70 years ago Exeter was picking itself back up after the war, and in response, a group of organisations that included the City Council, the Diocese, the Chamber of Commerce, the Trade Union Council, and local political parties came together with private benefactors and volunteers to form a new organisation – the Exeter Council of Social Services.
In subsequent decades the charity sector grew and diversified, and as core services increasingly became functions of the public sector, the Exeter Council of Social Services became the Exeter Council for Voluntary Services (CVS) – focused on supporting charitable and voluntary organisations, and being a representative voice of the sector to the state.
In recent years we have seen many public services scaled back. Councils, the NHS, schools, youth services, and even the police are all calling on communities to do more for themselves, and for volunteers to step in where once there may have been paid employees.
In response to this Exeter CVS stepped up to be a coordinator of local community and voluntary action, and developed CoLab - a new initiative to act as a broker, enabler, and catalyst for so much of what is best about our city - people, coming together in strength and solidarity, to meet local need.
CoLab Exeter was officially launched in 2016 after a challenging 18 month capital refurbishment and development phase to modernise our premises and create the hub. We are now proud hosts of over 30 organisations from community, social enterprise, public, and business sectors working together to tackle some of the most challenging issues facing our community today.
This is only the beginning of our vision to realise the full potential of the hub and the collaborative as a community asset, a learning tool, and a model for social innovation through partnership.