Inspiring Volunteering in Southwark

Guest post – Ashley Rogers, Senior Development Officer, Play England.


PlaydayBack in 2011, I worked with Southwark Council to help them develop their policies, strategy and practice around volunteering on their 15 Adventure Playgrounds (with a specific focus on the four run by the Voluntary and Community Sector). The cuts were hitting home across the UK and the adventure playgrounds were starting to look at how they could offer mutually beneficial volunteer opportunities as a route to improved sustainability.  

Our plan was to meet with Council departments such as HR, Marketing and Communications, and Apprenticeships and Training to develop their strategy and practice around volunteering, ensure there were easy routes for potential volunteers (via website and telephone enquiry), and develop an ‘Incentives List’ for volunteers, based on number of volunteering hours completed. Volunteer Centre Southwark was also engaged to support the developing project, and to help advertise volunteering opportunities in play across the Borough. The centre also supported new opportunities for corporate volunteering days at the playgrounds.

The work with Southwark was not only strategic, but also about generating volunteers at ground-
level. After discussion with the adventure playgrounds and Council Play Officer we settled on the idea of running ‘Volunteer Recruitment Playdays’ across the five playgrounds during half term. Each playground was given a small budget to create promotional materials, advertise their event and arrange entertainment and activities. They used the Playday branding and advertised through means such as the Council website, banners outside the playgrounds, local leaflet drops and word of mouth.

Some used these promotional opportunities to advertise that they were looking for volunteers; Playdayothers simply promoted the event as a free Playday for the whole family, and then talked to parents about volunteering as they watched their kids play – both techniques proved successful. Some of the playgrounds also chose to use the events as a fundraising opportunity, organising cake sales and barbeques to generate funds to cover the cost of the activities.

As well as generating volunteers, these five fantastic Playdays provided over 600 kids with exciting play opportunities and 240 parents with the chance to play with their kids, engage with the playgrounds and find out about becoming a volunteer. A total of 21 young people and adults signed up to volunteer in the playgrounds in future, many more asked to be contacted about future volunteering opportunities, and others said they would talk to friends and family members who they thought would be interested. On one site a group of parents even showed interest in developing a ‘Friends of’ group, and another in volunteering to run the playground to keep it open!

After over a decade of working in the sector, I never fail to be amazed by the commitment and drive that children’s play can inspire in colleagues, families and whole communities. That’s why I’m calling on everyone to Love Outdoor Play in whatever way they can to make sure more children where they live can play out more often. If you have any questions about anything included in this blog please contact me at arogers@ncb.org.uk and I will be happy to help.

Playday is the national day for play, a celebration of children’s right to play and a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives. Playday 2012 will be on Wednesday 1 August – find out how you can join in the fun at www.playday.org.uk.

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