Liverpool museums to pilot Big Society initiative

Sharon Heal, Issue 110/08, p9, 02.08.2010
Pilot project will extend  work experience volunteering scheme
One of the four pilot schemes in the Big Society initiative is a project working with museums and volunteers in Liverpool.

It will involve the extension of a current National Museums Liverpool (NML) scheme, which offers volunteers work experience and a chance to gain qualifications.

Phil Redmond, chairman of National Museums Liverpool, has been appointed as the coalition government’s “local innovation champion”.

He said the principle they were working on in Liverpool was that volunteers could provide an additional resource to extend the museums’ offer.

“National Museums Liverpool has got a fantastic model. It’s not about replacing staff but about extending our opening hours,” said Redmond.

“The Big Society is about how to re-engage communities. Half of our volunteers are under 30 – young people want to get involved in the public sector and museums, and contribute something meaningful.”

He added that being a pilot was a chance to define what the Big Society meant in a way that was best for Liverpool.

According to a statement from the Department of Communities and Local Government, the initiative will aim to get the programme accredited as an employer-recognised qualification, as well as increasing the employability of the volunteers involved.

The statement said the pilot would “significantly increase” the number of participants and work with another museum in the north-west or further afield to replicate the volunteering model.

The NML scheme involves more than 500 volunteers. The government launched the Big Society amid fears that it was a thinly veiled attempt to cover public sector cuts.

Image: Walker Art Gallery