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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

The Gathering, organised by SCVO, is the largest voluntary sector event in the UK. Over two days on 15 and 16 June 2022, more than 1,500 amazing people from the voluntary sector and beyond came together at Glasgow's SEC to enjoy a packed programme of over 80 workshops, seminars, and training sessions. The Gathering was a chance for people to network and connect, showcase work, to learn from each other and to inspire and be inspired.

This page contains:
  • Information about our aims for the Gathering 2022 and what we did to achieve them
  • Wishes for the voluntary sector and highlights from the Gathering 2022 programme
  • Access to the full Gathering programme of events and, where available, event materials
  • Details on how to give us feedback on the Gathering 2022 to help us to improve for next time

SCVO convener, Andrew Burns, speaks at a lectern in front of a large sign that says "the Gathering 2022"

SCVO Convener, Andrew Burns, welcomes delegates to the Gathering 2022

Our aims for the Gathering

Together with Trees for life, the SEC planted a grove of trees on behalf of SCVO to help re-wild the Scottish Highlands, providing space for wildlife to flourish and communities to thrive

Trees and plants burning in an orange fire. Smoke fills the sky and obscures the hills and trees in the background

Climate change is having a devastating impact on our planet

A greener Gathering

Our strategic objectives are to support, promote and develop a confident, sustainable voluntary sector in Scotland. Our approach to environmental matters underpins those objectives. We're a champion for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and we wanted to do what we could to make this year's Gathering more sustainable and "greener" than before, to reduce our carbon footprint.

Of course, hosting a large event has environmental impacts including but not limited to:
  • Power and energy production and consumption
  • Procurement, production, use and circularity of materials
  • Production, creation and waste of food and beverages
  • Transport of delegates, staff and event materials
Some examples of how we made the Gathering greener include:
  • We went veggie - all catering in our networking spaces was vegetarian
  • We provided water fountains and encouraged delegates to bring a re-fillable water bottle
  • We offered a discount on hot drinks to delegates with a re-usable cup
  • The SEC planted a grove of trees - on behalf of SCVO - together with Trees for Life to support the rewilding of the Scottish Highlands
  • We reduced our printed materials and merchandise to reduce our carbon footprint
  • We asked all attendees to dispose of waste in the recycling bins around the SEC
  • We encouraged delegates and SCVO staff to use public transport and active travel

A more accessible Gathering

We were mindful that the Gathering was the first major event that many people had attended since the beginning of the pandemic and although many people told us they couldn't wait to come back together, we knew that some people would be apprehensive about the return of an in-person event. 

Here are a few things we did to try to make the Gathering more accessible and to support delegates' wellbeing:
  • We made accessibility information available on our website in advance of the Gathering and we asked delegates to tell us accessibility requirements in advance so that we could make adjustments
  • We supported the Distance Aware scheme which is designed to help if you're worried about mixing with others as we all adapt to living with COVID-19
  • We provided masks and sanitiser for people who wanted to use them
  • For people looking for some down time we had dedicated quiet spaces around the venue to gather your thoughts away from the buzz. We also invited the team from the Beatson to provide some mindfulness opportunities
  • We invited a graphic designer along to provide a graphic recording of the Gathering
  • Where possible, after the Gathering, we'll make event materials available on our website
Person in striped t-shirt and jeans leans against a white wall with graphic drawings attached to the wall

Our graphic artist, The Floating Designer, with a graphic capture of the Gathering

Large room with round tables and people seated at the tables, taking part in a conference. Large screen on the wall with a teapot image and the words "brewing great conversations" and "the Gathering 2022"

Delegates taking part in one of 80+ sessions at the Gathering

A personalised Gathering

We wanted to create a Gathering programme with depth and variety that appealed to as many of our colleagues across the voluntary sector and beyond as possible. We issued an open invitation to organisations and individuals to apply to host events at this year's Gathering and were delighted with the positive response.

Through this year's Gathering programme we aimed to support delegates to build a programme to suit their needs:

Over 65 different organisations hosted 80+ sessions to shape thinking, showcase the sector and share skills. As well as welcoming hosts from across the sector to the Gathering, SCVO teams ran 16 sessions this year. We focused on speakers that can help to provoke new thinking, and topics to provide practical support.

The programme included sessions on the climate crisis, institutional racism, fair funding, digital wellbeing, and we heard from both the Scottish and UK governments. We brought speakers from the ICO, legal firms, funders and the media to share their tips, and our own digital and policy teams set out the agenda for SCVO's own work in the coming year.

A connected voluntary sector at the Gathering

We couldn't wait to reunite Scotland's voluntary sector and worked hard to provide time and space for Gathering delegates to connect with old friends and new, to meet industry leaders and to chat with peers about all things voluntary sector.

