The 2015 Project: Securing a lasting legacy for volunteering from London 2012

This blog is part of The 2015 Project – your chance to tell NCVO what our policy priorities should be.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the amazing contribution made by volunteers – including Games Makers, ceremony volunteers, Team London Ambassadors and City Ambassadors in other venue towns and cities.

At LOCOG we put as much effort into the recruitment and retention of our volunteers as our paid staff.  My HR team, themselves supported by thousands of volunteers, devoted weeks to sifting through 240,000 applications, running selection events across the UK and then making sure we looked after the volunteers including through a comprehensive reward and recognition package.  I believe our hard work was rewarded by the Games Makers’ magnificent attitude and performance.  Remarkably a recent survey conducted by the Join In Trust showed that almost one third of the British public wished they had been a Games Maker.

I am well aware that the Games were unique and that the Games Makers’ experience was markedly different to that of most volunteers.  And there are millions of people across the country whose volunteering every week is the backbone of many vital organisations but does not hit the headlines.  But I believe it is important to try to capture some of that spirit and learn something from what worked well during the Games.

I was delighted to take part in a great event back on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on 19 July organised by Join In and Team London.  Called ‘Go Local’, it aimed to inspire the London 2012 Games volunteers and others to get involved in volunteering at their local sports clubs and with community groups.  More than 30,000 people sweltered in our very un-British summer as people were encouraged to sign up to volunteer.

Join In, which grew out of LOCOG and is part-funded by the Cabinet Office and the Big Lottery Fund, is now in the midst of its Join In Summer campaign including over 10,000 events at sports clubs and other community activities, to which they hope to attract 500,000 people to attend and 100,000 new volunteers.  Some of these volunteers may only be able to give a few hours but still have some really useful skills to offer – people can be put off volunteering by the perception that they will be expected to make an open-ended commitment to volunteer every week.

These are impressive numbers – so too the more than 50,000 Sport Maker volunteers recruited by Sport England as part of their Places People Play legacy project to deliver community sport across England.

I am also pleased that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is leading a piece of work to ensure that the volunteering lessons learned from London 2012 are fed in to the planning for other major sporting events being held in the UK over the next ten years.  The Mayor of London is already deploying Team London Ambassadors at sporting events like the UEFA Champions’ League Final and to provide a visitor welcome to the city over the summer.

The Prime Minister has asked me to act as his Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Ambassador, both to promote the Games’ legacy but also to challenge Government departments and the Mayor of London’s team to deliver the best possible legacy from the Games.

Volunteering is one of the most important legacy areas.   In numerical terms the decline in volunteering in England has been halted, according to the Community Life Survey and I am particularly pleased with the increase we have seen in young people taking part.  I am not saying this is solely down to the Games, but I hope they have played a part.  We now need to build on that to make sure the decline is reversed.

Funding is inevitably a challenge in the current economic climate so all the more welcome that the Big Lottery Fund is to use its share of the funds generated by the sale of the Athletes’ Village (£30m -40m) to set up and endow the UK-wide Spirit of 2012 Trust.  The Trust will be up and running during  Autumn 2013 and will support (among other things) projects that maintain the commitment to inspire a generation; harness the energy of London 2012 volunteers; continue to challenge the perceptions of disability and impairment building on the step change in attitudes we saw around the 2012 Paralympic Games; and inspire communities to build on the Olympic and Paralympic values and use events as a catalyst for social action.

Just as the Games took 10 years to win, plan and deliver so legacy must be seen as a 10-year project to deliver lasting change.  We all have a role to play in helping to secure a lasting legacy from London 2012.  The voluntary and volunteering sectors have a key role to play in that, just as much as Government, local government and business.

For your chance to tell NCVO what we should be doing in our volunteering policy work answer our three quick questions.

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