Blog | neighbourly

Time for the ‘glass-half full’ society


Every day, people all around the country are being neighbourly. 

People like Marva at the Globe Community Centre in Old Trafford, a partnership of organisations who run activities for local families, in a place where local people can enjoy a moment of peace away from the stress of daily life. “We believe Globe means somewhere they can belong to” says Marva. 

Marva’s work is about people, about all those intangible things that make the biggest difference. 

Places like the Globe Community Centre, people like Marva. This is what we’re calling the ‘glass half full society’.

And we need these people and these places, because sometimes it’s hard to be an optimist. 

This year’s NCVO Almanac, which monitors many things about the voluntary sector, found that we’re not making the time to help each other, with no material change in volunteering rates. And by far the biggest reason we are not volunteering more is because we feel that our work and home commitments mean that we don’t have the time. 

The Jo Cox Foundation, whose Great Get Together we are supporting this year has found that over 9 million people would describe themselves as always or often lonely. The answer to this problem couldn’t be simpler. But the reality is that we’re too busy to respond to this modern mental health epidemic, with one in five admitting to not properly listening to others.

And it’s not looking like it’s getting much brighter, with recent comments by the head of Ipsos MORI telling us that there is a sense of pessimism about the future in western Europe and increasing demands on our time, leading to a battle for attention.

Perhaps I’m being to harsh, taking a day out to volunteer might seem like a lot of effort, and maybe we don’t want to get caught up in each other’s troubles in case they end up taking up a lot of time. But how about the finding from The Eden Project Communities’ recent report that 53% of us have never said hello or good morning to a neighbour. When did we stop having the time to say hello?

This can’t go on. Disconnected communities are costing us £32bn. Which is why it’s not just a matter of doing nice worthy things in the margins, but vitally important to come together to solve this malaise. 

We know that with everything else on our plates, the red tape and apathy that holds us back, it’s not going to be easy.

But we are unbowed by the challenge. Because there is a way of living that means that we’re all more satisfied with our life. And it doesn’t necessarily mean eschewing everything we love for a simpler existence, but finding ways to be more neighbourly.

Essentially, we are social animals and our ability to empathise is core to our being. Societies have always survived and flourished by pulling together as a group, identifying our skills, strengths, expertise and combining these to be stronger together. And we are all capable of living together in harmony by working together to find a constructive way forward to meet our common needs.

There was something in The Big Society idea that can re-materialise. A way of working together that blurs the lines about who should be doing what and starts asking how can we make it happen together.

So we’ve set up a platform where each of us can act. And every day, we’re trying to find a way to make it easier to pull together, by giving people tools to be more, well, neighbourly.

We know that the debate rages about whether social media is connecting us or disconnecting us from each other, so why have we chosen to use technology to increase neighbourliness? Because it’s not enough to be connected, we need to have high quality relationships. And, to us, this means finding ways to not just donate once, but to give people the opportunity to act often to support each other. 

So, perhaps counter-intuitively, we’d like Neighbourly to help people get offline more, and to get involved in their communities. Our aim is to pull people together in the Cloud to bring them together on the ground.

We want giving to be much more than a moment of worthiness where we might do a good turn, put a coin in a collecting tin or volunteer once a year. We want it to be a way of life.

And we think that the more we all do good things, the more we can propagate and hard code doing good, to the extent is becomes habitual, rather than exceptional. And that means we can get back to what brought us together in the first place, supporting each other. 

Day by day, each small act, done often, begins to add up into a place where each of us uses our resources to reshape how we live our lives. A chain reaction of good. Because we know that when you do just one thing, we’re more likely to do the next. As the Institute of Fundraising found 63% have taken additional positive actions as a result of donating to charity.

We want to find ways of making this our comfort zone, our ‘go to’ approach, for all of us, every day. 

So here’s our six point plan for the ‘glass half full’ society:

·        Get started: say hello to your neighbour

·        Get involved with your community and find out what you can do

·        Get connected to the opportunities that do good where you are

·        Give your time, your money, your surplus things

·        Do it again

·        Pass on the feeling

Perhaps that sounds too easy? Well that’s because we don’t think it is just about individuals digging deep - it’s about a more sustainable approach, a deeper connection with our community through everything we do, and pushing together for a more responsible approach to the world around us. And it’s better for all of us - the cost of isolation and disconnected communities is costing us £5.2bn on healthcare alone. Isn’t that much better spent on the things that bring us together?

Steve Haines

Head of Community Engagement

Jul 6, 2017

Want to get young people actively involved in your charity or community group?


Want to get young people actively involved in your charity or community group? This is how you can. The Government’s National Citizen Service (NCS) gives young people aged 15-17 a once in a life time opportunity to develop their confidence and skills for work and life over a 4 week programme in July/August.

