Guiding a sector toward a new dawn

By Chris Abraham, CEO Community Action Suffolk
Much has been said over the last 18 months about the phenomenal contribution delivered by voluntary sector organisations within their community.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine,Autumn 2021
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Community Spirit: Community Action Suffolk

Whether it was neighbourhood groups dropping shopping and collecting prescriptions, wellbeing charities supporting mental health needs, or community transport delivering people to vaccine appointments on time – it was all crucial and commended throughout the pandemic.

And now that we move forward into a period of less government restriction, there’s an imperative need to ensure that same sector is given the very tools, support, advice and resource it needs in order to thrive again in a new era.

Charged with much of that work is Community Action Suffolk (CAS), an organisation which has long been something of a guiding force in helping the voluntary sector achieve its potential within the county.

Help with getting back on your feet

Across our network of members, thousands of volunteers, leaders, venue hosts and project creators are currently being assisted in ‘getting back to their feet’ via the ‘Suffolk Community Restart’ initiative, which was announced earlier this year and is delivered by CAS, in conjunction with Suffolk County Council and local borough and district councils.

The Restart team are guiding charities, social enterprises, community groups and village halls through covid-safe reopening measures, recruiting and galvanising volunteers, promoting services, and even enabling them to access grants of up to £2,500.

In many ways, CAS, and in particular the Community Restart project, is something of a guiding force in helping the voluntary sector get back to its feet.

Our team are working extremely closely with those across the Suffolk community, to be back delivering baby and toddler groups, to run football training again on the local pitch, to deliver their scout, guide, dance or music sessions in a community hall, or to run a community café which has long been missed in the neighbourhood.

Together with the Restart team, we recognise that voluntary sector organisations need that guiding hand more than ever, given angst over health and safety implications and over encouraging and reassuring volunteers and participants to return. Indeed, that need for direction and enthusiastic commitment could pose a timely opportunity for many people who might never have considered themselves interested in the voluntary sector pre-pandemic.

A shift in understanding voluntary organisations

I really believe we’ve seen a shift in how voluntary organisations are understood, and valued, in our communities. With that in mind, I think – and I hope – that it might well give the sector a huge opportunity to engage more of the kind of trustees and committee members that offer support, advice and lived experiences so vital for their role. Individuals like Kevin Ward, seen on the front cover of this quarter’s publication, who is the Chair of Trustees for CAS, and a perfect example of someone who recognised the opportunity to play a guiding role in a voluntary sector organisation.

To be truly guided by an effective board requires a range of opinions, skills, constructive challenge, and insights that only comes from a diverse group passionate about how the organisation drives forward in the future.

Main photo shows Woodbridge Sea Scouts which has been a recipient of the Community Restart grant. Picture taken by Barrie Hayter.

Chris Abraham is CEO of Community Action Suffolk.
If you are interested in Community Restart, you can find out more at communityactionsuffolk.org.uk/suffolk-community-restart.
To talk to the CAS team about being a trustee
E: info@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk

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