Volunteer Cornwall

Published on: 13 January 2015

Collaboration with disaster relief charity ShelterBox helped develop a water purification device. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Cornwall’s strong volunteering ethic - Cornwall residents spend more time volunteering than any other region in England - along with its strong sense of identity and community mean that the region and organisations such as Volunteer Cornwall are well placed to lead social innovation to provide more cohesive, sustainable and resilient communities for the public sector.

Engaging community groups to understand their involvement in identifying and addressing environmental issues is a key driver for community-led behavioural change. Charity Volunteer Cornwall is working in partnership with the University of Exeter to help address this change.

With an aging population and significant financial pressures facing the health services and wider public sectors new approaches to delivering services are required.

The University and Volunteer Cornwall have been working together for a number of years. The first research project included a knowledge transfer partnership that developed a behavioural change programme to help the establishment of sustainable lifestyles and communities equipped to respond to local challenges associated with climate change.

A further collaboration with Volunteer Cornwall, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the Tudor Trust and Professor Catherine Leyshon and Dr Michael Leyshon from the University’s geography department explored the potential for a scheme which engages people in providing social care and support with the help of a complimentary currency.

A workshop was held in early 2013 to explore the feasibility of establishing a pilot project to test the likelihood and implications of introducing and administering a complimentary currency for social care in Cornwall.

Volunteer Cornwall and the University have since developed a partnership project to better understand emerging multi-agency approaches and the use of volunteers in supporting the provision of adult social care.

Alex Huke, ESI Knowledge Exchange Manager, explained: “As local authority budgets continue to be cut and funding reduced new innovative solutions are essential for the delivery of public services. In addition, changing population demographics with greater proportions of older people will put further pressure on limited resources. These factors will affect Cornwall, which has a high proportion of older people, and in turn could present a looming crisis for the provision of social care for older and vulnerable people in the county.”

Michael Leyshon, Senior Lecturer in Geography, said: “In the Department of Geography, we are uniquely placed to understand the sorts of social, demographic, and economic changes that are affecting local communities and their social and natural environments. Our project on the delivery of adult health and social care shows that volunteers will play a big part in the delivery of care in the future, so it is important that we research their experiences, motivations and needs.”

As a consequence of this a funding application was developed to help support a Post Graduate Placement to explore the role of volunteers, including what motivates them and how they benefit from volunteering with older people in a multi-agency setting. This has since been developed into a larger proposal for an ESF (European Social Fund) Post-doctoral Research Associate project lasting twelve months entitled ‘care for the future: developing capacity in elderly social care in Cornwall. Researcher Katharina Kaesehage has just taken up this post.


A partnership with the University of Exeter is helping international disaster relief charity ShelterBox to facilitate research collaborations and develop their expertise.

ShelterBox aid is tailored to a disaster but typically includes a disaster relief tent for a family, thermal blankets and groundsheets, water storage and purification equipment, solar lamps, cooking utensils, a basic tool kit, mosquito nets and a children’s activity pack.

Collaboration with the University’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) has enabled ShelterBox to develop the water purification kit they offer as part of their aid.

A Post Graduate Placement was arranged to test and research the effectiveness of the equipment and provide recommendations for other types of equipment or methods of water purification in disaster areas.

ShelterBox has also benefitted from another student project working in collaboration with Buff Design, a local product design and development company based in Penryn, to explore the thermal properties of the disaster relief tents sent to crises areas around the world.

Shane Revill from ShelterBox said: “The tent research and report were extremely beneficial to our organisation as I’m sure the water purification testing and research will be also.”

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and vital supplies to support communities around the world overwhelmed by disaster and humanitarian crisis. The charity delivers the essentials people need to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a disaster.

Related links

» Volunteer Cornwall
» New Economics Foundation
» ShelterBox
» Buff Design

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