This involves them developing and delivering a project that will bring benefits to their local community. They do this by selecting and working with a local charity/organisation - it’s called their ‘Social Action’ phase.

Learn by Design, who deliver NCS, are keen to hear from community groups and charities in a number of areas in the UK that would be interested in taking part. You can get involved by having a stand at their Market Place or delivering a presentation/session about your community group/charity to tell the young people about what you do and how you’d like their help. The areas are:

  • Peterborough and Huntingdon - projects will happen during w/c 24 July, w/c 31st July or w/c 7th August.
  • Staffordshire - projects will happen during w/c 3 July and w/c 17 July. 
  • North Hertfordshire - projects will happen during w/c 10th July.
  • Oakham, Rushden and Stamford - projects will happen during w/c 17th July and w/c 31st July.

The young people could volunteer, put on an event or raise awareness for you. As well as the benefits your organisation will gain, you’ll also be helping young people to develop their skills and confidence.

To find out more, contact your local NCS Project Manager:

For Peterborough and Huntingdon contact Mike Pipe on mikepipe@bydesign-group.co.uk / 07551 170312

For Staffordshire, North Hertfordshire, Oakham, Rushden and Stamford contact Laura Price on lauraprice@bydesign-group.co.uk / 07584 190741.



Content Manager

Jun 20, 2017

Is good business the new normal?


Have you heard the saying 'business as a force for good'? Do you believe it?

More and more global businesses are on a clear path towards better serving local communities. They recognise it makes good business sense because a business can only be healthy if the community it serves is healthy too. Another common soundbite is 'scale for good' - recognising that big businesses have enormous capacity to accelerate change when they find purpose beyond profit.

I’ve just returned from the UK B Corp Retreat. Many readers will know that Neighbourly is proud to be one of the UK’s very first B Corporations - companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. The B Corp movement is growing rapidly with over 2,100 companies now certified in over 50 countries. And right now we can be proud that the UK is the fastest-growing B Corp community in the world.

Whist the majority of B Corps are smaller businesses, all are ambitious to bring ‘good to scale’. I love the symmetry of this - big business re-purposing massive legacy operations to stay relevant, while authentic young start-ups fight to establish market share. What’s brilliant is the energy they take from each other. Because when scale for good meets good to scale, 'best for the world' truly takes shape.

Personally I’m proud to be a believer. Sure - business is recovering from some big mistakes made in recent times. It takes time to re-build trust and society has a right to be sceptical. But I don't believe we should be cynical. Cynicism is counter-productive and cannot lead us towards the partnerships we need to end poverty, hunger, inequality, homelessness and every other injustice that people face in communities every day all across the land. If we open our hearts and minds to the possibilities of true partnership we’ll all be amazed at the permanent, lasting change that can be achieved when we work together to be more neighbourly.

Good business has the resources to be a real driver for change - if we choose to embrace it. I think that if more people took a moment to explore beyond populist press and the accepted wisdom of the crowd they’d be surprised - maybe even impressed - by the ambition and authentic actions of most businesses in 2017. Please be one of those positive, enquiring minds - then help us spread the word that good business might just be the new normal.

Nick Davies


Jun 14, 2017

Becoming a neighbourly society - the time is now


Now, more than ever, we’re hearing about the huge, ever-expanding gaps in UK public services that are going to need an army of new volunteers if the provision is to continue. Volunteers Week 2017 has rightly brought more of this crisis to our attention – after all, the week is (or should be) as much about recruiting new volunteers as it is celebrating and thanking existing ones.

As this Guardian article states, volunteers are now running libraries, maintaining parks and staffing hospital reception desks due to austerity cuts, and whilst this is worth and estimated £23bn a year in economic value, it’s still nowhere near enough. And the extent of charities’ work in delivering frontline services keeps on increasing. Included in the essential services run by the charitable sector are ambulance services, housing, health & social care, probation, community transport, mental health and search and rescue – to name a few.

The dream – where neighbourly communities are built with residents, companies, local government teams, charities and community projects, all working in unison like a well-oiled machine – seems ever further from reach. Delivering resources into places that they are needed, building funds where they are depleted and diverting helping hands to where they can help shouldn’t be so difficult. But it is.

Many of these problems could be helped if we, as a whole society, could more easily draw upon our neighbourly values and lend support within our means to ensure everyone not just survives but thrives. We are given some glimpses of hope – The Charities Aid Foundation’s annual UK Giving report, for instance, says that 89% of people “did something charitable” in 2016, including volunteering, which is a huge hike from 79% in 2015.

Official figures are less encouraging though. People reporting having formally volunteered at least once a month – through a group, club or organisation – has flatlined since the turn of the century, standing in the last Cabinet Office survey of 2015-16 at 14.2 million, or 27% of the adult population. Informal volunteering – helping people who are not relatives and doing so not through a group, club or organisation, at least monthly – stood at 18 million, or 34% of the population, in 2015-16. These numbers have stayed broadly unchanged since 2000.

