Connecting Communities 2021: Your Feedback

We report back on our volunteering conference, and what our attendees thought of it.

The Connecting Communities conference is in its fourth year, providing an opportunity for community organisations across Cambridgeshire to come together to share ideas about volunteering. It’s a huge topic, and this year – perhaps more than ever – there was plenty to talk about, as voluntary organisations figure out how best to attract, retain and support their volunteers are we slowly emerge from over a year of lockdown restrictions.

We were delighted to welcome some fantastic speakers over our three-day event from 8 to 10 June. Find out more about them and the topics they covered here. You can also watch most of the presentations and discussions back here.

We are also delighted by the feedback that attendees gave us. In one word, they described the events as “insightful”, “thought-provoking” and “purposeful”. Our speakers seem to have gone down well with attendees, and we received some useful feedback about people’s appetite for online, in-person and hybrid events.


Connecting Communities 2021 was hosted by Hunts Forum and CCVS on behalf of Support Cambridgeshire, and funded by Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council.

A Series of Fortunate Events

The Support Fenland project moves from discovery to delivery phase with a series of events and the offer of one-to-one support.

By Victoria Hopkins

This week I have been celebrating two months since I joined the Support Fenland team. Before I head off for a well-earned break, here is her quick update for you all.

In our last blog we updated you on the themes which had come out of your feedback. In case you missed it, here are the six themes:

  • Help us to come together to do more.
  • Help us to think about our future.
  • Help us to recruit and keep volunteers.
  • Help us to raise our voice both within and outside of Fenland.
  • Help us stay up to date with guidance that we need to know about.
  • Help us for the long term, not for 12 months.

You can read more on this blog post.

We also mentioned that our support events will be starting in July. And now, we are pleased to announce that our first events are live and available for you to book.

One-to-one Support

From 1 July charities and community groups that who would like one-to-one support can book an appointment with me. You might like help with recruiting new volunteers; the structure of your group; your business plan; or an upcoming funding bids. Whatever the reason is, I am available to help. You can book at a time which is convenient to you using an online booking system. I will be available during business hours on a Tuesday & Thursday and every other Thursday evening between 6 and 8pm.

Networking Meetings

On 21 July at 7:30pm we will be hosting the first of our new regular Fenland networking events. The events will be monthly (except for August) and we will alternate between mornings and evenings across different days of the week. There will be opportunities to talk to groups from your local area about what you are up to, what your challenges are, and how you can support each other.

The theme for the first event will be “Connecting”. We have some ideas for future themes including funding and volunteering, and we would love to hear your suggestions too. Comment on this blog post or bring them along to the networking event.

You can book your place here.

Working Together workshop

On 5 August at 10am we will be hosting a workshop on “Working Together”. As we all know there are lots of benefits in organisations working together to deliver activities and projects. You can raise awareness of your offer; learn and share new skills; increase your impact; attract new funders; and even reduce your costs – these are benefits available to very small as well as larger groups. Although the words collaboration and partnerships can appear daunting this does not have to be the case. This workshop will focus on joint working both formally and informally, as well as the key points to consider to overcome the common pitfalls.

You can book your place here: Working Together – Looking at ways of joint working – Training & Events – Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (

Following the workshop I will be available to talk to you about specific joint working arrangements that your group is interested in putting in place. Whether that is helping to facilitate conversations between groups or reviewing your arrangements, you can book a catch-up online here.

We are still working on the programme of events for September onwards, and we will update you on those with a future blog post

All of our Support Fenland events are hosted by CCVS & Hunts Forum and are free for any charity or community group working in Fenland.

There are other events hosted by CCVS and Hunts Forum which you might also be interested in attending, which you can find on our websites:

New round of funding : Innovate & Cultivate Fund

Innovate & Cultivate Fund

Deadline: 1 August 2021

One-to-one pre-application advice will be offered on 22nd and 23rd June (details below). This is a great opportunity to discuss your ideas and Support Cambridgeshire highly recommends that you take advantage of this opportunity.

The aim of the fund is to support initiatives that strengthen our communities and reduce pressure on County Council services, thereby giving a return on investment. Council services that are inviting applications are adult social care and children’s services.

The 1 August funding round is for ‘Cultivate’ grant applications (£2,000-£15,000) for projects that build community support networks for vulnerable people. The ‘Innovate’ funding stream (£15,000-£50,000) is currently suspended.


Pre-application advice

We strongly advise organisations to seek pre-application advice on their project ideas before submitting an application. Bookings are now open for telephone advice appointments on Tuesday 22nd June and Wednesday 23rd June. These 15 minute 1-1 appointments must be pre-booked and are available on a first-come first-served basis. Please book here.


