Volunteering for the planet – Bristol’s Year of Can Do!
19th March 2020
Chris Duncan, Project Development Officer in the Community Resources Team at Bristol City Council, shares insights on the role of volunteers in delivering climate and ecological transformation for Bristol… what better timing than during ‘2020: The Year of Can Do’? Can Do Bristol is also providing a route for volunteers to Join Bristol’s response to coronavirus.
For many years now, the desire to quantify the real impact of volunteering has resulted in a far more compelling set of reasons to encourage people to give up their time to contribute to the needs of society. Studies – such as the one conducted by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with homelessness charity Centrepoint – have demonstrated that, far from just directly benefitting the volunteer and recipient, volunteering can have a substantial and positive effect on society as a whole.
It’s been widely reported that volunteering contributes an incredible amount of financial, personal and social value, a fact which is reflected in any of the number of amazing volunteer projects happening throughout Bristol. The Bristol Reading in Schools project, for instance, has seen 319 volunteers reading to primary school aged children, which – aside from bringing immeasurable gains for children and volunteers alike – has produced an estimated £1,036,431 in social value. In other words, schools have benefited from services which they may otherwise have had to budget for, which – in a climate of financial stress – is incredibly valuable. You may have guessed that I’m an advocate for volunteering and I know I’m certainly not alone in ‘Team Volunteer’.
We might also consider – aside from financial, personal and social value – what environmental value might volunteering offer?
After all, an estimated 30,000 people volunteered their time (many forgoing their education leading up to vital exams) in support of the Youth Strike 4 Climate protest which took place outside of City Hall on Friday 28th February.
Only time will tell what sort of value or impact such volunteering has, but it certainly could be argued that this form of activism is responsible for raising the sort of awareness and pressure that has led to many organisations in Bristol declaring climate and ecological emergencies.
It’s exciting that people are becoming more active when it comes to campaigning to protect the environment and equally as exciting to see growing opportunities for people to use their skills to conserve, protect and enhance the natural environment around them. That is why I’m proud to be part of the team delivering Can Do Bristol, a web platform promoting community action, volunteering and kindness in the city.
There are already a number of great opportunities appearing on Can Do to make Bristol a cleaner and greener city; from organised bike rides to litter picks, conservation projects to community allotments, there are plenty of great ways to supplement the amazing work of larger scale campaigns.
At this current time, we don’t have access to a robust way of measuring the environmental value of volunteering, but it’s very clear that citizens of Bristol are capable of making a big difference to the environment around them when mobilised.
Therefore, I would recommend anyone who is passionate about volunteering and the environment to check out Can Do Bristol, not only for the volunteering, but also for the opportunities to connect with like minded people.
You can also find @candobristol on Twitter.