City of London director advises on successful park volunteer schemes

Listening to what volunteers want from their experience is key to a successful volunteering programme, according to City of London director of green spaces Sue Ireland.

The City's parks benefited from 50,000 volunteer hours this year - a 10 per cent annual increase. City of London interviews new recruits to find out what their interests are. Ireland said it is not assumed that volunteers want to teach new gardeners or even work in their areas of expertise because they may wish to learn new skills.

Mature volunteers manage on their own and often suggest new projects, she added. They also have time to find sponsorship for City of London gardens, allowing staff to focus on their core roles.

Volunteers do not replace staff but work closely with them, Ireland explained. "In my previous role we handed over an area to volunteers to look after and the hedges got cut at the wrong time, trees got removed and we had to step back in," she said. "It is about judging what volunteers are capable of."

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