Our CEO Ian Merrill writes
The launch of the Civil Society Strategy feels timely as Spice also launches its new 5-year strategy – it was the Office for Civil Society’s Social Action Fund that first enabled Spice to start developing Time Credits in England in 2012. As Spice reaches its 10th ‘birthday’ this autumn our new strategy will see a significant expansion in the positive impact of Time Credits in which we aim to reach many more individuals and communities.
A thriving civil society needs active citizens and so it makes sense to us that the Civil Society Strategy begins with its vision for enabling a lifetime of contribution. From our Time Credits programmes with young people and schools, to those that involve people aged 50+; we know that the benefits of getting involved can be experienced regardless of age or background. We aim to lower the barriers that can prevent participation, encouraging individuals that have not previously volunteered their time to come forward. In our 2018 impact survey, 59% told us that they had never or rarely volunteered before earning Time Credits.
We have seen people taking that first step to volunteer in their community becoming community champions – connecting people and starting new community groups themselves. Our impact evaluation this year showed that a fifth of respondents had established a new community group or project after being involved with Time Credits. Building opportunities for people to be more involved in their communities has been at the heart of all Spice’s work, ever since the first Time Credit came into circulation ten years ago.
A strong theme within the Civil Society Strategy is the aspiration to strengthen channels that link citizens and decision making, setting out a plan for citizen commissioners and citizen juries. In Wales, Spice is supporting the ‘Measuring the Mountain’ project in which people earn Time Credits for helping to collect experiences of social care services and in one of our England programmes people earned Time Credits for supporting the selection and commissioning process of a new service provider.
A challenging economic and an uncertain Brexit-dominated political climate persists, so the role of the voluntary and community sector has never been more important. Spice has played an important role in supporting the capacity of the sector, working with many hundreds of community organisations to help recruit, retain and diversify their volunteer base. I’m pleased to say that supporting an increase in voluntary sector capacity and resilience remains a core strand of Spice’s new strategy going forward.
At Spice, we are determined to support a thriving civil society and use Time Credits to do this. We will work with organisations across civil society – and bring in private sector contributions via our growing spend network – to build opportunities for people to contribute their time and skills through volunteering and social action. 83% of people earning Time Credits report improved quality of life – so the benefits are there for all to see.