In 2019, Community Development Halton (CDH) sponsored a series of Possibilities Cafés which captured the community’s perceptions and expectations of the supports they saw as important for CDH and Volunteer Halton (VH), a key program of CDH, to provide. Participants at the Cafés indicated that both the social planning function of CDH and the support to the voluntary sector provided by VH were viewed as high priorities for the community. The VH functions that the community saw as priorities were the volunteer opportunities database, training and education, and advocacy on behalf of volunteerism.
Within 4-5 months of the Possibilities Cafés, COVID-19 hit and human service organizations everywhere were forced to make rapid changes in the way they deliver service; this necessarily involved changes in the engagement of volunteers across organizations in the voluntary sector.
The Possibilities Cafés had, on the one hand, provided useful insight into what the community saw as priorities for VH pre-COVID, but no work has been done at the local level to ascertain the impact of COVID on the engagement of volunteers, on volunteer programs, and on community needs in relation to volunteers going forward. To ensure an effective assessment of the current model of the Volunteer Centre, gaining some insight into what was happening with volunteer programs in Halton due to COVID was important.