But perhaps it is not a lack of desire, rather a logistical minefield, that stops more of us from contributing. What are we permitted to do? How should we organise ourselves?

And what about companies in all of this? The Guardian article states that ‘charities will have to do much of the heavy lifting on this themselves’ – the 2015 legislation promise of three days’ paid volunteering leave annually for all public-sector workers and those private companies with 250+ staff, remains unfulfilled (and isn’t in the Tory 2017 programme). Regardless of legislation, many businesses have already bought in to the well-documented ‘employee volunteering business case’ and there has been an astronomic increase in UK companies (large ones at least) engaging in some form of employee volunteering. However, The London Benchmarking Group reported that the average proportion of employees engaging in employee volunteering in their member firms was 19 per cent last year, but often uptake is much lower.

There’s clearly a multitude of barriers. Whilst participating companies do advertise the opportunities, it isn’t always enough to turn employees into volunteers. They need to understand what they can learn, the impact they can have and how it will make them feel. Some companies we speak to say they have tried to make this work but their employees felt they didn't want to take the entitlement because they didn't know what opportunities were available and what the business really wanted them to do with the days.

But we think there’s another major factor at play – and one that is not just related to the giving of time. Again and again we come across a snag with company contributions. VAT regulations on product donations, Health and Safety regulations around volunteering, not to mention the complexities of insurance. And of course, the legislation associated with passing on food to those in need, makes these human things extremely worrisome (and in some cases a complete blocker) for the companies that do want to contribute.

The Good Samaritans Act is an interesting concept. It takes many forms across the globe, but if you look at the US, where all 50 states have some type of Good Samaritan law, individuals currently have protection when they lend a hand in an emergency. Put simply, if you see someone in trouble and you stop to help, but inadvertently do more harm than good, you are protected from being sued.

Could the principles of this act be extended more broadly in the UK to companies to take some of the shackles off? Can we become a society where if we see a need and we want to help, then we can have a go – being sensible in our decisions and careful and respectful in delivery of course – but free from the fear of repercussions?

Something has to change, for sure. Let’s have a look at Edelman’s 17th annual trust and credibility survey: ‘We are experiencing a total collapse in trust in the institutions that shape our society.’ Trust in the UK is at a historic low at 29 per cent. There is an unprecedented feeling that life is not as fair as it used to be. And sadly, only one in nine of the UK population think that the system still works.

Business needs to lead, and be free to do so. The rewards could be huge – our recent research showed employer led volunteering as resoundingly positive (7+ out of 10 - from the individuals taking part). Those who volunteered with their company trust other people and companies more than those who haven’t, and are more likely to recommend their company to a friend. On top of this, the research shows they are happier and more satisfied with life.

Clearly Marks and Spencer get it: this week 7000 M&S colleagues from over 650 stores and offices will be donating their time and skills to over 700 local community projects. Their new Plan A 2025 #SpenditWell community transformation programme will support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

There is, very definitely, huge untapped potential, a willingness to contribute and a glut of resources. Take a look at our Twitter feed if you ever need a reminder of the undying spirit of neighbourliness that defines our communities. Or this story of supermarket workers from Sainsbury’s donating food to police officers in the recent London Bridge attacks.

Let’s make the fabric of our society and the ownership of it a shared challenge where we all have and equal hand in helping it flourish.


Content Manager

Jun 8, 2017

#SpendItWell: why M&S staff are volunteering in every UK community this week (including yours!)


You may have noticed teams of hard-working volunteers from Marks and Spencer out and about in a community hub near you. Perhaps you’ve seen them building a new accessible seating area at your grandchild’s school or decorating a local hospice that has earned the thanks of M&S customers and employees alike... Intrigued? Read on to learn the incredible story behind this UK and ROI wide celebration of community!

Good deeds build great communities. Every hour we spend volunteering for a community organisation is another hour they can spend helping someone in need.

During 1-10 June, 7000 M&S teams from over 650 stores are donating their time and skills to transform essential community projects up and down the nation. Many of the chosen projects have already received donations of surplus food or raised funds alongside their local store. Now they are going to benefit from some free helping hands, which makes all the difference in a sector where resources are being stretched further every day.

Here are just some of the inspiring causes that have been chosen to take part in the activity.

Brixton Soup Kitchen

On 1st June, to kick off #SpendItWell, Brixton Soup Kitchen welcomed volunteers from M&S Brixton Road to make-over part of their building that had not been painted in over twenty years!

This is the second time the soup kitchen has received helping hands from their local M&S store. In 2015, a team of passionate local people and staff members helped to transform the food bank in just 24 hours. It was heart-warming to see the surprise and delight on the faces of people who rely on this community space for food and support.

