National Volunteering Forum: Vision for Volunteering

On 10 May 2022, we held an online launch for the Vision for Volunteering, which has been developed over the last 12 months. The National Volunteering Forum was a fantastic opportunity to hear from speakers whose organisations helped shape the strategic plan, as well as a great platform for attendees to reflect on the five key themes to come from the Vision.

Introducing the Vision

With NCVO’s Nick Snow facilitating the event, CEO Sarah Vibert began explaining the Vision by highlighting the power of volunteering, with positive benefits for both individual and society. She reflected on how the volunteering landscape has shifted during the pandemic. Whilst volunteering has been more important than ever, it has brought to light how not everyone is equally able to volunteer, and some have and a less positive experience than others.

With this in mind, NCVO, NAVCA, Association for Volunteer Managers, Volunteering Matters and Sport England decided to develop a strategic plan for volunteering over the next ten years, supported by DCMS. Hearing voices from the sectors through a steering group, workshops and written submissions, the Vision for Volunteering is a collaborative effort to intentionally harness the positive changes and reduce the inequalities from coronavirus over the coming years.

This data was mapped out using the Three Horizons model. This informed the five key themes, which were expertly discussed by Paul Reddish, CEO of Volunteering Matters. Paul highlighted that these findings look to shift power from a civic core and offer more fluidity.

By being more accessible and collaborative, ways of volunteering can be experimented with to suit the needs of everyone. In this way, the Vision looks to connect and facilitate rather than be prescriptive, working alongside those on the ground in communities, supporting them to take a lead on creating change for the future.

Take a look at the NVF Vision for Volunteering slide deck here.

Reflections from the sector

We then heard a powerful anecdote from Rubel Ahmed (Active Communities Network) of how they were able to grow from four people who wanted to create change, to working in four cities across the UK. Rubel described how they did this by taking a volunteer centred approach. This included celebrating shortcomings and seeing them as a learning opportunity of how what they could do better.

Next, we heard from Amy Collins (Community Action Network) who particularly resonated with harnessing the momentum built from the pandemic in a way that was inclusive to all volunteers, by diversifying roles to meet the needs of volunteers. This was furthered by the next speaker, Kunle Olulode (Voice4Change England) who highlighted the importance and need for greater cultural diversity and integration in the mainstream, giving the example of many unsung heroes from marginalised communities, such as the BAME sector. Finally, we heard from Jenny Betteridge (Sport England) who gave insight on being a grant funder in the sector.

Group discussions

After a break, attendees were then split into breakout groups to discuss one of the five themes. Here are some of the highlights from these conversations.

Power

Attendees suggested that to ensure the power of volunteers and communities is both supported and recognised, empowering volunteers by giving them control and choice where appropriate is key. They highlighted that volunteer led approaches can be incredibly beneficial. However, it was recognised that the nuance of power dynamics can be difficult and so consulting with volunteers to get their insight and knowledge can also help reduce barriers.

Collaboration

Collaboration can come in many forms, from collaborating with volunteers, to joining forces with corporates. Whilst it was noted that collaboration does not come without its challenges, working together can broaden horizons of many volunteer-involving organisations. This could also include partnering with similar organisations to create a community of practice, sharing experiences and knowledge.

Experimentation

How do we make sure that experimentation and innovation are always part of volunteering? Attendees recommended not remaining static but asking for feedback and engaging with volunteers, inspiring them to bring their own vision and solutions to the table. By setting a culture that has ‘freedom to fail’, experimentation can come as a great learning experience.

Equity and inclusion

Equity and inclusion are necessary to make sure volunteering is accessible and welcoming to everyone, everywhere. Some techniques discussed included clear messaging when advertising roles to make explicit that roles are inclusive and creating culture change within organisations so they are reflective of the sector. It was highlighted that organisations need to put resource behind this to create meaningful change.

Awareness and appreciation

To make sure that volunteering can be a part of everyone’s life, attendees highlighted that it was important to show gratitude to volunteers, which can be done by raising their profile from having an award ceremony to creating a volunteer case study within an internal newsletter. Attendees also made the point of asking for feedback from volunteers, to ensure they are getting the most out of their experience and are being celebrated in way they want to be.

See you next time!

A big thank you to all speakers, attendees and organisers of this event. We look forward to hosting again next year!

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