What will happen to Millennium Volunteers?

The times are changing for Millennium Volunteers. How and when isn’t exactly clear. How long it will be around in it’s current form is something that we’ve been talking about this evening.

Probably best to start with a little background. Millennium Volunteers, or MV, is a national government initiative which aims to get young people into volunteering. MV provides nationally accepted recognition for volunteer work done by young people, through Award Of Excellence certificates signed by a government minister. The vision is for young people to gain experience and skills while making a positive contribution to their communities.

In each town or area, MV can be delivered differently, by a different type of organisation – in almost a franchise-type way. I’ve seen MV projects run by organisations from the voluntary sector, the local government sector, and further and higher education sectors. They all sign contracts to provide MV (promising to meet certain targets like number of young people, quality of service, etc.) on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). In return, they get funding and benefits like the use of the national brand.

Why do I care? Well, my organisation runs one of the 160 (?) MV projects. Although it’s not the only project that we run, it was how we started and still provides the biggest chunk of our funding. Changes to MV could have a big impact on our work, so I watch it with interest.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen changes. A couple of years ago, the day-to-day running of MV was delegated from the DfES to Connexions and Regional Government Offices. It looked like a way to save some money – Connexions provided a ready-made national infrastructure, allowing the Government to save on the running costs of MV without needing to reduce the money being given to the projects themselves. It led to some changes, but that’s a whole other thing that I wont go on about now.

The Russell Commission report is the driver now. It has been a buzzword in the volunteer sector for a while now – it was an independant commission set up to look at youth volunteering, which reported it’s findings last year. They made a number of recommendations for how to get young people more involved in their communities. A central part of this was the creation of a new national framework for “youth action and engagement”, and a new independent charity to oversee the implementation of their recommendations.

The new charity was created – it launched last May, and is called v. (Not a name which lends itself to easy googling, so let me save you some time – http://www.wearev.com). They have an ambitious remit – championing youth volunteering, to get a million more young people into volunteering.

Their two main activities seem to be:

  • funding organisations to create new volunteering opportunities
  • working on the big picture – national level, infrastructure-type stuff that will benefit volunteering

They started by offering applications for grant funding. There were two types of funding on offer – the first being “Volunteering Opportunities” – grants to develop new volunteering opportunities.

The second was where it got interesting – funding for Youth Volunteer Development Managers and Youth Volunteer Advisors posts.

A Development Manager ‘develops opportunities’ – in other words, makes sure that there are decent volunteering activities available for young people. This could be working with existing volunteering organisations to encourage and support them, or where there are no existing groups, creating new opportunities themselves.

A Youth Volunteer Advisor works on recruitment and promotion to encourage young people to take up all of the exciting opportunities that the Development Manager has made sure is available.

The idea is that these would work as two man teams, set up across the UK – working to drive the sort of change that V wants to see. I think the target is to have 100 of these teams set up.

Is there an overlap with Millennium Volunteers (an organisation set up to run projects which create, develop and promote volunteering opportunities, which providing formal accreditation) here? It certainly sounds like it. This is all very new (the applications for this first round of grants only closed recently), so I don’t really know. But the work being described here sounds a lot like a reorganisation of the work of MV. So where will MV fit into this? Are we seeing the creation of the new MV? The Russell Commission report included recommendations for accrediation so this – previously MV territory – becomes the work of v. Will they replace the MV Awards? Or replace MV as a whole? Six years into the new millennium, it could be argued that the name is sounding a little dated, so perhaps the plan will be to relaunch and rebrand the whole thing.

Looking for an official line gives some pointers. The Russell Commission report praised the MV awards system, saying that they provided an excellent starting point for the development of a new national youth volunteering award. And the FAQ on their website reiterates this praise:

The Millennium Volunteers (MV) programme is widely acknowledged as a success in encouraging youth volunteering. The Commission recognised the important role that MV will continue to play in leading the development of part-time volunteering opportunities, and recommended its reform, re-branding and expansion.

This seems, to me at least, to point to MV being around for a little while at least.

Next year, v takes over the running of Millennium Volunteers. An MV Transition Group has been set up, and met for the first time a few months ago – charged with managing a smooth transfer of MV from the DfES to v. Work has already begun to determine which MV projects will continue to receive funding after V takes over in April. But how long will they want to run and fund two separate schemes?

As I said at the start of this rambing trip down memory lane, it’s an area which we watch with interest. We get a lot of our funding through delivering Millennium Volunteers, so any change to it will affect us. But we have other projects, and other sources of funding – v itself will hopefully be a potential future funder. Many of the aims and aspirations in the Russell report were values that we share, and several of the recommendations they made are things that we have been doing for years. So this could be great for us.

Oh – and what have I learned today that was new? We’re through the first stage of the assessment process for MV projects which will get funding after V takes over. Yay 🙂

3 Responses to “What will happen to Millennium Volunteers?”

  1. […] I’ve mentioned before that the Millennium Volunteers’ Award of Excellence (currently the main accredited award we give to young people in Solent Youth Action) might not be around forever, and that one of the focus’ of the new V charity is formal recognition for volunteering. As such, it is useful to know what alternative programmes are around. […]

  2. […] See this post from last October for background. To sum up, it talks about the future of Millennium Volunteers, a government programme which we deliver in Solent Youth Action. In particular, wondering about the future of the scheme. […]

  3. […] sat on a train, on my way to a one day “Welcome to v” conference. I’ve mentioned v many times now – this is the group that is taking over the running (and perhaps more importantly, the funding) […]