This year at the Gathering, we wanted to provoke conversation and to hear all about the positive work going on across our vibrant voluntary sector.

This year we had more space than ever before for networking and we designed the 2022 Gathering programme with plenty of breaks including thirty minutes in the morning and afternoon, and two hours for lunch. There was plenty to do during breaks. Our Connections Café hosted gentle activities like art, singing, meditation and group walks and we made sure there was lots of space available to grab a coffee and have a chat.

At the community centre on SCVO Street, we asked delegates to tell us what makes you proud of your organisation. We received many inspiring responses. There were two clear themes to the answers: people and the work you do.

Here are some of things you told us you were proud of:

The people:
  • Staff enthusiasm, passion for what they do and sense of community
  • The people!! They strive hard every day to make a difference
  • How reflexive and responsive we are no matter what's thrown at us
The work you do:
  • Our commitment to supporting and promoting independent living
  • It is the centre of our community
  • Sounds cheesy but it really is all about the people we work with an support

A word document version of all the things you told us you're proud of about your organisation is available here:

Brown tags with handwritten notes hand from a green-leafed tree. Three people stand talking in the background

Wishes, worries and memories hanging from our wish tree, provided by The Conservation Volunteers

A sign that says "share a memory on a wish" leans on a small wooden easel on top of a table dressed with a white tablecloth. There are pens lying on the table. there is a bowl with brown cards attached to purple and orange ribbon

Wish, worry and memory cards ready to be completed and hung on our wish trees by Gathering delegates

Person with blonde hair is seen from behind taking a photo of white writing on red canvas. The photo is seen on their phone screen

Our members' wall featuring all 3,000+ SCVO members and supporters

Your wishes, worries and memories

We encouraged Gathering delegates to share your own experiences and your wishes, worries and memories of the voluntary sertor with us on our wish tree, kindly provided by the The Conservation Volunteers (TCV). As the Gathering drew to a close on 16 June, we carefully collected all of your wishes, worries and memories from the tree. The wish trees have now gone to their forever homes with The Conservation Volunteers but we've shared some of your wishes, worries and memories on the orange leaves on our digital tree here and we'll use the information you shared to help inform our wider work and future events.

A Word document version of all your wishes, worries and memories is available here:

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP stands at a lectern speaking in front of a large screen that says "the Gathering 2022"

First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon addresses the audience at Breakfast with the First Minister

Some highlights from the Gathering programme

Breakfast with the First Minister

One of the undoubted headline figures to speak at the Gathering 2022, First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon kicked off the two-day extravaganza by taking part in a ‘Breakfast with the First Minister’. Delegates heard directly from the First Minister about the Scottish Government’s plans and how they relate to ongoing work, with engagement from the panel. SCVO’s head of policy, research campaigns, Kirsten Hogg, asked questions of and responded to Nicola Sturgeon on stage. SCVO Board member Adam Lang invited questions from the audience. Voluntary organisations of all sizes had the opportunity to put the leading politician to the test, exploring how the Scottish Government can create the conditions that allow the sector to fully participate in shaping and delivering national outcomes.

The cost of living crisis - a conversation with Jack Monroe

Part campaigner, part writer, part inspirational figure, "The cost of living crisis- a conversation with Jack Monroe" was one of the key highlights from the Gathering 2022. Their blend of honesty and bravery blew delegates at the SEC away, discussing the disconnect between policy makers and the people they make policy for. In this intimate chat with Third Force News editor Graham Martin, nothing was off limits - with the media, the government, foodbanks, and the huge value of volunteering heroes featuring in Jack’s polemic on the system. Jack Monroe was a welcome addition to the Gathering who brought a perspective seldom platformed, and whose message resonated with organisations from across Scotland.

Campaigner and writer Jack Monroe, wearing a navy and white-flowered cardigan sits cross-legged on a red chair. They are learning on one arm and in conversation with another person who is obscured

Jack Monroe discusses the cost of living crisis with Third Force News Editor, Graham Martin

Blue pop up banner that reads: Dolly's Imagination Library. A cardboard cut out of country singer and philanthropist Dolly Parton leans against the pop up banner next to a large red canvas stand that says SCVO Celebrating our SCVO Community and lists 3000 SCVO community members on the stand in white writing

Did you manage to take a photo with the Queen of Country Dolly Parton at this year's Gathering?

A wee story can transform a nation

The Queen of Country herself featured heavily in this year’s Gathering spectacular. As well as an inspirational video message that we shared with delegates, representatives from Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation Imagination Library wowed delegates at their session "A wee story can transform a nation: How Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library grew from humble roots to global phenomenon". The charity, a book gifting programme devoted to inspiring a love of reading in the hearts of children, confirmed their hope to roll the scheme out to every area of Scotland, providing plenty of ‘cups of ambition’ for those listening. That was not the end of the fun, with a life-size Dolly cut-out proving to be an extremely popular figure throughout the Gathering. Did you get your photo taken with Dolly?

