What difference does VCSE infrastructure make?

In November 2022, the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) published Connecting Locally, a report commissioned by NAVCA about the value of local VCSE infrastructure organisations, such as CAN, Voluntary Norfolk and the Norfolk Community Foundation.

According to the report, the three most important functions of infrastructure organisations are to:

  • support organisations or individuals,
  • advocate on behalf of the rest of the sector
  • enable volunteering.

How does the Empowering Communities Partnership fulfil these functions in Norfolk?

Supporting organisations/individuals

The Empowering Communities website is designed to be a ‘one stop shop’ to help VCSE organisations find the support they need.  Teams from both CAN and Voluntary Norfolk monitor our shared Empowering Communities email address. Staff then triage enquiries to ensure the people and organisations best placed to respond answer them.  In addition to this, each organisation within the EC Partnership continues to deliver the expert support they always have offered to people and communities, be that through the programme advisors at the Norfolk Community Foundation, the community development team at CAN or the volunteer centre at Voluntary Norfolk.  In addition, the Empowering Communities programme of training and events has offered opportunities for VCSE organisations to build their knowledge, develop collaborations and share resources through online webinars and in person workshops.  Through the Norfolk Pro-Help VCSEs have been enabled to look beyond our own networks and learn from experts from the private sector.

Advocating for the sector

We have also sought to provide networking opportunities for the VCSE workforce at both strategic and operational levels via the Leaders Voice Network, the VCSE Forum for Young People, Children and Families, our November conference and in person workshops such as the Voluntary Norfolk Open Space meeting last December.  These networking opportunities have helped us understand the emerging issues facing the sector. They also allow us to advocate for the sector more effectively.

NCAN, strategic partners in the EC Partnership, are leading the way on advocating for advice sector with their Cost of Living Crisis campaign and recent meeting with MPs

Enabling volunteering and future plans

The launch of the Get InVOLved Norfolk volunteering platform last year has enabled more people in the County to find out about volunteering opportunities.  It has made it easier for organisations to promote volunteering. It also allows them to showcase all the opportunities available for people to get involved in their communities.

The report also asks VCSE infrastructure organisations how they are preparing for the future. In common with over 90 % of other infrastructure organisations, the Empowering Communities Partnership is working to increase sector sustainability. We are doing this by building stronger relationships within the sector as well as statutory and health partners.

Over the next three years, Connecting Locally says the support most needed by the sector will be:

  1. evaluating and demonstrating impact,
  2. developing business and funding streams
  3. enhancing leadership and strategic thinking.

Would you agree that these are priority issues for the sector?  How would you like Empowering Communities to support you to address these issues?  Please do get in touch with any ideas, we would love to hear from you!  Email: enquiries@ecnorfolk.org.uk


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