The summer months were no holiday for the Volunteer Makers’ team, with demand for the blended volunteering model and tech still high and new organisations and groups signing up to our vision.
The warm weather saw the launch of two major heritage groups’ Volunteer Makers portals.
Colchester and Ipswich Museums operate at six fascinating sites in Suffolk and north Essex.
Ipswich Museum tells the story of this ancient town, and also has large galleries of exotic fauna, many collected in Victorian times, including one of the most comprehensive collection of British birds in the world.
Sharing the Victorian home with the museum, the town’s art gallery contains several notable works, including a number associated with the Suffolk-based Benton End Group, who were a major influence on 20th Century British art. Beautiful Christchurch Mansion, which dates to Tudor times, is the group’s third attraction in Ipswich.
In Colchester, there is a Natural History Museum, based in a historic church, Hollytrees Museum, an old mansion with some fascinating facts about the town – including that it was where the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was written!
The group also administers Colchester Castle, a grand Norman edifice, containing the largest Keep in England.
Colchester and Ipswich Museums have been Arts Council England supported pioneers in the Volunteer Makers programme, and their new portal showcases a range of imaginative challenges to engage the public in volunteering and supporting their sites.
Turning westward, another multi-site heritage group launch. Eleven organisations in Gloucester have joined together to form the Engage In Gloucester volunteering group.
Also in the group is the National Waterways Museum, which tells the story of Britain’s canal network and its crucial role in the economic development of the country, from a dockside setting.
Like their eastern counterparts, the Gloucester group has been a pioneer body, supported by Arts Council England, to develop and refine Volunteer Makers through feedback and trialling, working with our developers Tickbox Marketing.
Engage In Gloucester has a wide array of volunteer challenges and opportunities on its portal, fully engaging with the Micro-Volunteering revolution.
Spreading the word on micro and blended volunteering was Programme Director Claire’s task, when she joined Pippa Smith, Project Manager of the acclaimed Snapping the Stiletto project, at the GEM conference in Nottingham.
Snapping the Stiletto aims to counter the negative clichés surrounding “Essex Girls” by highlighting the positive and inspirational stories of women in the county.
Based on a collaborative and co-production approach, and utilising the stories, research and hard-work of 130 volunteers, it has been a major success, and was recently featured on BBC News.
The broadcaster noted the stories of these remarkable women “are being told not by the museums but by the volunteers. It is led by the women of Essex themselves”.
Claire and Pippa told the Conference that getting wise with how volunteers were used is essential for the heritage sector in the 21st Century.
But it isn’t just heritage organisations, that Volunteer Makers works with.
Recently, Claire carried out a training programme for the Cri du Chat Syndrome Support Group. Cri du Chat is a rare, but devastating genetic condition that affects 1 in 50,000 babies. Its Volunteer Makers portal will bring carers and other supporters together to raise money, and donate practical help.
Also outside the museum and gallery hub of Volunteer Makers groups is Carymoor Environmental Trust in Somerset.
The trust has worked to “green” and encourage wildlife back to 100 acres of capped landfill site near Castle Cary.
As well as conservation work, it is a major educational destination for school groups wanting to find out about nature, land use and sustainability. Volunteers are at the heart of Carymoor’s work. Volunteer Makers’ training with the Trust spread the word on the new, smart approach to managing volunteer time.
So, a busy summer – and lots more in the calendar – for Volunteer Makers.