The Gathering, organised by SCVO, is the largest voluntary sector event in the UK.
Over two days on 7 and 8 November 2023, more than 3,000 people from the voluntary sector and beyond came together at the EICC in Edinburgh to enjoy a packed programme of over 75 workshops, seminars, and training sessions. Our popular exhibition space was also back by popular demand!
On 29 November 2023 (and available online until 2 January 2024), we hosted the Gathering Extra. All new for 2023, the Gathering Extra was hosted by Maddie Stark and Manish Joshi, featuring conversations with special guests from across the sector, live chat among the audience, and brought curated, recorded content from the Gathering to life.
Across both events, over 3,500 colleagues and friends from the voluntary sector and beyond came together. The Gathering was a chance for people to network and connect, showcase work, to learn from each other and be inspired.
Thank you to our platinum sponsors Keegan & Pennykid; our gold sponsors AAB Group, the Access Group, CCLA, Social Print & Copy and Vodafone; our partners ACOSVO, EVOC, Social Enterprise Scotland and Volunteer Scotland; and our exhibitors and event hosts. Your support and participation helps to keep the Gathering - the UK's largest event for the voluntary sector - free to attend for our delegates.
Photography by Lewis Houghton of LewsPics
Check out some highlights from the Gathering 2023 in this short video
Delegates networking in one of our exhibition spaces
Hosts Maddie Stark and Manish Joshi hosted the Gathering Extra live on 29 November
The Gathering Extra is available to view for free, online until end of day 2 January 2024.View the Gathering Extra now
In line with our commitment to encourage more plant-based diets, we asked the venue to offer vegetarian-only catering options, with all ingredients sourced from within 200 miles of Edinburgh.
Delegates explore one of the exhibition spaces at the Gathering 2023
To prepare for the in-person Gathering on 7 and 8 November, SCVO’s event team and internal staff accessibility group used the ‘Access Chain’ resource. We also took guidance and advice from the venue and specialist organisations.
SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf was speaking at his first Gathering, kicking off the second day with his first address to the voluntary sector, followed by Q&A.
The chief executive of SCVO, Anna Fowlie, opened the session before Mr Yousaf addressed delegates. During his address, the First Minister set out his plans for working with the sector and his thoughts on the valuable role the sector plays in Scottish society. The First Minister offered the audience his assurance that ministers will treat voluntary sector organisations as equal partners.
In his underlining of the work done by voluntary organisations over the past few years, including during the Covid-19 pandemic, the First Minister said: “There’s been incredibly difficult times over the past number of years. My belief is that, in the most difficult times - the darkest times - humanity shines through. The third sector organisations that are here are the ones who shone through.”
Following his address, SCVO’s head of policy and research led a Q&A with the First Minister addressing questions submitted by audience members.
With the concept of the Wellbeing Economy gaining increasing attention and support throughout Scotland, this event presented a vision for what this could mean across the country.
Representatives from Foundation Scotland, WEAll Scotland, and Children in Scotland discussed plans that have been developed alongside allies and the movement.
Chair Jonathan Christie facilitated a conversation to further develop the vision and to discuss the role the voluntary sector can and should play in the transition to a Wellbeing Economy.
Delegates learned about what a Wellbeing Economy is and the work that WEAll Scotland has been doing, as well as what the key opportunities and challenges are for the voluntary sector to play its part in delivering a Wellbeing Economy.
Reflecting on recent developments, this event aimed to get beyond the headlines to a strategic reflection on how organisations in the voluntary sector can make effective and responsible use of new tools and platforms.
Featuring an expert panel discussion to explore the potential and possibilities of artificial intelligence, delegates heard from global experts in the responsible development and use of AI.
A wide range of topics were covered, including responsible use of AI with vulnerable people and communities, the impacts of human expertise and trustworthiness when we make use of AI, and how smaller organisations might make use of AI with low data expertise and reduced capacity.
Voices from across the environmental movement came together in Edinburgh to reiterate the climate emergency and the responsibility we all have to save the planet.
