Please note that What Works Wellbeing will close operations on 30 April 2024.  Read more
Aug 12, 2014

If: Volunteering for wellbeing in the heritage sector

Imperial War Museum North (IWM North) and Manchester Museum have established sector wide recognition forIF 1 their award winning inclusive volunteer programmes.  Their latest programme is If: Volunteering for Wellbeing.

If: Volunteering for Wellbeing (2013 – 2016) is a three year project currently funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, delivered at IWM North, Manchester Museum, Museum of Science & Industry and in partnership with several other partner venues in Manchester. These include Peoples History Museum, Manchester Jewish Museum, National Trust: Dunham Massey, Manchester City Galleries, Whitworth Art Gallery and Ordsall Hall.

This programme aims to be the first major project to measure the impact of responsible volunteering in the heritage sector, exploring how it can combat social and economic isolation and improve wellbeing. It will seek to evidence how the programme benefits individuals, organisations and society.

IF 2It will help 225 participants, 75 per year, move away from social and economic isolation or exclusion through heritage volunteering and tailored accredited training. In each recruitment, volunteers attend a bespoke training course with an immersive volunteering experience in a historic and/or cultural museum (or gallery) environment. Through this, the programme aims to be of deeper benefit to participants through significantly improving their social, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Participants receive accredited qualifications from The Manchester College, and embark on a 6 to 8 week placement at one of the partner venues. Their roles range from object handling and/or interpretation, administrative and marketing support, and improving a venue’s face-to-face interaction with visitors. Participant recruitment is targeted especially towards individuals with a background of non-severe mental and emotional health issues, or are long term unemployed, young people aged 16-25, over 50s, or are ex-military service personnel.

The project evaluation is using a Social Return On Investment methodology, we seek to find out exactly how the programme contributes to individual wellbeing and how volunteering in heritage venues contributes to this. The project is in its second year, the first year interim report evidences significant and dramatic improvements in participants’ state of mental and emotional wellbeing, in addition to other outcomes across skills, attainment and employability. A short film, case studies and more information can be found on our website

The course has helped increase my confidence and my mental health has been more stable since the course. I no longer panic when people talk to me. Although my mental health is still poor, it is greatly improved compared to what it was. I’m more confident to travel alone. And recently I got a place at a University doing a Masters in Computer Science. My parents think if is the best thing that has happened in my life – and definitely any other course I’ve been on in the past ten years

Visit our website to find out more and watch our 3 minute film to hear how the programme benefits individuals.

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