If you missed Dolly Parton's message to Gathering delegates, you can catch up here

Is the voluntary sector tackling systemic racism and what more needs to be done?

A big question to answer in just an hour, but Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Emeritus Professor from Heriot-Watt University, Viana Maya, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant and Colin Lee CEO of CEMVO, gave it a go. The panel, chaired by SCVO Board member Manish Joshi, discussed with delegates how organisations can do more to become anti-racist and provide insight and inspiration on race equality in Scotland. Despite taking place at the largest voluntary sector event in the UK, delegates said they could have heard a pin drop when human rights activist Sir Geoffrey was speaking. A real highlight of the two days.

4 people sit at a table with grey table cloth in front of an audience with a sign the says "the Gathering 2022" projected on to a white wall behind them

Sir Geoffrey Palmer OBE, Viana Maya, Colin Lee and Manish Joshi on the panel at "Is the voluntary sector tackling systemic racism and what more needs to be done?" at the Gathering

Audience watches Iain Stewart MP speaking on stage at a lectern in front of large sign that reads "the Gathering 2022"

Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Iain Stewart MP, addresses delegates during ‘In conversation with the UK government’

In conversation with the UK Government

For the first time, SCVO welcomed a UK Government Minister to the Gathering. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Iain Stewart MP, travelled to the SEC for a busy event titled ‘In conversation with the UK government’, on how partnerships with the voluntary sector can work. Originally from Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, Iain Stewart returned north to answer critical questions from across the voluntary sector, with those in attendance welcoming a commitment from the minister to work in partnership with the sector, local authorities and the Scottish Government to tackle the biggest social, economic and environmental challenges facing the country.

The launch of Scotland's volunteer action plan

This year’s Gathering also featured the exciting launch of a new Volunteering Action Plan for Scotland. Led by Volunteer Scotland and the Scottish Government, the plan aims to create an environment where everyone can volunteer, more often, and throughout their lives, with a specific focus on tackling inequality within volunteering. Alan Stevenson, CEO of Volunteer Scotland, said the strategy would “establish accountability for ensuring that the needs of volunteers are at the heart of future decision-making”, with £100,000 investment from the Scottish Government pledged to develop training and guidance to support inclusive volunteering

Four people at a table on stage. One person at a lectern addressing an audience from the stage. Large screen behind the stage that says "the Gathering 2022" and "Explaining the plan"

Alan Stevenson, CEO of Volunteer Scotland introduces the Volunteering Action Plan at the Gathering

Man with glasses and woman stand together smiling in Instagram selfie frame
Group of 5 people pictured singing from song sheets in front of signage that says "the Gathering" and a TV secreen that says "Up next..."
Group of people sit around round table with black tablecloth, nottles of water, paperwork and post-it notes havi

After the Gathering

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Gathering 2022 and who contributed to making it such a success.

Here are a few things that delegates have told us that they enjoyed about the Gathering:

  • It was an opportunity to network with like-minded people and to meet in-person again after a two-year absence
  • The opportunity to hear from government, regulators and influential speakers
  • The opportunity to learn from others in the sector, share good practice, understand what's going on in the sector and be inspired by great work
  • For people who are new to the voluntary sector, it's a great opportunity to get to know the sector, understand the services available from SCVO and other organisations and to make new contacts
  • The quality and diverse-nature of the programme of events and that it's free for delegates to attend

We know we didn't get everything right this year and that we have work to do to make future events even better. Here are some examples of things that delegates have told us you would like us to improve on for next time:

  • The return of an exhibition space with exhibitor stalls
  • The option to access some sessions remotely through hybrid delivery. (Read more about our Digital Evolution Manager, John Fitzgerald's reflections on hybrid delivery here)
  • More opportunities for networking, especially for less confident networkers
  • The option to access event recordings where it wasn't possible to attend an event

After the Gathering, we invited delegates, SCVO staff and other stakeholders to tell us what they thought of the Gathering. We also asked people who didn't attend this time to tell us why and how we could do things differently in future. We've just closed our Gathering evaluation surveys and are analysing your responses. Thank you to everyone who shared your thoughts with us. Your opinions will help us to shape our plans for what the Gathering and other events might look like in future- keep your eyes peeled for more information on the evaluation and our future plans.

You can access details of the full programme of events and, where available, event materials here:

Gathering programme and event materials

Did you spot yourself or your colleagues in our Gathering photo album? Feel free to like, tag and share. If you'd like to see photos from the Gathering, head over to our Facebook page and give us a follow.

Gathering photo album