In the words of Solomon, the dedicated Brixtonian behind this remarkable project: "This means a lot to the Brixton community because a lot of people don't believe that companies like M&S will come down and help them out."

Knowing that people from a nearby store are willing to give up their time to improve their environment makes a massive difference. It shows that people from all parts of society care about their well-being and want to come together to support them. This is a real boost for those experiencing food poverty and for the regular soup kitchen volunteers who give their time day in, day out to help rebuild the lives of their fellow Brixtonians.

Dalgarno Trust 

These days, even more ‘affluent’ areas of the country are home to families that are struggling to support themselves. The Dalgarno Food Bank prepares weekly bags of groceries to help people living in hardship in Kensington and Chelsea. You may be surprised to hear that the project regularly sees up to 90 recipient customers weekly. The inspiring team behind the food bank works tirelessly to help people find their feet again.

As George from Dalgarno Trust explains: “We live in an amazing society, but there are increasing challenges in making sure everybody has the chance to participate.” Collectively, individuals and businesses can give more people the opportunity to feel part of society again. Dalgarno receives regular help in the form of financial and surplus food donations from nine local M&S stores who have combined their support for such a wide-reaching cause in their community.

The volunteers visiting this important food bank as part of #SpendItWell are certainly not afraid of hard-work! They’ll be carrying out a deep clean of the 5000 square foot community building that houses the foodbank along with the Trust’s other essential projects. The team will also get stuck in clearing and maintaining bushes and creating a neighbourhood garden with surplus flowers from M&S that have been brought back to life with some green-fingered TLC. This just goes to show - all lives have the potential to thrive if they are given a second chance!

Royal National Lifeboat Institute

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute in Durham and M&S Dalton Park Outlet have been organising collections in the store for the last two years. Although this is only a small outlet team, they have raised an incredible £33k+ together, showing what can happen when different parts of communities come together for a common purpose.

At the helm of the RNLI branch in Durham is a heroic fundraiser named David, who remembers the first day he went into an M&S store and the manager told him he could collect there any time: “She may not have quite realised what she was letting herself in for!” David jokes. Since then, they have held 82 collections in the store and nurtured a friendship that will last well into the future.

To celebrate #SpendItWell, volunteers from M&S Dalton Park will join David and RNLI mascot ‘Stormy Stan’ at Seaham for a big beach clean to raise awareness of this essential charity that saves lives at sea. Good luck Stan!

Great Get Together for Jo Cox

M&S Birstall is working with the local community to run a Great Get Together inspired by former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was killed nearby in Birstall on June 16th last year.

As Jo Cox said at her first speech to parliament: “We are far more more united and have far more in common than that which divides us." The Great Get Together believes there is a groundswell of people who reject divisive politics and simply want to bring communities together and celebrate all that unites us. There are over 100,000 get togethers already planned for the weekend.

As part of Spend It Well, the Birstall store will invite customers and family members into the store for a delicious coffee morning with activities for all ages to enjoy. Bringing neighbours together in one place to make shared memories is how we can all play our part in helping communities feel closer and more united. Why not organise a gathering yourself?

Calum’s Cabin

This charity on the Isle of Bute was set up by the family of a courageous boy called Calum. Families can visit the cabin to make lasting memories and stay in a safe and warm place, which is important for children who have cancer and cancer-related diseases. The charity also pays for the ferry to Bute and makes it possible for them to take part in activities whilst they are there.

The whole thing was Calum’s idea. After all, he and his family lived in a beautiful part of the world. Wouldn’t it be great to have children suffering from cancer come to Bute and make special irreplaceable memories?

So his family set to work. They rallied the whole community to make Calum’s idea come to life. A local electrician donated his time to wiring up Calum’s Cabin. Lots of other people got involved by donating materials, time or gifts of money.

This week, volunteers from Marks and Spencer will be completely re-vamping Calum’s Cabin Charity Shop in Paisley, a busy store that raises a significant amount of money for the cause. Not only will they give the whole shop a new lease of life, but the volunteers will use their expert visual merchandising skills to make the most of every single donation ready for the grand re-opening.


M&S Head Office aren’t going to miss out on this opportunity to help their local communities! Volunteers from the London office are heading to Certitude’s Activity and Resource Centre, a space where people with learning disabilities can enjoy arts and crafts, music, cooking, gardening, sport and explore the local area.

Volunteers from M&S will help to develop the beautiful sensory garden and build a pizza oven that will be used to cook meals for Certitude’s Food for Thought group, a pioneering mental health project based at the ARC.

As Sam from Certitude explains, “If you have Down Syndrome or autism, that becomes a bit of a lightning rod for all your support; it’s all around that disability, because it’s the most obvious to anyone looking in. Many people we support find it hard to manage stress and bereavement, things escalate and someone’s quality of life can begin to deteriorate.”

