People, not processes, must be at the heart volunteering

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Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels
16 May, 2022


What do volunteers in Bristol really need in order to make their most effective contributions? The new Vision For Volunteering provokes fresh dialogue.  

The Vision for Volunteering, drawn up by a partnership of five charities, sets out what future activity could look like. People, rather than processes, must be put at the heart of charities’ volunteering efforts if the activity is to continue to grow, according to the major collaboration. And what better time than now for VCSE organisations to start considering new ways of working with volunteers as we approach this year's Volunteer Week running 1-7th June?

Published at the start of this month, the Vision For Volunteering is designed to reframe the conversation about volunteering in the UK to address its role over the next 10 years. More than 300 organisations contributed their thoughts about what volunteering needs to look like by 2032. The exercise, which was led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the local infrastructure body Navca, the Association of Volunteer Managers, Sport England and Volunteering Matters, has five key themes: awareness and appreciation; power; collaboration; experimentation; and equity and inclusion.

The vision calls for organisations to devolve power to individuals and communities. It says volunteering needs to embrace experimentation, actively encourage collaboration and ensure that it is more diverse and inclusive in order to enable the contribution made by volunteers to continue to grow. It says to sector a future where it is easy to find ways to make a difference through volunteering and where “volunteering is further ingrained in the collective psyche”. It says innovation must be “a natural, constant part of volunteering, not just a temporary bolt-on in times of crisis or Covid-19”.

The authors of the report argue that volunteers should be at the heart of volunteering to make the most of peoples’ motivations and skills. By putting volunteers at the centre rather than processes or outputs, volunteering can be a driving force in creating a fairer society, and does not mean ignoring or being less responsive to the needs of society. They cite the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that individual motivations are strongly linked to societal needs. 

Ruth Leonard, chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, said “the publication is deliberately not the delivery of a finalised action plan – this is the start of the next chapter in a conversation about what is needed to create a diverse, innovative, ambitious and person-centred future for volunteering. I know that many are already working on the principles outlined in the vision or are keen to take them on board – whatever stage you are at, we hope that the vision and its insights can enable you and we’d love to hear your voice in this continuing dialogue.”