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What is a Local Infrastructure Organisation?

Sussex Community Foundation works in close partnership with VCSE infrastructure organisations. But why are they important? What do they do?

Local infrastructure organisations help communities meet their needs and achieve their aspirations, making places anyone would want to live, work and visit – – National Association for Voluntary and Community Action

As a county-wide funder of volunteer-led charities and community groups Sussex Community Foundation works in close partnership with the VCSE infrastructure operating right across Sussex, and especially with those organisations designated ‘Voluntary Actions’. These partnerships have developed over many years and the support that they provide enables SCF to extend its reach and impact: in particular opening up funding opportunities to a wide range of potential applicants, as well as supporting them more broadly across four key operational areas – leadership and advocacy, partnership and collaborations, community development and practical support, and volunteering. 

“MSVA supports over 450 local charities and voluntary groups. We are the linchpin which connects people, charities, statutory organisations and businesses together to make communities work harmoniously together."

Lauren Lloyd
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CEO, MSVA

Lauren Lloyd, Mid Sussex Voluntary Action CEO, said:

“MSVA supports over 450 local charities and voluntary groups helping them to flourish and deliver essential services within their communities. Our staff and volunteers provide a support service to charities and voluntary groups that includes training, advice, fundraising expertise and finding volunteers. We are the linchpin which connects people, charities, statutory organisations and businesses together to make communities work harmoniously together. We couldn’t do this without the backing of Sussex Community Foundation. Thank you!”

What does infrastructure provide?

Operating at the heart of the community, the network is ‘the front door’ to the voluntary sector in their respective areas of Sussex.  Moreover, they are not simply there as a ‘provider’, but a proactive partner in the coproduction of services, engaging local stakeholders, and – critically – delivering advocacy and giving a voice to local communities.  These organisations often act as the enabler for community action: helping an individual or group to make something happen for the benefit of the community

Historically, due to being placed-based and embedded firmly in the local community (and therefore uniquely positioned to understand local areas and needs), these organisations enjoy a strong reputation as the ‘go to’ organisation for helping individuals and organisations by offering a broad menu of ‘core’ services.  These are delivered through a range of platforms (both in-person and on-line) including one-to-one sessions, training events, seminars, network gatherings, and typically include advice and guidance on:

  • Setting up and starting a new organisation
  • Policies, practice and procedures
  • Strategy planning, evaluation and monitoring
  • Writing funding applications
  • Identifying appropriate sources of funding to apply for
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Promotion and marketing

Infrastructure – the Covid Pandemic legacy

Across Sussex there is clear evidence from the past two years of the capacity and capability of Voluntary Actions (and other infrastructure organisations), and their central role in supporting and enabling the voluntary sector’s response to the Covid pandemic, particularly through offering advice and guidance, information provision and training.  At the same time, the pandemic also raised the profile of many infrastructure organisations with a wide range of stakeholders across sectors, affording them much greater visibility and prominence. This legacy is very much welcomed and, we hope, will be developed. But there is the caveat that in an increasingly uncertain world and with core funding often difficult to secure or maintain, many infrastructure organisations are rightly concerned about their future direction and capacity to deliver their core mission, and remain a central part of ‘the beating heart of a community’s voluntary sector’.

Claire Cordell, RVA CEO, said:

“Being able to support the voluntary sector in Rother, ensure that their voices are heard on behalf of the communities they work in, is a real privilege. VA’s across the county have been playing a major role in supporting the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and communities and volunteer led hubs across Rother have emerged to support both guests and hosts settle in. It’s been an immensely challenging time for the sector coming through Covid, and the role of charities, community groups and social enterprises has never been more vital. The saying ‘The voluntary sector is the glue that holds communities together’ has never been more true.”

Find your nearest VCSE infrastructure organisation here.

Published on 30th Jun 2022

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