Food for Thought is a small group of people with learning disabilities coming together with a trained therapist, making a meal from scratch together with food grown at the project and talking about their lives. During the sessions, they discuss coping strategies and how these can be applied to real-life situations. At a time when services for people with disabilities are becoming increasingly important, truly unique projects like these are worth shouting about.

LOROS Hospice – ColourFun Mile Run

The Colour Fun Mile in Hinckley is a fantastic example of how lots of people from different walks of society can gather their combined forces to make a big splash. LOROS has seen more and more people throw themselves into this fundraising extravaganza, somehow making it even more colourful every year!

The run has a real fun, family-friendly feel to it, with a focus on “brightening” people’s lives. This is something that LOROS rightly prides itself in being able to do for people who may be going through a very a challenging time. The power to bring a smile to someone’s face when they or a loved one is experiencing terminal illness is a very precious gift.

This year, the ColourFun Mile Run is part of #SpendItWell and it’s shaping up to be even bigger and better than before. We’re sure the M&S volunteers will do themselves proud by throwing even more colours into the mix!


The volunteering events happening during 1-10 June are part of something very exciting. By 2025, M&S want to ensure that everything they do has a positive impact on people’s collective well-being, communities and the planet. Each store is committed to making a marked difference where its employees live and work - from helping 10 million people live happier, healthier lives, to helping to transform 1000 communities, to becoming a zero-waste business.

If you’re feeling inspired by the energy and compassion being poured into communities every day, you're not alone. Here at Neighbourly, we see more and more people signing up week upon week to support causes that mean something to their community. Could this be the perfect moment to think about how you could get involved in making your local area a better place?

You can help right now by getting these stories out there, making more people aware of the work being done to improve people’s lives. Follow these Neighbourly project pages to show your support and share their pages with your friends, family and colleagues.

Together, we can help everyone choose a way to #SpendItWell. Great communities are being built – one good deed at a time...

Beth Calverley

Community Manager

Jun 6, 2017

Breaking out of autopilot


Today is 1st June – what shall now be known as ‘Make It Matter Day’ – the day when M&S is encouraging the UK to break out of autopilot, find time for the things in life that matter and make every decision count. Sounds good to me.

It’s also kick-off day for their new #SpenditWell community transformation programme which will support 1,000 communities, help 10 million people live happier, healthier lives and convert M&S into a zero-waste business.

It’s a big, ambitious social change programme that will initially be piloted in 10 communities over the next two years. They will trial a range of actions designed to tackle the issues that matter most to communities – like unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, mental health and wellbeing. Successful initiatives will be rolled out to a further 100 locations by 2023. You can read more about the pilot community programme here.

To deliver the pioneering initiatives M&S will work with local councils and partners including Neighbourly as well as Business In The Community, Royal Voluntary Service, The Silver Line, Power to Change and Frazzled Cafe. Each of the 10 locations will have a programme of activities including support for children starting school (10,000 pairs of plimsolls – we love this!), careers advice, friendship groups to tackle loneliness and exclusion, Frazzled Cafes for those feeling stressed, support for community businesses, investment in outdoor spaces, grants to support food surplus charities to fund fridges and cool bags, meals for the homeless and employee volunteering. It’s a major commitment and we’re so pleased to be a partner.

But for today at least, it’s all about breaking out of autopilot and finding time for the things in life that matter, making every decision count.

For us it’s about appreciating the people we have around us at work, the huge patch of green parkland that’s right outside our office (but we rarely spend time in) and saying ‘yes’ when our Neighbourly founder says, ‘down tools, we’re going for a picnic’.

It’s about shades on, good food in a bag-for-life, forgetting the to-do list for 30 mins, laughing loud, sharing a box of biscuits, leaving our mobiles in the office, dusting off our actual camera (remember those?) and just……. well………………….

Taking a breath. 

Yes, it feels good.



Content Manager

Jun 1, 2017

Wild in the City: the time to re-connect with nature is now


We share a world where green spaces are more valuable than ever – from the rainforest habitats of Brazil and Peru to the recreation fields of Bristol and Bradford. Through the humble activism of gardening, people across the UK are volunteering to improve their health, get to know each other better and ensure nobody can take their community resource away from them.

Our communities are losing their most vital places for playing, keeping active and meeting with neighbours. Government funding to National Parks quartered from 2011 to 2016 and local authorities are having to prioritise core services over parks. This means something to everyone who has ever hiked through Dartmoor, kicked a ball around at their local rec or attended a summer fete in the park.

If you’re worried about where your kids will play safely after school or where your dogs will stretch their legs, you are not alone. A 38 Degrees petition to MPs on the Communities and Local Government Committee received over 323,000 signatures from people desperate to ‘Save our parks’. Sadly, this petition was rejected by the committee as being too burdensome.

