Volunteering: A game of two halves

So here we Are. Sunday 13 July. The Estadio do Maracana. Rio. World Cup Final. England v Germany. Fifty years of hurt about to be wiped away. Unbelievable? Well how about suspending disbelief even further for a moment, and imagine the match is being played out on the issue of volunteering. How would we fare? Well in true footie speak it would be the classic game of two halves.

First 45 – hail the volunteering spirit

The game kicks off and we start brightly. Imbued by the spirit of 2012 and those purple and pink clad Games Makers and London Ambassadors we push forward and pile on the early pressure. The Big Society mantra is ringing in our ears, or perhaps for some of the older squad members, it is hazy memories of the Third Way that spurs them on. As we rain down on the German goal the latest figures from the Community Life survey blare out over the PA, showing a further two per cent increase in participation, with 46 per cent of the population now active at least once a month. With thoughts of Step up to Serve and Join In giving us an extra yard in pace we force three quick corners in succession. And then unbelievably we score. The crowd erupts and we hold on till half time.

Second half – backs to the wall

The second 45 minutes begin and doubts set in. Don’t we already have a Big Society? Concerns about the damage being inflicted on the long term health of volunteering by the cuts in local capacity building begin to gnaw away at our confidence. Fears that the integrity of volunteering is being undermined by Help to Work and other mandatory schemes knock us off our stride. Just how reliable a measure of volunteering is the Community Life survey? We drop back ever deeper and invite the Germans on. The English spirit of the plucky underdog looks for a moment as if it will be sufficient. But then the inevitable happens. A misjudgement, a slip, a poor back pass and the ball is in the back of the net. One: One. The momentum shifts. Surely no way back.

Penalties – coming home

Extra time passes in a blur and then the outcome every English woman and man fears. Penalties.

But wait on. All those hours of practice appear to have paid off. Here are the five unanswerable volunteering spot kicks.

Number one

Volunteering worth 24 billion pounds to the UK economy, keeper goes the wrong way.

Number two

Volunteering second greatest source of joy, top corner.

Number three

100 million hours of volunteering given every week in the UK, keeper gets a hand to it but can’t keep it out.

Number four

Informal volunteering in health and social care worth over a hundred billion pounds a year according to new NHS chief, bottom left.

Number five

Volunteering trending on Twitter during Volunteers’ Week, second at one point only to the abdication of the King of Spain; straight down the middle.

And there you have it – volunteering, or football, has come home

They think it’s all over. It is now.

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Justin was executive director of volunteering and development at NCVO and chief executive of Volunteering England. He is now a senior research fellow at City University Cass Business School’s Centre for Charity Effectiveness.

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