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Our Conference in Numbers...


attendees of the 2023 Annual Conference


found the workshops useful and relevant


found the speakers informative and helpful


came away with new ideas to help their organisation


would attend a future conference

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Our Theme


Our Voluntary Action South West Surrey 2023 Conference, on April 4 2023, was themed ‘Recovery’, and provided a day full of interesting discussion and debate, with a line-up of expert speakers and workshop presenters. The event gave attendees, many from across the charity and voluntary sector, the chance to explore the impact that the pandemic has had on the charity and voluntary sector and how we have had to adapt our working practices to reflect the change in society. There were a verity of different workshops for delegates to take part in, both in the morning and afternoon, plus an opportunity to visit our networking marketplace – a space where delegates had a chance to meet an array of businesses whose services support the voluntary sector, and network with other delegates.

The Conference was a huge success with over 100 people attending. It provided a great networking opportunity for those who came along, with many people commenting that it was lovely to see people face-to-face again and not over Teams, or Zoom. The feedback from delegates and stall holders was extremely positive and everyone thought that the university was a great venue to hold the conference.


The Annual Conference consisted of three main elements: guest speakers, interactive workshops, networking opportunities



The crux of the morning programming consisted of a series of talks from a range of amazing guest speakers, starting with an opening address from Ian Handy, our Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Community and Events coordinator at the University of Surrey. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Priya Singh, Chair of NCVO, and we were lucky enough to also have presentations from Maria Zealey, David Rose and Dr. Georgina Gould.



Our workshops allowed delegates the opportunity to gain more specialist knowledge in a variety of areas, or indulge in something creative and different to their traditional work. We ran two sessions for workshops, and offered the choice of nine different workshops to attend.



As our conference was being attended by a variety of individuals in the Charity and Voluntary Sector, it provided a great opportunity for delegates to meet new individuals and network. We also ran a marketplace with a variety of stalls from organisations involved in the charity sector.


View our brilliant speakers from our 2023 Annual Conference.

Dr Priya Singh

Priya’s medical career began in general practice, following which she specialised in legal medicine. She is Chair Designate of the Frimley ICS, Deputy Chair and FTSU NED of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Chair of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and Executive Director of a medical mutual provident fund with charitable status.

She has strategic, commercial and operational experience in international healthcare, patient safety and professional ethics and has been a member of the London Policing Ethics Panel. She is a CEDR-trained mediator and advised healthcare professionals, hospitals, corporates and patients on the legal, professional and ethical frameworks underpinning healthcare practice in the UK and internationally.

Priya advises on professional services transformation, with particular emphasis on skills for effective communication, system redesign and risk reduction, including conflict resolution where behavioural issues predominate.

Maria Zealey

Maria has worked in the Citizens Advice service for over 25 years, starting as a volunteer adviser and now as Chief Officer of Surrey Welfare Rights Unit, the only local Citizens Advice that is a specialist welfare rights service. She has been a trustee of other local charities, including Surrey Law Centre and a local Carer Support organisation. Maria has been on TV’s Moneybox several times and appeared at the Work and Pensions Select Committee as an expert adviser. At the VASWS conference Maria will be speaking about current benefit issues affecting Surrey and what the future might look like from a welfare rights perspective.

David Rose

David Rose is the volunteer co-ordinator for Voluntary Action South West Surrey, helping and giving advice to people who are looking to offer their time as volunteers.He is based at our office in Castle Street, Guildford, and promotes all things volunteer-based to people, groups and charities throughout Guildford and Waverley.

His work with Voluntary Action’s Welcome to Volunteering project, and previously its Welcome Buddies project, has involved liaising people who have experienced their own struggles and setbacks. He will be in conversation with three people for whom volunteering has had a positive impact on their wellbeing.

His own volunteering includes playing guitar and singing in the Rhythm of Life Community Choir, which he helped to establish, and is a key organiser of the Joining In! Men’s Group that meets monthly to discuss and share knowledge of local and various other aspects of history and to enjoy each other’s good company.

Dr. Georgina Gould

Dr Georgina Gould is the Senior Psychologist and Clinical Lead for Children and Young People at Dose of Nature. She is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist with extensive and varied experience within NHS and private sector settings, providing care both in the community and within in-patient settings.

Georgina has seven years’ experience of working within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) where she has supported children and teenagers with complex mental health difficulties including trauma, depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD and Autism, as well as their parents, carers and families.

Having worked with complex, deep-rooted and sometimes ‘stuck’ struggles, Georgina firmly believes in the power of connecting to nature in improving emotional wellbeing and mental health and bringing about long-term, positive lifestyle changes. She gets her own ‘dose of nature’ in her garden, walking in large, open spaces and escaping to be near to the sea whenever she can.

