Support for Civil Society Leaders

Collaboration with Peterborough Council of Voluntary Services

May 2021

In 2019 Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS), UK became aware of a growing need for wellbeing support for local leaders of grassroots voluntary organisations. Through coaching conversations, formal and informal meetings, there were increasing signs and tales of stress and exhaustion from a number of local voluntary sector leaders. Some cited health and family issues including blood and stomach disorders, family breakdown and divorce. A number of CEO’s referred to their current health and family circumstances as a direct result of ‘constantly trying to meet the desperate needs of clients’ resulting in not spending time at home.

What was becoming abundantly clear was that many of those providing support to the most vulnerable in our communities were themselves struggling to maintain a healthy work/life balance. In their stoic and incessant battles to meet the relentless demands of desperate need in the City, many of those providing support were losing sight of their own needs including self-care, family and personal time. By ensuring the voiceless were heard and aided, Peterborough’s dedicated, compassionate and vital community champions were themselves, being left behind.

PCVS prepared to research the need of local leaders by gathering qualitative data in the form of personal stories of volunteers. Subsequently in 2020 PCVS was awarded a bursary from Relational Change ( and New Gestalt Voices ( to explore a pilot support process group intervention with several local partners and stakeholders. This facilitated group of voluntary sector peers would effectively deliver social change within the voluntary sector.

The expected outcomes from this work included –
• Improved wellbeing through self-acceptance and holistic awareness of how we function. Increased ability to recognise the need for support; how to engage in strategies to build self-support
• Improved confidence through the acknowledgement of individual uniqueness and valuing difference; leading to
• More cohesive, tolerant and resilient communities. Individuals and therefore communities who will have the confidence to express themselves and their needs; listen and reflect on the considerations of others, so increasing positive connections; to identify opportunities to give and receive support within local neighbourhoods; and above all, challenging ‘othering’ by discovering the value, contribution and rewards of diversity.
• Inclusive communities where individuals will recognize their voice matters and they have an integral place in society.
• People in the Lead increasing a strong community voice to influence decision-making, deliver creative solutions to entrenched issues, support those more vulnerable and importantly be able to say ‘no’ when appropriate, building resilience and assets in local neighbourhoods. Control of activities will exist with the individual and the community.
• Improved local areas as people grow in their awareness and sense of place and belonging
• Contribute to advancing Gestalt therapy to a ‘social therapy’.