Our Annual General Meeting and Networking Breakfast on 8 October drew together around 60 representatives of the RVA membership, other users of our services, stakeholders, staff and Trustees. The required formal business was accompanied by a round up of the year’s highlights from the RVA team, with a nod to future plans and ambitions.
Rachel Goater (Development Officer: Community Involvement) talked about RVA’s capacity building work during the year through the Community Enterprise Programme and the Community Organisers scheme, plus RVA’s extended training programme for VCS groups including such opportunities as
- Finance / accounting
- Funding and bid writing
- Public Speaking
- Business planning
- Website building
- Social media
- Accessing local media
- Committee training
- Commercial Masterclass
- Digital Marketing
Rachel also spoke about the Earley Charity funded work at Amersham Road (Lower Caversham) where partnerships with TCV, Catalyst Housing and others are increasing community activity and access to services like a hyper-local newspaper, internet cafe, homework club and CAB advice sessions.
Hazel Broad (Deputy Director) focussed on RVA’s volunteering service, both the work to promote volunteering to the public and our support for Volunteer Involving Organisations themselves. It is estimated that during 2013-14, our volunteering recruitment service has filled over 2000 new volunteering opportunities for individuals, contributing 240,000 person hours, value in excess of £2M. With the relaunch of the Volunteer Coordinators’ Network, a second successful Volunteering Conference under our belt in September 2014, plus a very proactive and visible partnered campaign for Volunteers Week in June, RVA was set to mount its first major Volunteering Fair in January 2015.
Sarah Morland (Development Officer: Integrated Working) gave a flavour of her work with key partners as part of RVA’s role to “to bring together and disseminate information, facilitate engagement and representation to influence in strategic planning, networking and partnerships” with Clinical Commissioning Groups and Public Health bodies. There has also been considerable effort put into work on pathways to services for the frail elderly, and work on building resilience of voluntary and community organisations through support with business planning, costing services and marketing. Current and future priorities include:
- Social prescribing
- Working with adult social care
- Support for victims of crime
- Joint commissioning by health and social care
- Health and Social Value Programme
David Neale gave a brief overview of RVA’s project to help small community groups to establish an online presence, with 80-plus participants coming along to a series of workshops.
Our colleague Steve Hendry (Manager: Building and Projects) was on leave for the AGM but sent a postcard via YouTube which included his report on our move to Highbridge House and the expansion of capacity, services and new connections that this had created. Steve mentioned the work of our newly established Community Journalist team and praised the contribution of all the RVA volunteers without whose efforts the organisation would simply not be able to achieve all that it does, especially in the field of information and communications.
Concluding the staff presentations, Chief Officer Rachel Spencer outlined RVA’s ambitions to continue to grow the way the organisation supports and promotes the local voluntary sector and identifies opportunities on its behalf to achieve improved sustainability and recognition. Rachel previewed the “Better Opportunities Fund” that will bring 4.5 million into Berkshire from 2015 to “promote social inclusion and combat poverty” and emphasised the potential power of working with strategic partners across the region to harness opportunities. With a more local focus, she pointed out the existence of 275 grant giving charities who list Reading as an area of benefit and who would be on RVA’s radar to research on behalf of local groups.