Towards the back end of 2018, an organising committee made up of several organisations from across the borough of Wandsworth sought to access the support of an events coordinator to help deliver Wandsworth’s first Voluntary Sector Conference in many, many years. This is the story from the point of view of the event’s organiser Will.

 

“On certain occasions, Link UP projects have rather more urgency than usual. More often than not, these are event related; but the event submitted in winter 2018 had some different characteristics than the normal project that we receive here at Link UP. Firstly, it was submitted not by one organisation, but a collective, each member seeking to build collaboration and open communication between organisations in the borough of Wandsworth. Secondly, the scale; the real issue on this front being that it could always be bigger. Thirdly, it wasn’t drawing in volunteers (this could be due to timing, with a lot of events taking place over the Christmas period.

As time was slipping away, I decided to get involved and see what I could contribute to the project. I myself have a background in managing and coordinating small to medium sized networking events and club nights; a borough-wide conference was certainly a step up of sorts!

Thanks to the incredible work of Wandsworth Voluntary Co-ordination Project, it was clear that there was hunger for an opportunity to really bring people together. If we built it, they would come – to adapt a phrase that’s been flogged to death and back. The real challenge at this point was building it. Activating the networks of each of our committee members, we soon had a programme put together and the tickets sold out in a few weeks!!

The conference itself was wonderful, although, entering a frenzied host mode on the day, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it until three days later! The dialogue opened up by the conference was both progressive and positive and really helped to hammer home the idea that great things can happen when people get together and talk. The panel discussion struck an important note (one that could be felt throughout the conference space) on systemic racism; across the borough and, in real terms, throughout the UK. In a moment where systems are beginning to be re-challenged, this confronting issue for many was my personal highlight of the conference and propels collaborative work forward as we look to next year’s conference.

As a final point I wanted to lift a few comments, pledges made by delegates, from the Impact Report.

“I have set up a date to meet with the Head of integrated Care in Wandsworth” 

“I feel more confident about reaching out to other voluntary organisations in Wandsworth” 

We made a link with another related service in the area”

These are 3 of 89 pledges made following the conference. It’s safe to say that Voluntary Sector in Wandsworth is really starting to move forward together.

Volunteering for the project has allowed me to connect with members of the voluntary sector who I would not have worked with otherwise. I really feel a part of a new movement in the borough, as the conference has proven there is a hunger for mass collaboration. To be part of these changing times is wonderful.”