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How to understand, scale and maximise the effectiveness of volunteer responses to COVID-19.

University of Sheffield
United Kingdom
Key Focus of Study
COVID-19 necessitates ‘self-isolation and social distancing’ to ‘keep people safe’. This requires radically different ways of meeting essential needs in food supply, healthcare and wellbeing. At the same time, existing needs such as food poverty, homelessness and unemployment have been exacerbated. The UK government has mobilised a new army of volunteers on an unprecedented scale to meet these needs (Gov.UK, 2020). This offers a potentially huge resource to the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) and to Local Authorities (LAs), however, it also presents significant challenges around how to deploy and optimize volunteer support. This proposed project will address the knowledge gap around what community resource mobilisation, infrastructural support and capacity building is required to organise the scale and pace of volunteering needed in a restricted environment, and share good practice to maximise responses to COVID-19. It will do so by enabling the nationwide sharing of innovations and good practices between LAs and VCS organisations charged with managing volunteer responses. It will collate, distil and disseminate the learning from organisations (national, local and micro), creating a national picture of what strategies are being utilised and corresponding stress points. The research team draws on its significant experience of volunteering and of working in partnership with LAs and VCS organisations through the Enabling Social Action Programme (ESA) (2018-2020), which we run for the department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The trusted cross-sectoral relationships and experiences of sharing practices and learning embedded in ESA provides a framework for this project.
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