It’s tempting to fall into doom and gloom, imagining the decline of our community gathering grounds to unsafe, overgrown wastelands. Yet there’s a way forward. Taking ownership of local spaces is far from a new idea. There are over 5000 Friends of Parks groups, working alongside local councils to protect our nation’s deeply loved parks. From home-grown gardening groups to budding charities and CICs, people in every community are taking local environments into their own hands.

The Conservation Volunteers is a national organisation, with a strong network of conservation hubs and Green Gyms. For Caroline Pearce from TCV, green spaces are quite literally the common ground that brings local people together: “For some they are a place to relax at the end of a busy day, for others an allotment for a future Summer harvest, for the energetic they are a playing field to burn off calories, whilst for others they provide a precious opportunity to connect with nature or catch up with old friends. These green spaces are always under threat which is why TCV's work with over 2,000 community groups across the UK is so important. We run programmes and events to help volunteers create and maintain their own unique spaces - building a green legacy for their whole community to enjoy.”

By making it easy for people to volunteer outdoors, organisations like The Conservation Volunteers re-connect residents with their environment and help communities to stay healthy and active.

Here we hit upon the guilty secret of volunteering… it’s not completely selfless. In fact, it’s incredibly good for you! Those of us who have regularly given time to dig, weed, build, or litter pick in the fresh air know this is a fantastic way to keep your heart pumping. Research by the University of Essex highlights what common sense already tells us: spending time in nature makes us feel better.

Wild in the City! is a CIC based in Croydon that enables urban residents to improve their well-being by discovering London’s beautiful pockets of nature. It started when psychotherapist Beth Collier realised that for many of the young people she met, their restrictive environment was at the root of their anger and frustration: “I was lucky enough to grow up on a small holding,” she explains. “I simply couldn’t imagine growing up in a small tower block and not learning about the support system that the natural world offers.”


Beth realised she could use her perspective to help people use nature as a coping strategy. She began to conduct her therapy sessions in the outdoors and the self-evident transformations she saw compelled her to found Wild in the City.

Among many ground-breaking projects for both children and adults, Wild in the City now runs an incredible Summer programme for NEET (not in education, employment or training) 16-25 year olds. ‘Into The Wild’ supports young people’s personal development through interacting with each other and their environment. Participants learn practical skills like coppicing, basket-making, and tracking. Above all, they learn how nature can become a meaningful part of everyday life. “It’s always special to watch someone light a fire for the first time after persevering for ages. There’s an almost primal joy that comes to their face. I can picture that smile: happy, contented, assured.”

As our lives become increasingly fast-paced, Beth feels there’s now more of a call for rediscovery than ever - both in terms of our inter-personal relationships and our connection with nature. Businesses have an integral role to play by offering volunteer hours to their employees, encouraging them to get involved in the communities where they live and work.

Recently, Beth welcomed volunteers from Starbucks stores across the region to construct beautiful woodland furniture for Wild in the City’s brand new Outdoor Office initiative. This project will see office-based employees from local businesses coming to work in nature, building upon the theory that people are happier and more productive when they spend time in the Great Outdoors.


You too can get involved in protecting green spaces and see for yourself the difference volunteering has on your well-being and your neighbourhood. Make a pledge to protect your environment - whether that means attending your local council meeting and compelling councillors to fund your community’s playground, or signing up for a volunteer event to conserve a nearby pocket of nature.

We all have the power to light up someone’s smile. All it takes is a little perseverance (…and maybe a pair of wellies!)

Beth Calverley

Community Manager

May 25, 2017

2 events in May that all helpful Glaswegians must know about


There’s nowhere quite like Glasgow – known for its friendly people, effortless creativity and heroic community spirit (whatever the weather!) Every day, Glaswegians roll up their sleeves, fill a thermos and do their bit to create better opportunities for all; from support workers giving young homeless people of Glasgow the advice and kindness they need to change their situation, to groups of Uddingston residents teaming up to tackle local issues. This month, on 19th-21st May weekend is your chance to spend a day getting stuck into fun, rewarding activities alongside these local heroes.

During the 19th-21st May weekend, people across Glasgow are gathering together to take part in community events in this awesome city, one of four chosen to take part in The Body Shop’s Enriching Communities weekend along with Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. The Body Shop is inspiring their employees, customers and neighbours to grab their wellies and paint-brushes for causes they believe in. Read on to hear more about two of the best loved community projects in Glasgow and learn how you can join the action…

Stopover Project

It is incredibly important for young people experiencing homelessness to make their voice heard – especially when they may have been told that what they have to say is unimportant in the past. Many who turn to the Stopover are experiencing major difficulties like addiction, mental health problems or a history of abuse along with their housing needs, so things can feel quite intense for them at times. They would really benefit from a relaxing, pleasant outdoor space where they can enjoy a bit of fresh air and time out when everything gets a bit much.