Cultivate Project Ideas

Do you want to do something for your community but need some inspiration to start a project? We’ve developed application guidance for 7 Cultivate project ideas – Mobile Warden Schemes, Community Youth Worker, Digital Inclusion, Timebanks, Good Neighbour Schemes, Dementia-Friendly Communities and Men’s Sheds – that can help people to remain independent and active within their community, encourage volunteering, and complement more costly Council services.


You can find guidance on how to apply for a start-up grant for each of these projects here. 


Applications and further information about fund priorities and criteria may be found on the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation (CCF) Website.

Becoming an ICS – We want your views

Health and care organisations across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are becoming more joined up than ever before after the creation of a new Integrated Care System (ICS) for the area.

Integrated Care Systems, or ICSs, are partnerships between organisations that meet the health and care needs of local people. There are 42 Integrated Care Systems in England, with our Integrated Care System covering all of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

By working together, different parts of the health and care system are better able to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities, reducing health inequalities and putting patients at the heart of everything we do.

Now that we have been accredited as an ICS, we are looking at how we ensure we are continuing to improve and meeting the needs of the population. As part of this we recognise that a key element of our success will be listening to and involving our staff and key stakeholders every step of the way.

It is vital those who know our local communities, understand the challenges we face and have unique insights into our patient needs have the opportunity to share their views on the future of local health and care services.

This is why we are asking for your views via a short survey. This will help us understand what you think an ICS is and should focus on alongside getting your views on elements such as branding, visions and ways in which those who would like to be more involved can do in the future. The survey will run until 25th June 2021 and we will share the results with you all soon after. You can access the survey HERE

You can also find further information on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System webpage

Our learning and moving onto the next phase

We’ve been bit quiet on the Support Fenland blog over the past few weeks. That’s because we’ve been reading everything you shared at our listening sessions. And there was a lot to read!

We’ve also been planning our final event with Councillors, but there will be more on that at a later date.


As a quick reminder, during April & May we held three events for communities in Fenland to let us know what they need. We heard from over 30 organisations. They shared with us the great things about Fenland. They also shared the challenges that they’re facing that they need our help with.


We’ve pulled together all the feedback into one place and can now see the common themes from all the events. You can see the images below.


Most groups we spoke to have concerns about

  • Connecting with their communities.
  • Finding and retaining volunteers.
  • Making the most of partnership working.
  • Communicating with support organisations and other groups.
  • Finding and applying for funding.
  • Building confidence to return to face-to-face meetings.
  • Making sure they’re relevant to younger audiences.
  • Structuring their group to make sure it’s sustainable.
  • Building awareness of Fenland outside of the district.

There were a few other concerns depending on the type of group and where they’re based.

  • Transportation links within Fenland.
  • Access to physical spaces for their meetings / services.
  • Digital take up rates.
  • Falling referrals due to the pandemic.


The organisations also had a lot of ideas about how the Support Fenland project can help. And we’re pleased to be starting to put together a series of events based on that feedback.


The themes that we’ll be working on over the next few months are:

  • Help us to recruit and keep volunteers.
  • Help us to come together to do more – including help us to build and maintain our networks.
  • Help us to think about our future – including help us to find and apply for funding.
  • Help us to raise our voice both within and outside of Fenland.
  • Help us stay up to date with guidance that we need to know about.
  • Help us for the long term, not for 12 months.


The good news is that we already have some activities planned to help with these.


The CCVS and Hunts Forum newsletters are a great way to keep up to date with guidance, so why not sign up using the following links:


There’s still time to sign up to Support Cambridgeshire’s “Connecting Communities Volunteer Conference”. This year’s theme is Volunteer Management and how the voluntary and community sector can move forwards from the past year. Running from the 8th to 10th June, there are sessions on Redesigning Recruitment, Reviewing Retention and Re-examining Volunteering. Find out more and sign up using the following link:


In July and August, we’ll be running a series of events under the “Working Together to Do More” umbrella. There will be networking events, training courses and workshops. We’ll be in touch soon to confirm all the dates and times.


In September and October, we’ll shift our focus to “Thinking About the Future”.  We have some great events lined up on business planning and understanding impact. But, when it comes to funding, we would love your help. We’d like to form a small working group to design an event which will be useful to groups within Fenland. We have some ideas, but we’d love to hear yours. We have some funders signed up to help with this, as they would be happy to fund more groups in Fenland. If you’re interested in being part of this working group, then please email Vic on


We’ll be back with another update soon on the event that we’re running for local Councillors. So, remember to follow the blog and like us on social media to stay up to date.


Help us improve our website