Mini-Cluster Model Overview

As an offshoot from the main Volunteering Support Fund (VSF) cluster work, we started to organise mini-cluster meetings that run alongside the regular meetings in June 2019. Funded organisations told us they wanted an opportunity to meet, connect and have focussed discussions on a thematic theme which connected them all: working with the refugee and asylum seekers community.  

The mini cluster meet bi-monthly, online and face to face, ensuring there are opportunities for all to attend regardless of geographical location. One key element of the mini-cluster model is the way it has been able to bring organisations together from different funds managed by Impact Funding Partners e.g.  Volunteering Support Fund, Promoting Equalities and Cohesion Fund, the Wellbeing Fund and the Equally Safe Fund.  

Organisations have shared their own expertise and knowledge from within their projects, something which we are passionate about supporting.   

To date, organisations have been able to: 

  • Collectively share their expertise in volunteer management to support  their volunteers from refugee and asylum seekers community through collaborative working during meetings as well as a facilitated meeting led by Maryhill Integration Network.  
  • Learn more about housing issues that refugees and asylum seekers face through a presentation and Q&A session with volunteers from Community Infosource.  
  • Hear first-hand from volunteers from the refugee and asylum seekers community about the impact on their mental health, and the scientific research around this through a presentation by the Mental Health Foundation. 
  • Share and discuss their volunteer management styles when working with  volunteers from the refugee and asylum seekers community and what more they could do to support volunteers, with the opportunity to follow up on ideas shared.    

From a survey undertaken with 37 organisations who have previously attended meetings, they reported the most useful parts of the mini-cluster meeting model include:  

  • Connecting with other agencies to hear what they are doing, to share  resources and ideas, and to learn about different ways of doing things to help with common challenges.  
  • Receiving input from Scottish Government staff to help understand how projects work fits into the wider strategic framework.  

Through the attendance at the mini cluster meetings, organisations shared what the direct benefits have been for them, as staff members or volunteers, in creating positive change within their organisation and their work practices, including:  

  • Learning that they are not alone and having a shared amount of similar  challenges and also, successes. 
  • Responding collectively during the asylum seekers lock crisis because of the relationship created at the mini cluster.  
  • Opportunities for reflecting on practices and exploring ideas to work better together and collaborate.  

The mini cluster could now more than ever be invaluable in sharing resources, plans, development. Also, to assist each other with volunteers - training, remote working, sharing resources. I believe it's vital that not just those heading the projects are in attendance but those directly involved in the projects day-to-day i.e. volunteers. I think it is important they feel they are being able to learn and voice their thoughts and share ideas to encourage their self-confidence and wellbeing. 

Louise Simpson, Shop and Volunteer Manager, at Maslow’s Community Shop, funded through the Volunteering Support Fund