The Stopover has a spacious garden that they would love to transform into a vibrant social gathering space. The possibilities of this outdoor social space are incredibly exciting; the young people would be able to enjoy barbeques there during the summer and learn how to grow their own vegetables. But for homeless projects like the Stopover that provide a high level of support, one of the most precious resources is manpower. With volunteers and staff working tirelessly to make sure the residents’ needs are looked after, tasks like improving the garden can often take a back seat.

On the 21st May, you can help brighten the Stopover garden with newly planted flowers, transform the old vegetable planters so the young people can take ownership of growing some of their own food, and arrange new garden furniture to create a welcoming seating area.

A great chance to make a difference for homeless people in Glasgow while putting your gardening skills into action!

Sign up to get involved!

Uddingston Pride

Uddingston Pride is an environmental voluntary group of passionate residents who are striving to make their local area a better place to live. They thrive on making Uddingston beautiful throughout the year with seasonal flowers and community events that foster a shared sense of pride in their shared environment – from local school children learning how to use litter pickers for the first time to older residents pitching in to help make the arts and craft fair a success.

This passionate group epitomises the power of residents taking their environment into their own hands and inspiring fellow community members to get things done! You can sign up to help their big community clean up on the 20th May to enhance Crofthead Park, which has recently been renovated thanks to the efforts of Uddingston Pride.

Sign up to get involved!

Projects like these and the inspiring teams behind them are what makes Glasgow such a unique place to live. Take a look at all the events taking place during the 19th-21st May weekend. Whether you’re passionate about creating opportunities for young people, enjoy creating works of art or simply love cuddling animals, there’s a way for you to be involved.

Don’t worry if you can’t sign up yourself; you can help by sharing the news across social to let your friends and family know they can sign up to join one of these exciting events: #InOurHands.

About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can donate time, money or surplus food. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.

May 9, 2017

How to help communities in Birmingham (while having a great weekend!)


Birmingham is a homely city with a big heart – its industrial backdrop brightened by the diverse and multicultural communities that make this city such an inspiring place to be. Day after day, local people celebrate the spirit of Birmingham by making a positive difference for their fellow Brummies: park rangers who brave the elements to promote biodiversity; support workers helping young people to gain employment skills; your next-door neighbour popping round just to check you’re ok. This month, on the weekend of 19th-21st May is your chance to spend a day getting stuck into fun, rewarding activities alongside them.

During the 19th-21st May weekend, people across Birmingham are gathering together to take part in community events in this friendly and fun-loving city, one of four cities chosen to take part in The Body Shop’s Enriching Communities weekend along with Manchester, Glasgow and Leeds. The Body Shop is inspiring their employees, customers and neighbours to grab their wellies and paint-brushes for causes they believe in. Read on to hear more about two of the best loved community projects in Birmingham and learn how you can join the action…


Birmingham owes a lot to the creativity, energy and talent of its young residents - yet side-by-side with its thriving business hubs this city has some of the most disadvantaged communities in the UK. Young people born into disadvantage face an uphill struggle from the start, but through Sport4Life they can gain employability and key life skills by taking part in sports-themed personal development programmes.

This year, Sport4Life launched their first female only employability programme in Washwood Heath. This incredible new programme is designed to empower and motivate young women to aspire to great things. As part of this, they want to create a welcoming, positive, and safe environment for the participants to come to for workshops, training, and meeting up with each other. The team at Sport4Life would love you to come and help transform the centre where this essential group meets.

As Saad at Sport4Life tells us; “Without the support of volunteers, transforming our centre for young people just wouldn't be possible. The valuable time and effort of volunteers will help us to create a brighter and better space for young women who take part in our programmes, and in turn, the positive experience they have from being on our programme will support them in achieving their future goals.”

So, join Sport4Life for a day of painting on 21st May and help them bring about a level playing field where every young person is given the support to create a better future for themselves.

Sign up to get involved!

Plants Brook Nature Reserve

This vital green pocket of nature - tucked away within the residential area of Erdington - is dearly loved by all those in the know. Visitors to the park feel uplifted and renewed by the beautifully varied landscape with open water, wetland, woodland and wildflower meadows, perfect for adventuring through and discovering the green heart of Birmingham.

The heroes behind Plants Brook Nature Reserve are the dedicated team of park rangers who make it possible for people to experience and enjoy wildlife despite living and working in a busy urban area. Birmingham is one of the UK cities worst affected by air pollution and it’s incredibly important that these green spaces continue to be cared for, in order to protect the health and well-being of residents and species alike.

Park rangers across the city play a vital role in making sure parks like Plants Brook are here for all to discover. With the busy summer season approaching, the rangers need your helping hands on May 20th to make the parkland and Kingfisher Pool even more welcoming for nesting wildfowl and nectar-feeding bugs and butterflies.

