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Citizens’ Eye

Community News Agency The Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency aims to enable people to become ‘Citizen Reporters’ and provides a news gathering platform for current and relevant news to the Third Sector. The agency was established in January 2008 and has been housed by Leicester City Library since November 2008. The library offers them office space, utilities, and access to additional library based services such as support with CV writing and UK Online. ‘It’s all free to use and is for community groups in the city and the county whether you represent a community of geography, faith or interest ’ Volunteer Manager ‘By helping and supporting the agency they can provide us with another way of reaching out and finding out about the communities, invaluable information that we can use to adapt our services’ Library Head of Service The agency engages with a diverse range of groups in Leicester in order to deliver news bulletins and magazines targeted at a variety of groups in the community through seven news agencies that have grown out of Citizens’ Eye. These agencies are project based with

volunteer editorial teams and include those from disadvantaged groups such as asylum seekers, ex-offenders, BME communities, young people, older people, homeless people, and people with disabilities and affected by disability. Utilising a network of over 25 volunteers the agency offers them the opportunity to contribute to a variety of publications, a frequently updated website, an online community radio station, and a platform from which to publish content to the Community Media Hub’s video channel via You Tube. ‘Since November last year we’ve had over 2,000 volunteer hours. This is a totally innovative way for an independent community news agency to operate out of a statutory building that’s being hosted as a true partner’ Volunteer Manager The agency has also enabled volunteers to establish new publications relating to issues they feel strongly about. Volunteers are able to contribute as much or as little as is possible for them and the agency also offers work placements in order to help volunteers further develop their skills.

Contribution to National Indicators

What do we do?

Leicester City Library Direct NI 1

NI 5 NI 6 NI 9 NI 23 NI 50 NI 110 NI 119

Indirect NI 2 NI 3 NI 4 NI 17 NI 18 NI 19 NI 56 NI 117

See back for NI definitions

How well do we do it?

Through their partner relationship with Leicester City Library the Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency has been able to operate without additional costs whilst providing a stable environment for its volunteers. This enables the continued growth and awareness of the agency and its activities. ‘It’s a great opportunity to be partners with the library so we don’t necessarily have to go find our own volunteers, the library have a lot of existing relationships all the paper work and forms and health and safety assessments were done by the council which saves us a lot of time to get on with the volunteering.’ Volunteer Manager The Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency recruitment practices reflect the diversity of the organisation with volunteers recruited through a variety of sources including word of mouth, therefore promoting good experiences of the project. Further recruitment of volunteers results from general enquiries to the library and through Leicester Volunteer Bureau in order to provide further opportunity for engagement. ‘A lot of people don’t approach taking on a volunteer the same way they would recruiting someone for a paid position… you don’t have to treat the volunteer differently you just have to respect the interests and reasons why they are there’ Volunteer Manager

We’re great believers that community cohesion is communication; it just depends how you communicate Volunteer Manager

As a result of the level of interest in the programme a free Community Media training programme has been developed and is delivered over ten weeks with over forty people taking part to date. Similarly, a short course has been developed to tailor for specialist needs such as how to record an interview, how to write captions etc. Two community media days will also be held in Refugee Week and Enterprise Week when their volunteers will be able to submit material to be displayed at the library to promote their work. Volunteers are also signposted to other organisations that may support them in developing their skills such as Nextstep and De Montfort University. ‘The people we deal with are not necessarily looking for accreditation; but if you volunteer with us you will get a certificate with our logo and the Leicester City Council logo on it.’ Volunteer Manager ‘If our core purpose is to improve people’s life chances in a range of different ways then we have achieved something we wanted to achieve. But for us another benefit is that volunteers become terrific spokespeople for the service – word of mouth is the strongest form of approval you can get, particularly in hard to reach communities’ Library Head of Service

Volunteers on the project perform a diverse range of roles including reporting; updating the Citizens’ Eye website, and generating copy for and printing publications as well as other office based tasks.

‘I’ve been doing some writing for them on the website, and I wrote a history article, and have been writing some information on the purpose of the organisation which involved interviewing some of the staff here.’ Volunteer

What is the impact?

