The power of volunteers: Leicester City’s response to Covid-19

Case Study, Data Management, Digital Transformation, Local Government, News, Public Sector, Recruitment

Written by Katie Taaffe

“Leicester City Council’s Digital Transformation team were able to utilise volunteer management system Assemble to remotely recruit, manage and co-ordinate the large influx of willing volunteers. In the first few weeks of the local lockdown, over 500 volunteers had signed up to help.”

Background

Leicester City Council adopted Assemble in December 2019 with the intention of managing their 2,000 volunteers involved in community projects and events across 16 different council services. Their requirements included the need for a mature SaaS volunteer management solution that would help recruit, store data, communicate and measure impact.

With the outbreak of Covid-19, usual volunteer efforts were redirected and over the course of the year would prove critical in responding to the needs of the City’s residents. At the end of June 2020, Leicester was the first City in the UK to enter a local lockdown. Restrictions meant that businesses were closed, residents were urged to work from home and travel was permitted only when necessary.

Response

Leicester City Council had to act quickly to ensure vital Covid-19 tests were available to the residents of the City, many of whom were confined to their homes. Local mobile testing units had already been established as part of the national lockdown efforts, but there was a clear need to substantially ramp up the capacity to reach and test city residents more directly. 

Leicester City Council responded by establishing a coordinated outreach operation to distribute and collect testing kits door to door in the community. The operation became known as CityReach and as of 1 September 2020 has resulted in 40,438 tests being delivered.

One crucial part of this operation was the recruitment and co-ordination of local volunteers to complete this seemingly mammoth task. However, given Leicester City Council’s long-established engagement with the committed local voluntary and community sector, the council were able to work with many partners to publicise the need for volunteers.

Digital collaboration

Leicester City Council’s Digital Transformation team were able to utilise volunteer management system Assemble to remotely recruit, manage and co-ordinate the large influx of willing volunteers. In the first few weeks of the local lockdown, over 500 volunteers had signed up to help. The immediate benefits of using Assemble’s cloud software meant;

  • The recruitment process could be simplified and in places, automated.
  • Volunteers could use the self sign-up portal online and gain immediate access to their own volunteer account.
  • Access to the portal was given remotely via the Assemble mobile App or desktop browser
  • Volunteers could view the available CityReach sessions and sign up using a one-click process.
  • Volunteers were  able to contact session organisers directly via the portal should they need to.
  • Volunteer leaders could contact their volunteers safely and securely.
  • Volunteers were empowered to self organise.
  • Training modules, information guides and communications could be directed to volunteers via Assemble

Outcomes

Utilising the digital volunteer platform enabled a self-serve process for volunteers and saved a huge amount of time and resource that would have been otherwise required without it.

Working from home under Covid-19 circumstances, two members of the Digital Transformation team used Assemble to create CityReach online adverts and applications forms, automate the recruitment process and welcoming communications, schedule available volunteer sessions and enable volunteers to self-serve and book on to the sessions they could attend.

Leicester City council’s Digital Transformation team created online user guides to help volunteers become confident and independent using the online portal to sign up to their sessions.

As of 1 September 2020, the volunteer platform has 635 volunteers signed up and has coordinated 6,280 volunteer hours.

This digital platform puts Leicester and its fantastic volunteers in great stead for the months ahead as testing continues to be a major priority in trying to control Covid-19 and navigate us through the recovery.

Volunteers have played such a huge and vital role in the fight against Covid-19 and we cannot thank them enough for their fearlessness, kindness and generosity. This case study is just a small part of a much bigger story. Thank you to Leicester City Council, we are proud to have played a tiny part in this.

Assemble is part of the DutySheet family. DutySheet provides volunteer management to all 43 police forces in England and Wales for Special Constables and PSV’s.