Stirling, the UK’s first Volunteering City!

8 February 2017

by Rob Rae, Volunteer Scotland 

Volunteering means different things to different people.

'I firmly believe, whether we recognise it or not, most of us regularly volunteer in some way or other. That’s because we're social beings'

Volunteer Festival _logoFor some, it’s about civic duty, for others neighbourliness and others still, it means a formal unpaid role. I firmly believe, whether we recognise it or not, most of us regularly volunteer in some way or other during life’s course. That’s because we're social beings; we participate. We connect with others. Don't we?

Well, maybe not.  We know the more social capital we have the more likely we are to volunteer. Trusted relationships, the quality of our social networks, our self esteem, the quality of our housing and so on are powerful determinants in the degree to which we volunteer.


… if we want to increase volunteering we need to stop thinking about matching would-be volunteers to specific tasks telling them ‘its good for you’ and start building peoples’ social connections, self esteem and confidence.

'50 local people from Stirling came together at Volunteer Scotland’s offices to start to co-design the Festival'

That's why Volunteer Scotland, Stirling Council and Stirlingshire Voluntary Enterprise are working together with local residents and local organisations to develop a new Festival of Volunteering; to create opportunities for people to connect, for community anchor organisations to reach out to those around them, and help create environments for people to support each other. And more than anything, celebrate all the good volunteering that’s already going on, in all its wonderful forms.  

As a first step, last week, 50 local people from Stirling came together at Volunteer Scotland’s offices to start to co-design the Festival, planned for 22-24 September 2017.


There was huge energy and enthusiasm in the room and 'a million' ideas.

For example:

  • A mass participation event with the numbers of hours volunteered projected onto Stirling castle  
  • Taking over a shop unit in Stirling town centre to highlight volunteering opportunities to passers by
  • Community cafés across Stirling coming together to offer pop up cafes in the centre
  • Cycle ‘treasure hunts’ around different places in Stirling- visiting organisations looking to develop community
  • A family day with organisations offering taster sessions of sports and leisure activities - to let people see how volunteering might work for them
  • Stirling Soup events – supporting small volunteering ideas presented over a plate of soup
  • Running a social media project for people to carry through 100 micro local ideas designed to support neighbours and wider local communities
  • A visual arts project showing photos of volunteering opportunities set out as a map of Stirling.

In September 2017, the Festival is likely to involve parks, pubs, shops, civic centres and schools. It will be an exciting celebration and a coming together of people in support of each other.

Next steps?  

Volunteer Scotland will now send round the initial ideas to even more people around the city and collect feedback. We expect to see the final Festival ‘line up’ published in June 2017, during Volunteers' Week.

We are excited to see how this project will develop and to see what impact it will have and come September we want Stirling to be known as the UK's first volunteering city!

Volunteer Scotland also see this as a learning opportunity; we want to better understand through the development of the Festival how wider social policy can be adapted and influenced to support more volunteering and how practices around public value and collaborative professionalism can be shared and developed.

As part of the Festival, Volunteer Scotland will host a ‘Volunteer in the Square’ event, a public dialogue event drawing on the lessons from the Festival and looking at how public service providers can be more collaborative, enabling and responsive to the ever-changing relationships between citizens and traditional service providers.

"Who knows, as we learn and as the Festival grows, in 2018 and beyond, we may see Dundee, Glasgow, Arbroath, Airdrie, Lerwick and many other places adopt the Festival idea!"

Rob Rae, Volunteer Scotland

If you have anything you want to share, please contact the volfest team or add your comments below:

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