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Social Good

Bristol is a city of diversity where we champion the fact that we experience the same raw material of urban life in very different ways. Recognising the inequalities that exist across the city, inclusivity is at the heart of our approach to economic growth – and the insights of our voluntary and community sector are central to this.

Our city is full of volunteers, community groups and social enterprises doing life-changing work every day. They’re running dementia sessions in care homes, organising excursions for young carers, putting people on pathways out of homelessness, or running play sessions, support groups, food banks and advice sessions. They’re helping Bristol people weather its storms and enjoy its good times, while giving them a voice in local decisions.

To ensure inclusivity is central to the growth of the city, our One City Plan aims to use the collective power of public, business and voluntary sector organisations to solve key challenges and drive inclusive economic growth.

This makes the experience and outreach work of the VCSE sector critical, particularly in those groups most acutely affected by COVID-19 such as low-income families, young people, Black and ethnic minority groups, women, disabled people, those at the sharp end of the housing crisis. Ensuring these voices are part of our growth – while addressing a skills gap which will unlock the potential that comes with inclusive growth – is critical to Bristol’s development.

  • Bristol is home to more than 45 religions, at least 187 countries of birth and 91 languages
  • Pupils classed as not ‘white British’ increased from 31% in 2011 to 38% in 2020
  • The city has around 1,500 registered voluntary organisations


The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in Bristol is diverse. It is home to large charities such as the Soil Association, a multitude of smaller local community organisations such as Hartcliffe & Withwood Community Partnership, and regional branches of national charities such as St Mungo’s and the Prince’s Trust.

The Covid crisis has seen a local and national emphasis on community, and the city mobilised an incredible volunteer response to the pandemic. As part of our ongoing citizens’ assembly Your City, Our Future about our citizens’ priorities for recovery and renewal, a shared ambition is emerging: “Build on community action during Covid-19, allow for more community decision making and make Bristol fairer and ‘less separate’.”

The third sector provides a vital conduit for this process, both in expertise and in driving innovation to deliver services to those who need them and empower communities to support themselves.

Importance to the city

While recognising its challenges, Bristol strives to be a city which fosters equality of opportunity.  Local VCSE organisations are critical in connecting and representing the most vulnerable, and exploring innovative ways to lift communities.

The council has recognised this with funding and in partnerships with organisations such as VOSCUR and Black South West Network (BSWN) to provide critical support for renewal and recovery. Furthermore, it has recognised the importance of this sector in connecting with communities via the power of volunteering and giving networks, as well as the sector’s innovation in service delivery.

City support

To recover from COVID-19, the city must engage with communities, especially  those most disadvantaged by rising inequality. This will only be possible by building on the expertise of the VCSE sector, as well as supporting it with funding.

Using research by BSWN and the VCSE Strategy Group, we will ensure the needs of the sector are woven into the city’s economic recovery plan.

Business support will be essential. South Bristol Enterprise Support is working with YTKO, the Prince’s Trust, Knowle West Media Centre and the School For Social Entrepreneurs to support existing and developing SMEs and entrepreneurs across all sectors to promote inclusive growth, while North & East Bristol Business Support is offering support for pre-start up, new and existing social enterprises

St Nics Market July 1 aerial shot of market stalls

Sector Voice

“This [One City Economic Recovery and Renewal Strategy] strategy places inclusive economic development at its core by catalysing inclusion to implement a shared agenda that expands opportunity,

Recovery must include the voices of those too often left out of the design of initiatives developed to help them.

To truly build community resilience, reduce income inequality and ultimately achieve any Sustainable Development Goals, community voice must be at the centre of any meaningful recovery strategy to enable these lived experiences to move beyond just being a powerful story, but actually affect real change.”

Sado Jirde: BSWN director

Sado Jirdie speaking at West of England Development Conference, Bristol.08.10.19

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