Seven cities have unveiled plans to organise up to 2,000 volunteers to address local problems, as Cities of Service launches in the UK.
The volunteer programme is based on the US model that the former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg started in 2009. The US programme has now expanded to over 180 cities across the country.
The new Cities of Service are Barnsley, Bristol, Kirklees, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Swindon, and Telford and Wrekin. Over the next 18 months these cities will use their new status to encourage local volunteers to go out into their communities and address neighbourhood issues. Some of the challenges that volunteers will be get involved in include:
- helping to reduce energy bills for lower income families by mobilising volunteers to help clear loft space ready for free insulation
- improving the literacy of primary school pupils through weekly reading sessions with volunteers
- reducing social isolation amongst older people by arranging for volunteer ‘buddies’
Cities of Service UK is backed by innovation foundation Nesta and the Cabinet Office. Nesta will work with each of the 7 cities to help them measure the impact of the volunteers.
To celebrate the UK launch of Cities of Service, US Ambassador Matthew Barzun will host an evening event at the US Embassy on 10 September. The Minister for Civil Society Brooks Newmark will attend.
Brooks Newmark, Minister for Civil Society, said:
The Cities of Service UK programme is a great example of how we are mobilising communities to take action on the issues that matter to them. I’m looking forward to hearing about the impact of these volunteers on tackling their cities’ key challenges – putting people at the heart of solving problems from poor child literacy to loneliness amongst older people.
Vicki Sellick, Nesta Director, added:
Cities of Service is about helping to funnel the passion of local volunteers into areas most in need of support in their own communities. The programme has already proved successful in the US and we look forward to replicating that success in the UK, supporting the 7 cities to mobilise thousands of volunteers where they are needed most. Ultimately, we think every city in the UK could become a City of Service.