I have been volunteering, in different contexts, for more than a decade. I do that to change the neighbourhood I live in, for the better.
Back in the old days making change happen used to involve pressing the state for action: ‘What do we want [fill in the blank]…When do we want it? Now!’
Times have changed and the state has aspirations to enable outcomes through the Big Society. Power is in the being placed in the hands of communities, which notionally makes it easier for change to come about from the grass roots.
Now that the pressure on peoples’ discretionary time is great, and available resources are few, volunteering is a challenging activity. I think having a clear volunteering goal is probably going to help one’s focus on delivery.
For instance this year I know that my voluntary actions are going to entail:
– working with others to ensure my apartment building is cleaner, safer and better maintained
– collaborating with residents to allocate charity funding to local projects in a fair and timely way
– chairing a diverse group of community stakeholders to influence policing priorities
– helping other volunteers to develop their capacity to produce event better results
Having clarity over those areas means I can channel my energies accordingly. I think the more narrowly defined one’s goal – as long as it is realistic – then the easier it is to attain.
On a national scale I really like the simplicity of the goal reached by one successful Welsh volunteer body. Knowing that you are going to protect an area of rainforest ‘the size of Wales’ puts everything nicely into perspective.
I am pretty glad though that I am not devoting time to the role of school governor. Those post holders seem to be receiving criticism over the quality of their outputs from Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is head of the school inspection body Ofsted.
From what I remember of contacts with governors they are not glory seekers, just people dedicated to improving the standards at the local schools they work with. How demoralising Sir Michael’s criticisms must seem. Hopefully governor numbers won’t decline as a result of the feedback. Difficult to see how that Big Society outcome can prosper in a negative climate.
- Equality groups in the dark over Big Society plans (mdx.ac.uk)
- Talk of ‘professional’ paid school governors insults those who give their expertise for nothing (schoolsimprovement.net)