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Held at the Queen’s Park Campus at the end of February, the University of Chester and CWVA (Cheshire West Voluntary Action) Conference: Partnerships and Collaborations, enabled delegates to network, share experiences and ideas and celebrate the positive impact which the voluntary sector has on the community.

The University takes enriching and learning from local communities very seriously, with the Conference providing an occasion to explore more opportunities for joint working among local institutions in the interests of students and the voluntary sector and for the public good.

Social scientists specialise in contributing to understanding of, and responding to, key social issues of our time and also engaging with communities to achieve progressive change. So, academics from the Faculty of Social Sciences are working with CWVA to reflect the University’s commitment to these goals.

The Conference promoted the benefits of organisations working together, such as reducing costs, improving outcomes and reducing duplication. Delegates explored how collaboration is particularly important to smaller charities looking for ways to create a sustainable long-term future. It can help organisations deliver on their vision and mission, improve awareness of their cause, increase funding potential through joint funding bids and gain greater exposure and kudos.

Delegates were introduced and welcomed to the event by Professor David Balsamo, Executive Dean of the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences; Simon Sandford, Chair of CWVA; and Val Armstrong, Cabinet Member of Adult Social Care and Public Health, Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Topics discussed included: how to have a range of diverse voices on a board; women in leadership; working with students and graduates; and advice on law and accounting.

Simon Sandford, said: “Our collaboration with the University of Chester was a wonderful example of sharing knowledge and ideas to achieve a common goal. The event felt truly inclusive and embodied a strong sense of civil and voluntary and community sector pride.”

Professor David Balsamo, said: “The conference was an example of excellent practice in helping to showcase the University and Faculty to the wider community and encouraging mutually beneficial collaboration around the key issues that are important to us. The tangible benefits of opportunities for our students to enrich their employment potential and staff to develop research opportunities were clearly evident today and we are now in a good place to move forward. The event was seamlessly developed, organised and facilitated through partnership and had a real ‘buzz’.”

Dr Holly White, Deputy Head of Social and Political Science Department, said: “In my roles as trustee for a local charity and as an academic in Social Science I wanted to create an event that supported the further development of mutually beneficial partnerships and collaboration between the University and the voluntary sector that have a potential for supporting students, academics, the local voluntary sector and members of our local communities. The conference was delivered in partnership between a range of University support departments (including Careers and Employability, Volunteering, Work Based Learning, Research and Knowledge Transfer Office), the Faculty of Social Science and CWVA a charity for supporting the local voluntary sector with the support of the Civic University initiative. The energy and commitment gifted to the event by a diverse range of collaborators resulted in an exciting and interesting day of learning and networking.”

Melissa Crellin, Head of Civic Engagement at the University, added: “I was delighted to support this event through the Civic University initiative, which has recently been launched to listen to the views of our communities and stakeholders on how the University can best support our people and places, and build this into a Civic University Agreement. The event enabled us both to hear the views of community and voluntary organisations who were present about the issues and challenges that matter to them, which require a collaborative partnership response, and to raise awareness of existing ways that the University is able to support the sector, for example through collaboration on research and evaluations, or events and campaigns; using our Volunteering Portal to access volunteers; or offering talented students and graduates for placements, internships or recruitment.”

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