With all our lives becoming increasingly busy and fast-paced, volunteering is a brilliant way to get your heart pumping and spend a few hours in the fresh air. You’ll be part of a historic line of nature-lovers who have shown Plants Brook Nature Reserve some love since it was first developed in the 1980s. So, go on - dig out your oldest, muddiest clothes and get ready to dive into the great outdoors.

Sign up to get involved!

Projects like these and the inspiring teams behind them are what makes Birmingham such a wonderful place to live. Take a look at all the events taking place during the 19th-21st May weekend. Whether you’re passionate about creating opportunities for young people, enjoy creating works of art or simply love cuddling animals, there’s a way for you to be involved.

Don’t worry if you can’t sign up yourself; you can help by sharing the news across social to let your friends and family know they can sign up to join one of these wonderful events: #InOurHands

About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can donate time, money or surplus food. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.

Beth Calverley

Community Manager

May 8, 2017

How to show two Leeds landscapes some love in May


Everyone who has strolled past Hyde Park on a beautiful Spring day - passing gardeners wheeling barrows to the allotment - or taken a rejuvenating walk along the canal path, knows what a beautiful place Leeds is to live. And thanks to a lively movement of charity organisers, volunteers, creatives and gardeners, this city’s communities are strengthening every day. This month, on the weekend of 19th-21st May, is your chance to spend a day in the fresh air making a difference alongside them.

During the 19th-21st May weekend, people across the city are gathering together to take part in community events in Leeds, one of four cities chosen to take part in The Body Shop’s Enriching Communities weekend along with Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. The Body Shop is inspiring their employees, customers and neighbours to grab their wellies and paint-brushes for causes they believe in. Read on to learn how you can join the action – and feel for yourself the boost in energy and mental well-being that’s getting people across Leeds hooked on environmental volunteering…

Hyde Park Source

It’s a good bet you’ve spotted this group of hard-working gardeners in various green nooks and crannies around Leeds and wondered what they’re all about. Well, your days of wondering are over! Hyde Park Source are committed to improving local people's well-being through enhancing their environment. Their mission is simple but essential: empowering communities to look after and develop their surroundings through workshops, training, activities and a fantastic tool library for everyone to use.

The Hyde Park Source team would love you to come along on 21st May and help transform their base into a motivational volunteer hub by putting up furniture, painting, and bringing the space to life with notice-boards and pictures.

Behla, the volunteer coordinator at Hyde Park Source, says it’s important that newcomers feel a connection as soon as they arrive: “We would like to give visitors and volunteers an immediate sense of what we are all about as a group!”

The day will also be a great chance to try out your gardening skills. Nearby residents have asked for some help to enhance Rosebank Park, which is a lovely outdoor space used by the whole community. There’s an "amphitheatre" in the park where live bands often play during the Summer and it will be fantastic to mount some mosaics on the walls to jazz up this al fresco venue.

The park is an important community asset that is in the hands of residents to look after, so every bit of help makes a real difference. And there’s no better way to get some fresh air and recover from mental fatigue after a hard week at work or busy exam period… so go on, treat yourself!

Sign up to get involved!

Canal & River Trust - Leeds Towpath Taskforce

It’s true that if you really want to feel close to Leeds as a city, you should get to know your local canal. And if the canals are the veins of this city’s history, volunteers are its life-blood.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal flourished during the rise of industry and manufacturing in the North. Today, it’s a beautiful oasis in the heart of Leeds where you can head down to see residents of all ages cycling, walking, fishing, visiting the museum at Armley Mills and simply enjoying being close to their local waterway away from the bustle of the centre. Yet if it weren't for a few dedicated waterway enthusiasts in the 1950s and 1960s working hard to save the canal, we may have lost it forever! The Canal & River Trust’s Leeds team works hard to make sure this never happens.

If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved in your local canal then the Towpath Taskforce on 19th May is the perfect opportunity for you. Spend a few active hours in the great outdoors learning practical skills and having a laugh while improving your local waterway for humans and wildlife alike. Who knows… you may even get the bug to come back again.

Sign up to get involved!

Projects like these and the inspiring teams behind them are what makes Leeds such a wonderful place to live or study. Take a look at all the events taking place during the 19th-21st May weekend. Whether you’re passionate about creating opportunities for young people, enjoy creating works of art or simply love cuddling animals, there’s a way for you to be involved.

Don’t worry if you can’t sign up yourself; you can help by sharing the news across social to let your friends and family know they can sign up to join one of these brilliant events: #InOurHands.

About Neighbourly

Neighbourly matches charity and community projects with people and companies that can donate time, money or surplus food. Get support by creating and sharing a project or give support by following, donating or giving a day to volunteer.

Beth Calverley

Community Manager

May 8, 2017