What Innovate Volunteering did next

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Back in June, LAB hosted a ‘Social Pitch Night’, where we welcomed social entrepreneurs from around the city to present their business in five minutes to a panel of judges, to be in with a chance of winning £1,000 investment from Page Personnel and free LAB membership for the summer.

It’s fair to say our winners, Innovate Volunteering, have had a busy few months between then and now…

Angela and Leanne after being announced winners of Social Pitch Night, 28 June

Innovate Volunteering was founded in 2011.  The organisation is run by Co-Founder Leanne Mallinson and Angela Bergquist who joined the organisation in its infancy.  The ‘Volunteering’ side of the name comes from their network of highly-skilled volunteers and the ‘Innovation’ represents the grassroot services their volunteers provide, whether that be music groups, community hubs, mentoring or community navigation (a social prescribing service) projects.

Leanne and Angela only heard about the event two days before, so they agreed that although their preparation would be somewhat rushed, it would be good practice for thinking on their feet.

Nobody was more surprised than Leanne and Angela when they were announced as winners. Despite the last-minute preparation, the judges saw the potential in their idea and believed that they needed the cash injection and access to LAB’s workspace and mentoring most urgently.

The money has all been invested in Innovate’s fantastic volunteers and to develop their Volunteer Academy.  Through the different stages of the academy, the volunteers become highly-skilled, with qualifications in suicide prevention, domestic abuse awareness, one to one mentoring with potential offenders, first aid and safeguarding, to name a few examples. These skills are highly transferable, which means many of their volunteers have found permanent, paid work as a result of their training with Innovate.

Besides the financial benefit, pitching in front of potential investors and influential people in the sector was undoubtedly a big takeaway from the experience. On a more personal level, Leanne explained:

It renewed our confidence in the work we do. We know we have a good idea that has legs, but sometimes it is a ‘boost’ to know that others see that same potential.

Since June, Leanne and Angela have also been busy with their Hub in Huyton. It has a shop-front, from which they generate some income, but primarily it is a base and safe space for those in the community in need of their services such as counselling, companionship, homework club for school children, music workshops; the list is endless! The Local Authority also uses it for some of its adult social care services.

They’ve also been coping with increasing demand for their Community Centre, a previously disused building which is now a treasured community asset for meetings, community events and groups such as dance classes or dementia-support groups. The centre has really transformed the community cohesion in the Knowsley area which is invaluable to local residents’ physical and mental wellbeing. Since March, the occupancy rate has doubled, demonstrating just how high the demand is.

Angela and Leanne told us:

“We know how to do what we do really well and at this stage, we are only limited by our resources. With more investment, we can replicate our innovative projects far beyond the Knowsley area. Furthermore, we know there is a need for a more standardised approach to volunteering, and a Volunteering Academy would be a natural next step for us; the aim of which would be to design a streamlined and uniform approach to training highly-motivated volunteers.”

If you are a community-based social entrepreneur like Leanne and Angela, LAB can help support your business. Just get in touch at hello@labliverpool.co.uk or speak to Chris, our Operations Manager on 07554 918344.

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