The Tees Valley Business Volunteering Challenge Outcome


The Tees Valley Business Volunteering Challenge came about through a recognition that volunteering has changed post-pandemic and that more could be done to connect large commercial organisations with Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs) in the Tees Valley. The challenge was supported by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and funded by the Government Community Renewal Fund. It sought to develop innovative approaches to volunteering, Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to bring real benefit to both sectors by harnessing the skills and assets within large organisations to support the development of the VCSE sector in the Tees Valley.

The challenge brought together a variety of diverse VCSE organisations and private corporations to utilise the expertise found in large businesses to advance the VCSE sector in the Tees Valley and create innovative collaborations and connections. The organisations involved are highlighted in the picture below.


The challenge identified large organisations as challenge holders, VCSE organisations as solution developers, and EDGE created the connections and support package for the development of future products and services.

volunteering challenge

The volunteering challenge provided VCSE organisations with business support and grant assistance so they could co-create with large organisations to review ways of building a framework of engagement and formalised structured process(es) to link the sectors and develop ongoing long-term working arrangements.

Using design-led thinking EDGE created a bespoke programme of support for the VCSE organisations through a series of five co-creation workshops and capacity-building sessions.

The first two workshops focus on the VCSE organisations. Workshop one considered and analysed what their needs and current realities were, and what they wanted their future realities to be. The second workshop focused on their ambitions and understanding the anchors and challenges that were holding them back from achieving their preferred future realities. The anchors identified included:

  • Stigma and the true cost of volunteering


  • The lack of long-term strategic partnerships in Tees Valley


  • The lack of affordable networking opportunities between the voluntary and private sectors


  • Perceptions of what VCSEs need, versus the funding that is available


  • Accessing the right volunteers with the right skill set(s)


  • The requirement for shared assets and skills


Once the anchors were identified, the private sector partners were invited into the third workshop to understand the perspectives of the VCSE organisations, alongside the challenge holders, to help identify future solutions. The potential solutions identified were:


  • an online platform to connect the voluntary and private sectors, share volunteering opportunities and whilst assessing and measuring the impact of volunteering;


  • strategic cross-sector collaborations; and


  • improving networking and connections between the areas through formal and informal opportunities.


To support the development of these solutions the fourth and fifth workshops considered the structures required and the delivery mechanisms. All partners agreed that the developments should happen at a sub-regional Tees Valley level where they can cross-collaborate and build on the existing networks and partnerships in place. That a streamlined consortium should be created to move forward the concepts in a simplified lean approach without the need for bureaucratic structures. An aim for the consortium was agreed upon:

We want to create a locally owned infrastructure to develop strategic collaboration. We will create online and physical spaces where VCSEs, Local Authorities, funders and the private sector can access and share funding, skills, knowledge and impact measurement needs for effective strategic collaboration. We are aiming at developing an inclusive, reputable and unified knowledge base.

The cross-sector consortium would be developed building on the partnerships created through this programme, led by Redcar and Cleveland Voluntary Development Agency.

volunteering challenge 2

A roadmap for development was created and is highlighted below:

volunteering challenge 3


The challenge has contributed to closing the gap identified between the VCSEs and private sector organisations through improved networking and the development of stronger leads. The workshops encouraged the VCSEs to identify their realities and provided them with structures to aid the creation and maintenance of connections with the private sector. The VCSE and private sector perspectives allowed for the identification of three main solutions a) an online platform, b) strategic cross-sector collaborations, and c) improving networking and connections. This has in turn led to the designing of a plan of action and road map to attain the key milestones required to deliver the new innovative solutions.

Challenge next steps

We want to make it easier for small to medium-sized organisations from the Tees Valley to become design alert and for the VCSEs involved in the volunteering challenge to create new products and services based on the solutions identified in the volunteering challenge.  Our next steps involve developing a programme for an online platform through the Design for Growth programme. EDGE acknowledge that large businesses predominantly have larger budgets to invest in design, training, and expert facilitation, and this is not the case for smaller and VCSE organisations. Therefore, the Design for Growth programme is available to small to medium organisations from the Tees Valley for FREE.

You can read more about the programme and find out how you can get involved by clicking through the sections below:

Your time is appreciated, thank you for reading.

Sophie Hoyle