DIY Volunteering

Sometimes you can't rely on anyone else.

Sometimes you are the only one with the passion, the energy and the determination to address a particular problem. Sometimes you just have to do it on your own.

While there are hundreds of thousands of organisations across the country that involve volunteers, you might feel that the issue you care most about is not currently being tackled.

Perhaps there is a problem in your local area - a lack of facilities for young people, for example.

Or perhaps you are concerned about the closure of a hospital, or the building of a new road, or the treatment of asylum seekers.

Most charities start with someone caring so much about something that they decide to do something about it. And there's no reason why you can't do the same, however much it seems that the odds are stacked against you.

The sexy name for people who reach out themselves is social entrepreneurs. People who set up projects or organisations. People with the verve and determination to plug a gap that other people haven't even noticed. They are like Bill Gates or Richard Branson - only they get stuff done for people rather than profit.

There have been social entrepreneurs for as long as there has been society but the term itself is a recent invention.

Now there are websites aimed at them (try CAN, a registered charity trading as a social enterprise and is committed to helping other charities and social ventures thrive, grow and maximize their impact) and even special courses to train them up (The School for Social Entrepreneurs).

Where to Start

It probably makes sense to put some effort into finding out about people and organisations who share your concerns before storming ahead on your own.

You might find that there is a group you can join, and that combined efforts stand more chance of success. Equally, you shouldn't assume that the relevant authorities will necessarily be opposed to what you are trying to do.

For example, if you have an idea for reducing crime in your neighbourhood, the local crime prevention officer (c/o your local police force) will be only too pleased to hear. And even if you do feel that you're going to have to start from scratch, there are lots of organisations which can offer you advice and support.

You could contact NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action)  or your local Volunteer centre. They'll be able to advise you about relevant local organisations.

Citizens Advice Bureaux are another good source of help. You can find your local one from the Citizens Advice website.

And if you really want to go the whole hog and set up your own charity, you've got lots of reading to do at the Charity Commission website!

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