Our annual Connecting Communities conference is back. As always, we bring speakers, ideas and opportunities to think outside the box. This year’s theme is Motivate and Engage, reflecting on how we motivate our volunteers and use techniques to engage new audiences. Throughout the three events, we have speakers who bring you the theory and those who are putting it into practice.

This three-day event aims to bring ideas, thoughts and better practices to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, giving those working with volunteers the confidence to face the challenges following the pandemic. We are excited for you to join us.

Following this week, Support Cambridgeshire partners CCVS will be offering a Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers workshop, which will be run online on the 6th of July. The workshop is free to attend to any Cambridgeshire organisation, and we welcome those working with volunteers and trustees to participate. To read more about the training, CLICK HERE.

The Speakers

We are so lucky to be joined by various amazing speakers for this year’s conference.

Scroll through to read their biographies by clicking the arrows >>>

Alan Bennett

Alan is currently the Interim Senior Programme Delivery Manager at The Scouts, where his role is to lead the delivery of new programme materials and initiatives whilst also ensuring volunteers are provided with high-quality support and resources related to existing programme initiatives. Alan believes in making volunteering opportunities accessible to ensure we have a wide diversity of people getting involved.. His greatest achievement to date has been leading on the rollout of Squirrel Scouts, which is The Scouts newest provision for 4-5 year olds. This has seen one of the biggest change projects for the organisation for over 30 years and has led to over 1000 Squirrel Dreys opening across the UK with over 3,000 volunteers being recruited and over 10,000 young people participating each week.


CARESCO is a unique charity based in the village of Sawtry, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, which exists to serve the local community in Sawtry and its satellite villages. Under the CARESCO umbrella are a number of services offered to our local community, including our Green End Day Club, our Cave, our Friday drop-in cafe, our carers support group, a music-based social group, a Christmas Day party and our charity shop which helps to fund our activities. In partnership with other organisations, we also host the local foodbank (working with the local churches) and the village car scheme (working with Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority).

CARESCO was also awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2021, reflecting the amazing work they do with their volunteers.

Jürgen Grotz

Dr Jurgen Grotz is the Director of the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR) at the University of East Anglia. With three decades of experience in applied research, his largely interdisciplinary work has a strong focus on participative approaches and public involvement, working across the academic, public and voluntary and community sectors. He co-edited the Palgrave Handbook of Volunteering, Civic Participation, and Nonprofit Associations (Smith et al, 2016), Mobilising Voluntary Action in the UK: Learning from the Pandemic (Hardill et al, 2022) and Volunteering, research and the test of experience (2022). He co-authored Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care (Grotz et al, 2020), and most recently wrote Volunteer Involvement: An Introduction to Theory and Practice (Grotz and Leonard, 2022) together with Ruth Leonard (Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers).

Martin Cowling

Martin J Cowling has been a volunteer, hands-on manager, leader, researcher and consultant across the globe for small and large organisations. Martin led the Office of the Not for Profit Sector for the Australian government and helped establish the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC) in 2013. Martin is a skilled presenter who has spoken at conferences and universities. Philanthropy 101 ranked him as one of the top 100 speakers on philanthropy.He has worked with LaTrobe University on research into volunteerism. He has written over 200 articles, research papers, blog posts and book chapters on the subjects of leadership, change in organisations, community engagement and volunteering. Martin believes that people are the key to an organisation’s success and he is passionate about ensuring that staff (both paid and unpaid) have mutually beneficial relationships and contribute to making lasting positive change. He volunteers to support cancer research, MS and homelessness and poverty alleviation.

Rob Jackson

Rob Jackson

Rob Jackson has worked in the volunteering movement for almost 30 years, during which time he has led and managed volunteers and volunteering in education, advice, fundraising and children’s services settings at local, regional and national levels.

Rob worked for Volunteering England for six years, most of which he spent as Director of Development and Innovation. Rob successfully generated over £ 3 million of income, led a merger with Student Volunteering England and oversaw the delivery of several strategic development projects in the volunteering field. Rob also provided the secretariat with the ground breaking Volunteer Rights Inquiry.

As well as his expertise in volunteerism, Rob has strong links with the fundraising world. He spent six years as a member of the Institute of Fundraising’s Standards Committee and chaired the Institute’s working party, which developed the UK’s first code of good practice on volunteer fundraising.

In 2011 Rob established Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd and now provides consultancy, public speaking and training services on a range of topics, with strategic volunteer engagement remaining at the core of his work. Rob works with clients large and small in the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Rob continues to write extensively for the field. He co-authored the 2012 and 2019 editions of The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook, has his own blog and is Editor-In-Chief of the Engage Journal. In 2015 Rob co-authored “From The Top Down – UK edition” with respected American author and consultant, Susan J Ellis. The book is the only one of its kind aimed at senior managers in Volunteer Involving Organisations to help them understand their key strategic roles in effective volunteer engagement. Rob is an active volunteer, having previously served as chair of governors at a large Lincolnshire primary school and founded UKVPMs, an email networking resource for UK based Volunteer Programme Managers that operated between 1997 and 2020 (and now as a LinkedIn group)

Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust

Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust is a community development charity. We work with and support local people to get involved in the decisions that affect them. We also help them to deliver activities and projects that have either been requested by local people or have grown from a specific community need. RNT has community at its heart. Val, Development Manager – Families & Young People and Alison, Project Manager – Phoenix & Sparks will be speaking.


The Events 

We have three very different events for you to take place in. Some are more interactive than others, and they all will allow you to ask questions about the topic to the speakers. Click the link below to book the events which catch your eye.

Recruiting volunteers can be tricky. However, motivating and engaging them once they agree to help can sometimes be just as difficult. At this event, we get to hear from various organisations about their techniques for motivating and engaging current volunteers.
We started by hearing from Alan Bennett, from The Scouts, about their approach when setting up their new Squirrels, which allows boys and girls from 4 to 6 years old to engage with the Scouting movement. Alan covered what The Scouts did differently to ensure this volunteer-led initiative in this climate was successful across the UK.
Alan’s slides can be seen HERE
Alan’s talk will be followed by local community groups discussing their techniques and challenges. We will also hear the volunteers’ voices and get their perspectives.
Ramsey Neighbourhoods Trust spoke about how they go about recruitment but also retainment of their different volunteers; we also heard from Alison, one of their long-standing volunteers, on why she continues to come back.  Read their slides HERE
This session was not be recorded.

Volunteer involvement is ubiquitous, complex, and constantly changes with the societies in which it takes place, its characteristics determined by the communities undertaking it. Volunteer involvement relies on the choices of individuals, their power to act on them and the relationships arising when acting with others, sharing purposes and determination.
In this session, Dr Jurgen Grotz explored what this can mean in day-to-day volunteer involvement and, together, talked through a few exercises for reflective practice.
Jurgens slides and references to research can be found HERE
This session was not be recorded.

Have you ever wondered how volunteering works across the world? How do other countries volunteer differently, and can we learn anything from their techniques, views and trends?
We where very excited to welcome back Rob Jackson to our Connecting Communities Conference. Rob has spoken several times at the conference about volunteer recruitment and retainment in the UK. This year we are drawing on his wider understanding of the sector globally. In this session, he will be joined by Martin Cowling, a volunteer expert with expertise globally but most notably in Australia.
Between the two, they covered what the data shows us about volunteering in the UK and, further afield, looked at the challenges and possible solutions while also challenging the assumptions around volunteering.
Rob and Martin’s slides can be found HERE
This session was not be recorded.

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