Delegates discussed the action that needs to be taken to ensure Scotland meets its legal climate targets, as well as how the public and the voluntary sector can show support for the action we need to see.
The recent Climate Change Committee (CCC) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports make clear that current action is insufficient to meet climate targets. The Scottish Government published a new Climate Change Plan in September, and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland shared an overview of the process, what we need to see and how all people and organisations can add their voice to call for action and come together to show strong support for climate.
Campaigners from a number of groups came together at the Gathering to underline the need for an end to foodbanks.
With food insecurity across Scotland at record levels, this joint event - organised by the Trussell Trust and the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) - provided an opportunity for people working in the voluntary sector to find out more about why a cash first approach is central to tackling poverty and food insecurity in local communities.
This ground-breaking plan – the first in the UK - includes critical support for the creation of cash first partnerships in communities across Scotland. The speakers explored the development of local cash first partnerships, financial inclusion partnerships in six Scottish local authorities and the co-production of "Worrying About Money?" Resource.
Lived experience was at the forefront of this event as we heard from the Scottish Recovery Network and the Young Women’s Movement (YWM) and their services.
Delegates were left with a clearer understanding of peer support and how it can help them to achieve the outcomes or impacts they seek.
This event was co-facilitated by two organisations who work closely with peers to ensure lived experience is at the heart of their work.
The panel discussion from the presenting organisations and young women currently working with YWM on the EmBody to EmPower project, as well as focusing on participatory-led research models and how the YWM's co-design with young people approach works in practice.
This seminar, hosted by Waverley Care, inspired organisations who are looking to undertake large-scale website or rebrand projects.
Following the successful launch of their new brand and website, Waverley Care - Scotland's leading HIV and sexual health charity - took us through their journey of rebranding their organisation and undergoing digital transformation.
Over the course of two years the communications team at Waverley Care developed an ambitious project plan to reposition the organisation to increase its reach and visibility; and crucially through digital transformation develop digital services for people living with or at risk of HIV.
This fantastic event saw discussion on getting the board 'on-board', consulting with service users and putting their voices at the forefront, and getting internal buy-in from staff.
Charities need to contend with the “extractive capital markets” that they remain invested in, this Gathering 2023 event heard.
Following years of discussions about their role in the sector, in 2023 the Lankelly Chase board decided that they could no longer operate following the traditional philanthropy model, and over the next five years they will dismantle and close down, distributing all of their assets including the endowment and all resources.
The foundation has operated for over 60 years, distributing grants addressing the problems caused by injustice, but now hopes to address the causes of injustice.
Representatives from different groups discussed Lankelly Chase’s decision. The decisions that organisations and boards reach as they really grapple with Scotland’s colonial history might be different, but delegates heard that we are all connected through the interlocking social, climate and economic crises that are playing out in our communities.
When the dust settled on the first day of the Gathering 2023, attention turned to 10 voluntary organisations from across Scotland as short films about their work were debuted at the #EssentialSector film premiere.
The #EssentialSector campaign is spearheaded by a group of organisations who believe more needs to be done to highlight the impact our sector. And the #EssentialSector film premiere was an opportunity to celebrate our sector by highlighting just a snapshot of the work that goes on in charities, social enterprises and community groups every minute of every day, in every corner of Scotland.
Back in May 2023, 10 organisations were selected to showcase their work in short films. They are just 10 of 46,500 voluntary organisations in Scotland. The featured organisations are from across Scotland and are of all shapes and sizes, to help show the diversity and impact of the sector.
All unique. All essential. All the time.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Gathering 2023 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:
We know we didn't get everything right this year and that we have work to do to make future events even better. When we asked delegates what would improve their experience of the Gathering, there were three main areas where some delegates would like us to think about doing things differently next time:
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.
If you'd like to catch up on the Gathering, the Gathering Extra is available to view until 2 January 2024Catch up on the Gathering Extra
If you'd like a reminder of your personalised Gathering programme, you can access it via My SCVO
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