Case study

Our partnership
with Chesterfield's voluntary sector

Established in 2019, Community Chesterfield is a collaborative partnership between Derbyshire Voluntary Action and the University of Derby, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. It aims to connect the University with Chesterfield’s voluntary sector, for mutual benefit.

About Community Chesterfield

Community Chesterfield’s key aims are to:

As well as running training and shared learning workshops, it facilitates volunteering opportunities and work placements for students. The organisation also provides ‘Experts by Experience’: people with lived experience of a wide range of life-impacting situations, who share their perspectives with students, tutors and service providers.

Working with the Business School

Although Community Chesterfield was set up to work primarily with students and staff based at the University’s Chesterfield Campus (from health and social care courses), the project has also started making the most of the expertise and support available from the Business School.

Between January 2020 and January 2021, Business School experts ran five training sessions for voluntary and community groups, focusing on issues such as project evaluation, productivity, effective home working, and trustee development. These sessions reached 65 individuals working locally in health and social care.

During the same period, the Business School provided four student interns and three volunteers. These students either worked for Community Chesterfield or voluntary groups, providing help in areas such as research, HR, marketing, business development and data analysis. The internships were provided free to the host organisation, thanks to funding secured by the University’s DRIVEN programme.

Over several years, many voluntary organisations and 53 students have taken part in an annual ‘Twitter Takeover’ project linked to the University’s undergraduate marketing courses. For this, teams of students produce and manage the organisation’s content on Twitter for 4-6 weeks. This project provides organisations with fresh ideas, free support, and new skills. It also gives the students valuable experience in using social media in a business context, writing in an appropriate language and tone, and working to deadlines.

The Community Chesterfield team

The impact so far

Success of the wider partnership

In the project’s three-year evaluation report published in 2022, Community Chesterfield reported that, of the community groups they surveyed,

Of the University students they surveyed,

The impact of Business School training

Feedback from the evaluation training that the Business School delivered was especially positive, and included these comments, which demonstrate impact:

“Before the evaluation training I didn’t really see how getting feedback and evidence was necessary, however since then I’ve had three successful bids from the National Lottery, the County Council and a Covid grant totalling £14,000. This is new for us as we have most bids refused.

“The other noticeable change is how my volunteers have now embraced the need to gather evidence and feedback – they’ve recognised the difference it’s making. Thank you for this training and PLEASE can we have a place on any future session as I’d like one of my volunteers to take part!”

– Emily Brailsford from Parenting Additional Needs

“Really enjoyed the training. Elements of the theory side helped us with wording in our funding bids. We’ve also used some of the information Alex gave us to develop our most recent questionnaire, which had a very good response.”

– Jo Reeve, Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team

The impact of Business School volunteers/interns

One of the volunteers who worked with Community Chesterfield was Matthew LeDoux-Deakin, a Business and HR Management student at the University. He volunteered to help the charity British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA), with its HR policies - updating, simplifying and amalgamating them to be easier to navigate and fully compliant. Matthew completed this voluntary work, despite being hospitalised himself in January 2021.

Alison Gibson, Development Worker at Community Chesterfield, said: “Matthew’s commitment and knowledge is remarkable. He’s created an easy to use, up-to-date HR document which is in line with Charity Commission Guidelines and will be available for free to all other charities operating in a similar way to BANA – this is just brilliant!”

Julie Dixon, CEO of BANA, said: “The impact Matthew has had on our charity and potentially other charities of similar size is more incredible than people would imagine. We care about our employees and volunteers; having suitable HR policies in place is important. We get so busy it can be hard to pause and find the right support for this kind of thing never mind the funds to pay for it. We greatly appreciate the result and also Matthew’s offer to be our volunteer HR consultant going forward.”

Matthew won the Student Volunteer of the Year Award at the University of Derby Employability Awards 2021 for this work.