For many people, it is only in adversity that they realise the value of ‘community’. In recent weeks, we have seen the strength of local communities, coming together to look after each other during the snows and subsequent floods, and associated problems such as lack of water following burst pipes.
On the news, we saw pictures of people handing out water, blankets and food to those stuck in their vehicles in the snow. We see evidence of wider communities coming together such as happened during the terrible floods in Somerset in 2014 when farmers from all over the country banded together to provide hay, straw and feed for animals, and some even took in livestock until the worst of the water had disappeared. The aftermath of Grenfell saw many accommodation providers in Cornwall launch an amazing initiative, Cornwall Hugs, offering those who were affected free holidays.
In a recent survey conducted by Cornwall Community Foundation, the depressing statistics on opportunities for work, local economy, education and homelessness were mirrored by a similarly low score for strong communities.
However, when you dig down, the rating doesn’t seem to reflect the reality. We have a strong sense of identity and pride in our county and most people feel they know their neighbours and haven’t experienced any problem getting to know people where they live. Visitors to Cornwall often comment on how friendly and welcoming locals are, and how willing most are to initiate conversations. Of course, there are a few who aren’t, but you find that everywhere!
High levels of volunteering
Rates of volunteering in Cornwall are high, with an impressive 4,500 voluntary, community and social organisations. Many people generously donate time, energy and money to charity and participate in social and community events.
The problem lies in our rural location which means that access to shops, pubs, schools, post offices and entertainment is often impossible without a car. The high levels of poverty mean that many living remotely have very limited or no regular access to these services.
Despite this though, we do have a sustainable community. Most of us (87%) have good links with our neighbours, and 74% of us give time and money to support local or charitable causes. Many local companies are capitalising on this willingness to support the community by building in opportunities for employees to volunteer as part of their work.
Opportunities for volunteering in the workplace
Whether it is time made available during the working day to help local groups, social events based around activities such as beach cleans, or allowing staff to offer skills and services on a pro bono basis for organisations both locally or further afield, there are a myriad of different approaches.
The result of this approach is increased employee satisfaction and loyalty by providing an opportunity to get involved in something that is not driven by the need to make money. In addition, it can help to break down divisions between departments and groups by giving everyone a purpose outside their normal work. This can lead to an enhanced level of teamwork and enable individuals to gain or demonstrate skills and attributes that are not normally required in their work. It will help employees grow and develop and the business benefits.
So, businesses large and small have something to learn from our strong sense of community in Cornwall. Those that embrace these lessons will benefit from a more engaged workforce with increased skills and higher levels of loyalty and satisfaction to their employer. There will also be an impact on your reputation in the local market which could improve sales and turnover as well as making you more attractive as an employer.