Day (30th November) campaign from the Scottish Government which encourages people to mark the day by volunteering. The group then discussed how organisations can engage with MSPs to raise awareness of their work. It was agreed that MSPs enjoy meeting volunteers and seeing how an organisation operates in their constituency.  If you’re interested in building a relationship with your local MSP, find out who yours is here and get in touch with them.

Following this discussion, it was interesting to hear from Sarah Latto, Volunteer Development Manager at Shelter Scotland who talked about two new guidance documents created by the Scottish Volunteering Forum. Launched to mark International Volunteer Managers Day on 5th November, the guidance which is available here looks at how to measure the impact of volunteering and the benefits of investing in volunteers. These could be particularly useful in guiding conversations with potential funders, local authorities and within communities.

Looking ahead to future events, it was discussed how we can work with other groups and MSPs to raise awareness of volunteering. I highlighted the possibility of working with the Cross-Party Group on Towns due to the positive impact volunteering in charity retail (and other sectors) has on regenerating town centres.

It was a useful afternoon at the Cross-Party Group on Volunteering which provides an important link between MSPs, the government and third sector organisations.

Rachel Blair
Public Affairs and Communications Officer (Scotland)
Charity Retail Association