Opening address from Ian Handy, the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Voluntary Action South West Surrey, and the Community and Events Coordinator and the University of Surrey.


View our diverse options of workshops from our 2023 Annual Conference.

Express Refresh Express /
Art for All

This is a creative workshop based around the Social Prescription courses that Georgiana runs, in particular the one in tandem with Watts Gallery Artists Village in Compton.

We all need art, and we all need to be creative, to feel that we have made something on our own authentic expression about how we personally see and feel things that happen around us. Making art and being creative is not just for an elite group of special people, it is for everyone and, even down to the way we dress, place furniture in our homes, cook or garden, this all involves creative thinking. However, this is often forgotten and undervalued. The workshop is about allowing people a moment to shut off the noise of the world around them (oddly quite calming!) to find a way into art that isn’t intimidating and to find and draw up a personal symbol that either has always appealed to them or that they discover during the workshop. No experience is necessary!

Social Prescribing

There are many things that can affect your physical and mental wellbeing. Some of these can stem from feeling lonely or isolated, being stressed about work, money or housing issues, or learning to cope with long-term conditions. Taking on or maintaining a Carer’s role can also be difficult. Social prescribing is a way to help provide you with the tools you need to improve your wellbeing by listening, and linking you in with community groups, new activities, or pointing you in the right direction to get the help you need.

Encouraging Young People 
(19-25) to Volunteer

In this workshop, Jordan Farrell will explore the opportunities for recruiting more young volunteers (aged 19-25) that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be looking at how to capitalise on these trends and opportunities, delving into the impact the pandemic had on the volunteering landscape, how young people are forecast to volunteer more than ever in the UK in 2023 and some of the challenges facing young people today. Thereafter, we will explore some methods of recruiting young volunteers and how best to make our volunteering roles and opportunities appeal to 19- to 25-year-olds.

Charity Fraud: Prevention is 
Better than Cure

According to data from Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre there were 1,057 reports of fraud received from charities in 2018/19, with losses reported at nearly £8m, although consequential losses could be significantly higher when you factor in reductions in donations.

Charities are often seen as a soft target to criminals as they seek to exploit the trust and goodwill that charities rely upon, and a lower level of awareness and weaker control structures than corporate environments can foster.

This interactive workshop will help you to understand what fraud is and how it can be perpetrated in charitable organisations. It will cause you to look at your operations and realise how many opportunities there are for funds to be stolen/diverted.

Matt Wilson will highlight some simple steps that can be taken to raise fraud awareness and start to tackle to problem proactively, assisting you to prevent fraud rather than having to deal with the consequences of it.

Alzheimer's Society 
Dementia Support

This workshop will tap into the Alzheimer’s Society knowledge of Dementia and offer information and practical guidance to help you understand the condition, cope with day-to-day challenges and prepare for the future.

Face-to-face, over the phone or in writing they are able to help you remain independent and stay active for as long as possible, get the information and advice you need to make informed decisions about your wellbeing, and find other local services which can help to improve your life.

99% of people who use the Dementia Support service feel they can contact a member of the team when they need to and their national telephone hub is available 7 days a week for out of hours support.

"Friends Against Scams" - 
Let's All Work Together

The session will look at how we can all raise awareness on Scams/Fraud and protect ourselves and others who may be at a vulnerable time in their lives, or who just get caught out!

We will discuss the different types of scams and practical ways we can protect ourselves and our communities from being defrauded and financially abused, focussing on Postal, Telephone, Doorstep Crime, Romance Fraud and online scams.

Reenergising the Community after a National Crisis

The sense of community is tangible in some places. Cranleigh, for instance, is dealing with a massive influx of housing developments including rehousing of vulnerable people. Outwardly it could appear an affluent society but scratch the surface and a different view may be beheld.

The voluntary sector plays a huge part in the cohesion. How has this occurred? Trevor Dale will lead a workshop to delve into what are the challenges and opportunities for the voluntary sector.

Zero Carbon Guildford

Building resilience into any organisation is crucial for its long-term success, especially in the current environment of rising energy bills and perpetual crises. Creating a sustainability plan is an excellent way to do this and can highlight where you are wasting money and energy.

But trying to do this when your staff are at full capacity can feel impossible and, with all the information out there, many charities get overwhelmed and stop trying. But it does not have to be complicated!

Join Zero Carbon Guildford and we will show you how to make it as simple as possible to help your organisation to save money through energy efficiency, water management, and adopting new approaches to purchasing, staff travel, and more, whilst creating a carbon management plan that can help you contribute to the goals of making Surrey a healthier, happier place to live.


Enjoy some of the highlights of our 2023 Annual Conference, as documented by our brilliant volunteer photographers Chris and Colin

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