Adonis Diaries

Are having trouble with “volunteers”? Finding them, coaxing them or making them deliver on promises…?

Posted on: November 20, 2012

The trouble with ‘volunteers’…

Can you find alternative terms to “volunteer”? Is a collaborator more agreeable? Employee engagement? Employee impact? A new fresh sucker? Participation of the unemployed?…
First, let’s hear what Toby has to say, and I’ll fill in with my comments.
Toby of  posted his Point of View on Nov.15, 2012 (with slight editing):

“Imagine a cause you feel passionate about.

It could be a charity you support, a community project that you give some of your time to, or even an issue that raises your hackles and encourages you to sign a petition or donate some money.

(I wonder: researching for and writing up a dissertation isn’t it a volunteer work? You are doing it for free, aren’t you?)

Chances are, you feel motivated to do something about it.

You certainly are, if you’re giving up your time to get involved. And you take action because you get something in return.

Selfless acts are rewarding.

More than the simple feel-good factor, they offer many opportunities for you to gain: influencing change you want to see in society, learning new skills, meeting people or gaining relevant experience. They’re not one-way streets; they are exchanges of value.

It’s the same with employee volunteering schemes.

Would you expect one to succeed without this exchange?

At Uscreates, we have worked with hundreds of local people to help achieve positive social impact through ‘volunteer-led’ initiatives.

We learned that you will never make it happen if you just expect people to turn up, knock on a few doors or hand out some leaflets, and go home.

Instead, you have to invest in the volunteers,  and take a broad-minded view of your investment.

It means going beyond thinking just about providing resources.

It’s taking them seriously and showing respect, so that they’ll reciprocate in kind.

It’s listening and understanding in order to help them articulate their needs.

It’s recognising their skills and power, and removing the barriers to their ability to exercise it.

And it’s investing time to build relationships based on trust; to develop their skills; and to allow them to find their own way.

In short, it’s providing for your volunteers, so that they, in turn, can provide as well.

This is why the local people we work with are not called  ‘volunteers’.

The term doesn’t capture this crucial exchange of value that successful involvement requires.

The term volunteer is laden with existing associations and assumptions about the type of relationship, and work, it involves: By definition, it is a label given to people working for free.

It is all about whether they are being paid or not. Instead, ‘collaborators’ is more flexible − there is a value exchange which needn’t be financial.

The limitations of the term ‘volunteering’ may also be something that businesses acknowledge too: many now talk instead of ‘employee engagement’.

Employee engagement sounds Better; but it’s still one-way, prioritising business interests over the social ones.

So we prefer to talk about employee impact. It recognises that each employee is a potential agent of change − for society, themselves, and for the company.

And if that impact is to happen, an exchange of value must happen too.

Correctly identifying and managing this exchange – between the business, the employee, and the cause – is key to creating a scheme that benefits all parties. End of post

How about the other side of the coin of volunteering schemes?

Now is a good time to develop and find a better term for Scheme, a term that has a negative connotation…?

Have you heard of” subjets”? All those people volunterering for experiments, in medical testing (cobaye), in graduate experimental works, volunteered by first year psychology student for course credits, soldiers, a draft soldiers volunteering for reforestation, cleaning up after natural calamities, college students volunteering for “caritative activities”, in market research, collecting data by phone, filling questionnaires, indirectly providing serious information by using social platforms, or allowing Big Brother to listen to your messages…

Let’s face it: Even students who graduated from universities have been working for free for many years, on the ground that these volunteering works are great opportunities to “exchange values, skills, talents, shmoozing, collecting contacts, accumulating referrences…”, enriching our CV with all kinds of irrelevant actions that filled the void, the lost time… to making companies richer by our free professional work…

People in their 30’s, in the full energy of their life, still in the volunteering phase, on the ground of economic downturn, of participating for the general good…

I thought volunteering time and energy is for the retired people, still good enough to fill the void on the ground, out to meet people, discuss with live-people, share their “wisdoms”….

Time to start paying up in money or in kind of equal material values…

Come to think of it: What is meant by sharing values?

Are we talking of volunteering is mostly demanded from “minorities” and the poorer classes so that value systems are discussed and a common denomenator value system is established among the various communities to harmonize the society?

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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