The ‘Better Libraries, Better Lives’ strategy aims to put libraries at the heart of sustainable communities, in order to increase the library service’s capacity to deliver suitable services to the community they needed to increase volunteering in order to: ‘give people opportunities and work experience, increase our capacity to support people one-to-one and to be more innovative about how we engaged with our communities throughout the city.’ Library Head of Service Cultural impact The project enables its participants to publicise community issues that are important to them as well as allowing them to develop skills in writing and journalism. ‘I’m interested in media but I’m not from a traditional graduate background, I like media as it offers a creative drive where people can write for themselves, create their own ideas and fund their own’s always difficult to get jobs in media but this has enabled me to move forward and develop the skills I’ve got.’ Volunteer Social impact The Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency has enabled a high level of engagement from a range of groups often on the edges of society such as homeless people and ex-offenders; it works with a range of organisations across the community including local schools, Nextstep, and

People are motivated by the opportunity to create something that they want to read about things that actually affect them

Volunteer Manager

the probation service. The NHS also recognises the agency as a route into hard to reach communities and sends a lot of information to distribute amongst these groups. ‘NI 9 is about how many people use the service and we want as many people as possible to use the service and approve of it. Volunteering supports our ability to help people in the community understand what we do and even if they don’t use the service they are much more likely to approve of what we do because they may have heard good things.’ Head of Library Service The project has also enabled a high level of further engagement in learning and work with participants attending the courses offered. Volunteers participation has also enable them to form social relationships with other volunteers as well as allowing them to develop further projects through their links. ‘Through their volunteering people get new friends and social networks…the other week I saw four people from the course sat in a restaurant planning the work they were doing and how they could help each other, for me it was a defining moment in setting up Citizens’ Eye, it gives you a good feeling about what you’re doing.’ Volunteer Manager

Contribution to National Indicators



The local area agreement (LAA), together with the sustainable community strategy and spatial development strategy, sets out the vision and delivery priorities for each local area. Within the LAA the performance system of 198 National Indicators (NIs) drives improvement and effective partnership working. Citizens’ Eye contribute to a range of NIs as shown below. NI 1

Percentage of people who believe people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area

NI 5

Overall/general satisfaction with the local area

NI 6

Participation in regular volunteering

NI 9

Use of public libraries

NI 23

Perceptions that people in the area treat one another with respect and consideration

NI 50

Emotional health of children

NI 110

Young peoples participation in positive activities

NI 119

Self-reported measure of people’s overall health and wellbeing

NI 2

Percentage of people who feel that they belong to their neighbourhood

NI 3

Civic participation in the local area

NI 4

Percentage of people who feel they can influence decisions in their locality

NI 17

Perceptions of anti-social behaviour

NI 18

Adult re-offending rates for those under probation supervision

NI 19

Rate of proven re-offending by young offenders

NI 56

Obesity amongst primary school age children in Year 6

NI 117

16 to 18 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET)

Contact John Coster Managing Editor 0116 299 5413

Citizens’ Eye Community News Agency The Community Media Hub, Learning & Information Library Bishop Street, Leicester LE1 6AA

More information


This research has been conducted by CFE on behalf of Museums, Libraries & Archives East Midlands, Renaissance East Midlands, Arts Council England and English Heritage.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this publication is true and correct at time of going to press.

The research was commissioned to map volunteering in the cultural sector in the East Midlands including the arts, museums, libraries, archives and the wider heritage sectors and identify effective practice when working with volunteers. The research also explored the value of volunteering to individuals, organisations and communities including links to community empowerment. This case study forms part of the research to demonstrate the benefits of volunteering in the cultural sector. The full summary of the research and further case studies can be found at:

CFE would like to thank all those that took part in the research for their input. CFE is an independent, not for profit organisation dedicated to increasing social and economic prosperity across the UK. We provide policy development, research and project management services to a wide range of government departments, agencies, policymakers and practitioners. Contact details Abigail Diamond 0116 229 3300 CFE, Phoenix Yard, Upper Brown Street, Leicester, LE1 5TE

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