As we stumble towards the end of the year it is noticeable that where usually at this time the sense of collective wind down helps us ease into the festive period, this year it feels for many of us that the pace hasn’t slowed.
Across the voluntary and community sector worries about continuity of services to meet ongoing demand run alongside the recognition that staff and volunteers are mentally and physically exhausted. We look to the year ahead with hope for what the vaccination programme may bring, but trepidation about economic hardship, mental health and widening inequalities.
Meaningful collaboration and a focus on understanding the intersectional nature of the challenges our communities face will be key to improving the outlook in 2021. We know that the issues people experience rarely exist in isolation, so finding places and spaces to bring services and solutions together is vital.
That’s why I have been so encouraged by the partnership meetings I have attended across Oxfordshire since taking up my post last month. From small pilot projects in community fridges and larders to discussions on the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB) footprint, organisations and groups are having frank conversations with statutory partners to develop a rich and creative atmosphere where we have the opportunity to develop solutions to entrenched issues.
Real partnership work is always easier said than done and breaking down the barriers that we all build up within organisations and as individuals is no straightforward task – it takes vision, bravery and faith. So, as our gift to Oxfordshire, let’s all re-commit to supporting each other next year and maximising our impact, I know it’s something that I am determined to work on and support others with too.
I hope that you all have an opportunity to take some time to rest over this period (or shortly after for those of you supporting services throughout). On behalf of OCVA, thank you for everything you have done in this extraordinary year.