The Eco Hub prides itself on providing a warm, inviting, light bright space for people to enjoy regardless of the reason they are visiting. The Eco Hub building is described as ‘breath-taking’ and ‘friendly’.
One of the principles of the whole project was that the Eco Hub had to accommodate multiple uses in a small number of interconnected and multifunctional spaces. The design reflects this flexibility and enables regular bookings and classes to run in tandem which in turn means the building is open for those people that want to just drop-in on an ad hoc basis.
In this respect, it maintains an inviting character and strives to be a true, open and public space for all no matter whether you are visiting to attend a class, borrow a book, drop in to the Parish Council office or you are visiting just to enjoy being in the Eco Hub.
To encourage people to use the facilities, we offer activities that are free of charge, just so people feel they can come in whenever they like. We have worked closely with members of the community to understand what it is they are looking for. One suggestion was to have an indoor bowls group, so we applied for a grant to purchase the equipment and now run a regular weekly session. This group is run by the members and attracts between 15 – 20 people per week.
We also run, in conjunction with the library, a free computer course. This is organised by local volunteers and gives practical advice on how to use your computer, laptop or iPad.
We have a ‘Knit and Natter’ craft group attended by up to 25 ladies knitting, sewing chatting and doing lots of other needlecrafts. Men would of course also be welcome. A board games morning is run in conjunction with the library with free tea, coffee and biscuits. It makes the Eco Hub feel homelier, and for some of these people this is the only social interaction they have. It means they can enjoy their interests with other like-minded people.
Volunteers are an important part of the Eco Hub. The Eco Hub business model is such that it needs to ensure it pays for itself, in order to deliver the social benefit and continuity of the activities and services it provides. There are around 25 volunteers helping to manage the library and the Eco Hub. However, what is clear is that volunteering at the Eco Hub provides benefits for the volunteers themselves and there are some characteristics which make the Eco Hub volunteering benefits different to other voluntary roles.
Several people had not previously volunteered, and the Eco Hub provided an opportunity within the village which meant they did not need to travel and could be part of a community on their doorstep. The location was mentioned by several volunteers as encouraging them to visit or volunteer because it was on the way to or from the doctors’ surgery. Also, some people came forward and asked to volunteer before the ‘call for volunteers’, and some volunteers were regular visitors to the Eco Hub and invited to volunteer.
The Eco Hub volunteers all have different motivations; they also have interests in different aspects of the daily operations of the building. The Eco Hub Managers have been able to tailor the tasks and responsibilities to those interests. For example, providing opportunities to focus on monitoring the environmental technologies in the building and complete regular ‘plant room’ checks.
One volunteer is a favourite of the indoor bowls group and sets up and clears away their equipment every week, as well as serving refreshments.
Some of the benefits of volunteering that were highlighted included increased confidence in social situations, a sense of purpose and a way to banish boredom. For some, volunteering has been a way to fit in to a new village and meet people. The volunteers at the Eco Hub are a community of their own, whilst they often do stints at different times, they do come together regularly for training, briefings or social events with the Eco Hub Manager. Not all volunteers are from Gamlingay and no two volunteers are the same. The Eco Hub volunteers are a diverse group with a unifying characteristic of loyalty.
With the social value of volunteering calculated at an average across all age groups of £2357 per person per year, there is an opportunity at the Eco Hub to develop this aspect to increase social benefit in the community and especially in relation to youth volunteers.
To download a PDF of our Social Impact Report please click here.