St John joins UK’s biggest charities to create online resource to strengthen communities through volunteering

Tuesday, 11 July 2023: A new online toolkit created with some of the UK’s biggest charities has been launched aimed at strengthening communities and removing barriers to volunteering, increasing diversity in the voluntary sector. 

The Power of Connection toolkit is an online resource free to any volunteer-involving organisation to access. It contains guidance and best practice examples on how volunteering can strengthen social cohesion at a local level - drawing on the latest research and evidence on volunteering and social cohesion using a bespoke theory of change. 

The Power of Connection has been created by social cohesion charity and membership organisation Belong – the Cohesion and Integration Network working alongside Shaping the Future, a coalition of 30 of the UK’s largest voluntary organisations including St John Ambulance, Royal Voluntary Service, Girl Guiding and The Conservation Volunteers. The toolkit has been funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 


Removing barriers 

The toolkit aims to support voluntary organisations to better understand the factors affecting social cohesion in their area so they are better able to support stronger relationships at a local level. With this knowledge volunteer-involving organisations can extend their reach, listening to more diverse voices and challenging dominant perspectives. The toolkit particularly seeks to help organisations connect with groups and communities who face the most barriers to inclusion including those who experience socio-economic deprivation and Black, Asian and other minoritised ethnic groups.   

The toolkit will be of use to anyone organising or supporting volunteers and volunteer programmes in the UK, helping them create a plan for improving social cohesion specifically tailored to their organisation’s purpose, volunteering opportunities and location.  

It will also be of considerable interest to commissioners, funders and policy-makers in the voluntary sector and can also be used as a resource for businesses and workplaces looking to foster stronger connections and trust with their local area through workforce volunteering schemes.  

Jeremy Hughes CBE, convenor of Shaping the Future, said: “The toolkit is based on evidence of how a focus on social cohesion can be foundational in improving the benefits to your volunteers and the communities in which they are based.  

“Volunteering needs to find ways to be more inclusive of everyone in our society. This toolkit will help you develop your own action plan and be part of the solution in improving diversity and reach across communities.” 

Jo Broadwood, CEO of Belong – The Cohesion and Integration Network, said: “When we volunteer we show we care about our area and the people and communities that live there.  

“We know volunteering has the potential to build trust and connection between different groups and communities and therefore can play a hugely important role in strengthening social relations particularly across difference.  

“This toolkit provides a step-by-step process for designing and delivering volunteering, creating programmes that are inclusive, welcoming and tailored to the local area and the people and communities that live there.  

“We are excited to see how The Power of Connection can be used to build stronger communities around the UK.” 

Kalpna Parkash, Head of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, St John Ambulance said: “Volunteering connects and brings together different and diverse communities, building trust, confidence and resilience at a local level - and we have good examples of where we are already seeing this.  

“However, we want to reach all of our communities, but we recognise that the current social and economic challenges faced by many, present a huge barrier for some communities. 

 “This evidence-based toolkit presents a wonderful opportunity to help in our journey to be more reflective of the diverse communities we serve and, we are really keen to embed this into our everyday work to create a true sense of belonging for all St John people.” 

Find out more 

Belong Network are also running FREE taster sessions for any organisation looking to use the toolkit plus individual bespoke training sessions.  To find out more or book your place at any of these events, contact