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CCT Volunteers Conference – Summary Report

Cotswold Canals Trust Volunteers Conference
Summary Report by Val Kirby

On Friday 26 February eighty-four volunteers met at Egypt Mill in Nailsworth for a half-day conference.

It was a great event, combining presentations and lots of group discussion.

Wide range of volunteering represented

Many of those present were CCT volunteers, while representatives from the following organisations also attended.
Stroud District Council, Stroud Valleys Canal Company, the Stroudwater Navigation Archives Charity, Inland Waterways Association, IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group, Stroud Valleys Project and Eastington Orchard Group. 


Analysis, feedback and new policies

Proceeding started with a summary of David Groom’s invaluable analysis of the contribution made by all sorts of volunteers to the canal's restoration since 2009.

I then gave feedback from the two volunteers’ conferences held in the autumn of 2014. This included a check list of the things we said we would do and the progress made to date.

Polly Fothergill explained two new volunteering policies. 

  1. Volunteering for Success — an overall policy covering all volunteers
  2. Volunteering for All — engaging Children, Disabled & Vulnerable Individuals

Both policies have been adopted by CCT Council and are stored in the Trust Website’s Document Store. Click on the titles above to view the documents.

Planning for the future

Pat Swift then spoke about the huge contribution volunteers will make to Phase 1B — The Saul to Stonehouse Restoration. That contribution will have a value of more than £2million.

In the last presentation Jim White, CCT Chair, spoke on 'Ways of making the CCT better & stronger’.

After coffee the attendees divided into eight groups each chaired by a facilitator.
The discussions continued for over an hour. The groups were asked to consider and discuss four key topics plus any other issue that emerged during the discussion.

The four topics

  1. How can we make more progress with implementing CCT’s new volunteer policies?
  2. What other policies would be useful, for CCT or other partners?
  3. How can we keep existing volunteers engaged, while waiting for Phase 1B delivery?
  4. How can different groups of volunteers with diverse interests learn about & from each other?

Enthusiastic discussions

The obvious enthusiasm indicated by the noise in the room suggested that the discussions could have gone on far longer than the 75 minutes in the programme.

In the final feedback session each group facilitator reported on four key points.

One over-riding theme emerged — the need for improved and effective communication…

  • Between Trust Council and volunteers
  • Within and between volunteer groups
  • Between partner organisations

Pat Swift brought the conference to a close.

Next steps

I shall draft a full report with detailed recommendations for action. In order to achieve that I will contact the people who, through work or other commitments, could not attend the conference.

I will endeavour to arrange ways for them to contribute their views. One such is for people to send an email to me at CCT Administration Office. (See below)

When complete the report will be sent to everyone who contributed. 

Copies will be available in the Visitor Centres and at Western and Eastern depots. 
In due course the report will go to Trust Council. (This may not be until June, as I will be on holiday in April and the first part of May.)

And finally…

I’d like to thank:

  • Ron Kerby, for proposing a great location and negotiating with Egypt Mill
  • Egypt Mill’s management team
  • Polly Fothergill, Jim White and Pat Swift for their presentations
  • The facilitators — Peter Best, Ken Burgin, Lois Francis, Ron Kerby, Clare Mahdiyone, Jon Pontefract and Pat Swift
  • Everyone else for turning up, taking part and making the conference a success 

Val Kirby — 10th March 2016

Unable to attend the conference?

Time to spare and skills to share?