London has been crowned the best city in Europe for volunteering, beating off competition from 10 other rival cities on the eve of the United Nations’ International Volunteer Day.

London scooped the title European Volunteering Capital 2016 in recognition of the innovative programmes the Mayor Boris Johnson has developed as a legacy of London 2012, when volunteering took centre stage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since then, the Mayor’s volunteering initiative Team London has mobilised over 120,000 active volunteers including 60,000 school children and young people.

Team London led the successful bid with support from local volunteer centres and Greater London Volunteering. The accolade is awarded by the European Volunteer Centre (CEV), a network of agencies which promotes volunteering across Europe.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I’m very proud that London has been recognised as the top volunteering city in Europe. Tens of thousands of Londoners are now giving a hand to others and helping to make London a cleaner, greener and more welcoming place for everyone. Team London has created an incredible volunteering legacy for the capital, with people of all ages and backgrounds giving up their time to make the city an even better place to live in.”

Achievements that were recognised by the expert judging panel include:

  • Mobilising over 120,000 active volunteers including over 60,000 schoolchildren and young people
  • Delivering the UK’s first speed volunteering app
  • Supporting nearly 1,600 charities and offering grants of over £3 million to date
  • Signing up over 100 businesses to offer employer supported volunteering through the Mayor’s Corporate Commitment. Sixty five per cent of employees now say that they would be more likely to work for an employer that encourages volunteering.
  • Offering innovative recognition for volunteering through a guaranteed interview scheme for young volunteers seeking paid work experience or full-time jobs

Senior Adviser to the Mayor of London, Veronica Wadley, said: “I am delighted that London is the European Volunteering Capital 2016. This is not only an extraordinary legacy of 2012, but it also shows that with will, every leading city can deliver the Big Society. More and more people are now taking social action in their local area and increasing numbers of businesses understand the value of volunteering as a route in to work. Seventy per cent of our young volunteers are assessed as work ready compared to just 20 per cent of the normal pool of job candidates.

“With continuing problems of youth unemployment, we’ve demonstrated that volunteering gives people the skills they need to compete in the job market and this model could be adopted by any city in the world. Team London looks forward to capitalising on this honour by working even more closely with the voluntary sector and businesses to drive greater impact for London’s communities.”

Director of the European Volunteer Centre, Gabriella Civico said: “London’s volunteering legacy will continue to thrive in 2016 as European Volunteering Capital. The city is an outstanding example of how local government, local people and businesses can strategically harness the benefits of volunteering to improve people’s lives, the environment and contribute to socially cohesive communities. Congratulations on becoming the European Volunteering Capital!”

The 11 candidate cities for this year’s title were Belfast, Bruges, Cagliari, Cascais, Edinburgh, London, Lucca, Perm, Rome, Varese and Viterbo.