The coming together to serve one another goes to the core of our values as co-operators. Written into our DNA is the need to work to serve the needs of our communities, to share skills, talents and resources and to speak for those who do not have a voice.

In celebrating the work of volunteers as part of Volunteers Week 2020, we put the spotlight again on the extraordinary acts of kindness of citizens to others in their community. Acts of altruism is what builds a healthy society, and over the last couple of months we have seen a regeneration of the role and value of people giving of themselves as we try to meet the ever increasing need in our communities.

The deeds of volunteers are so welcomed, not least be the beneficiaries of these, but in this week of putting the focus on volunteers, we must also value the knowledge and experience of volunteers and how this can be better captured and utilised.

This week I am calling for the Civil Society Sector to be a full partner of statutory bodies, whether local authorities, the NHS or the police to help shape society as we emerge from this pandemic crisis. We know that the need of our communities is greater than we have ever witnessed as is the uncertainty, but we also know that the solutions sit within our communities.

Many charities, social enterprises and co-operatives have not qualified for the lifeline grants and loans offered by the Government during this lockdown period, so their future hangs by a thread, however most of these organisations also provide the solutions as to how society can recover more equitably. Unless their voice is heard, and statutory bodies re-prioritise their services accordingly, we are in danger of society becoming more inequitable, more divided and ultimately millions of people will fall thorough the gap.

With funders not knowing their economic fate and fundraising activity seriously curtailed, it is vital that investment is made into voluntary and community organisations. We know that they always stretch the pound further and always deliver more holistic and comprehensive services, but they also hold the keys to unlock the latent potential in every community.

This Volunteers Week 2020 should form the basis of a new relationship, as we start to determine the future, and should provide clear vision to the path ahead. I hope that the sector is emboldened by its recent experienced to speak on behalf of their communities and articulate the provision that needs to be put in place.

As people who naturally desire to work in co-operative and collaborative ways, this is an opportunity for the co-operative movement to harness the voice of civil society and ensure that it is heard at the top tables, locally and nationally.

It is a challenging time for everyone, but the lifeblood of the sector could pave the way for a stronger and more resilient society in which everyone can play their part.