How to make a Volunteer Army…

My podcast with the @workhubs Cafe Garage Project –

“So how do we organise a group of people, without telling them what to do, make it inspirational, have them showing up at the right time… it’s got to be like a fun engageing community project?”

Here’s how I answered!

b2858a70520337034222ccce7598a7a1

 

Advertisements

Stories and Supper

Are you wondering about the stories and the people behind the migration headlines?

s and S poster

This is a Supper Club with a twist. Great global food with global stories thrown in too.

“I think he’s quite isolated… your welcome came along just at the right time.”  Through a broken phone conversation, one of our volunteers had told his English teacher that he loves coming to our preparation sessions.  It’s nice to hear – it feels like chaos!

We’re planning Supper and Stories – The Voices Behind the Migration Headlines.  A three course meal, with multiple chefs, and stories from home and here.  Because stories, and people, can counter the hate in the headlines.

So every week we all meet to plan the Supper and build our skills.  We cook, we learn English, we tell stories.  Volunteers buddy up together and work through food safety training.

We’re a mixed bunch – local, not so local, refugees, asylum seekers, those working full time and those with time to kill.  Established chefs, and beginners.  Most of us are volunteers, all of us are learning.

Five weeks ago we didn’t know each other.  Next week we’re all serving dinner to fifty people. This project has brought more people together than we ever expected, and they’ve already gained a huge amount from volunteering.  Concrete food safety training, new friendships…  Hopefully, some of the people we cook for will also take our stories and scatter them in the places that matter.

Wish us luck…!  And please come to dinner!

http://ticketlab.co.uk/event/id/360

https://www.facebook.com/storiesandsupper/

Supported by UnLtd

UnLtd-AwardWinner_FullColour_3000px

Yes NCVO! Let’s Be Bold!

This is ‘being bold for volunteering’:  Free resources for volunteer coordinators. Finding out what we need to know.  Fighting for the services that rely on the added value of volunteering.

Stuart Etherington' New Year Letter To the SectorDear Stuart,

Thank you for your New Year letter:  thoughts on the current situation for the voluntary sector.

It’s long!  It took me a while to read it and I had to look up solipsis but here I am with a response!

You say that you – and we – need to ‘be bold for volunteering.’   I see volunteers and coordinators being bold every day; I read your letter several times and really wasn’t clear exactly how NCVO will be being bold in 2017.

…So I have some thoughts to share!

Make resources for volunteers coordinators free. 

You say yourself how important vounteers are.  Some of the best projects happening in the UK right now are completely volunteer led and run, yet your quick guides are nearly £7  and your (brilliant) Impact Assessment Toolkit with resources is nearly £100.  NCVO training is fully out of a small organisation’s league.

I don’t think things should be free for no reason.  But I think an umbrella body that exists solely to support the voluntary sector (and has property assets in central London) should be supporting the very smallest grassroots groups and organisations.  This investment will reap far-reaching dividends.

A surprisingly small number of people can name a UK charity.  Volunteering’s extended value includes a much wider understanding of a project’s services – and use of their services.  Bold support for volunteer coordinators would only enhance the profile of voluntary organisations, and and understanding of the value of what they do.  Be bold for Volunteer Coordinators!

Update us with information that supports our day-to-day decisions.

I work with hundreds of organisations a year and many are confused in a constantly changing environment.

I have an example:  The right to volunteer of asylum seekers and those without a right to work in the UK.

  • I can find no evidence in your resources of the very bold work that Refugee Action did to secure a change in Home Office Guidance since then.
  • I can find no clarification since the increase in fines for employers around ‘right to work’  (which has exacerbated confusion, despite being nothing to do with volunteering.)
  • Your information sheet ‘Visas and Volunteering’ was last updated 2011.

I know of Volunteer Centres doing their own research, as am I, doubling up each others’ precious time.  I have developed learning resources* in which I can’t yet say “the NCVO guidance is…”  because, despite requests, there is no guidance.

You can find things out for all of us, and let us know.  Be BOLD!

Fight. Yup. Fight.

Volunteering includes CAMPAIGNING.  Fighting for the ‘health and care services that are under great pressure’ that you tell us about in your letter.  Fighting to include the volunteering that brings massive social value, and to retain the statutory paid roles that our society needs.

We all have opinions.  You however, are in a crucial role not only to have opinions, not only to voice them but also to act on them, on behalf of all of us.

Yes!  Let’s Be Bold!

Rebecca.

*Who Can Volunteer: Age, Immigration and Welfare Conundrums is running on 20th April at 11am. 

 

Save

Save

Spare Time or Spare Rooms…

A sprawling monologue in which lots of us do a little bit.

Yesterday I was really anxious and preocupied with work.  I do insist on having ideas (this time it’s interactive online training) and I find following them through quite anxiety-inducing.

Starters-and-Info-768x768Then I got to the Stories and Supper project, where we are planning a supper club that challenges some media narratives on refugees and also supports the refugees themselves. A young guy was there – he’d been there in week 1 and i wasn’t sure we’d see him back. He has just got his status – and a month later, is now out of his ‘asylum seeker’ accomodation and homeless. In the UK, you get one month after being allowed to stay to find a job, access English lessons, find the deposit for a room, find a room.

It put my anxiety in perspective.

Anyhoo. I said “let’s refer you to Refugees at Home.”

I happen to know they rock because we have hosted. R@HLogoSMI got random bits of information out of him and told them on their nifty online form (developed by a volunteer, as was everything) the little I knew about him (“His favourite food is a tomato salad with lemon juice and garlic” – it is a food project we’re doing so that was pretty much all I know! That – and he smiles alot).

I said “I hope… I try…” we smiled… and we left it at that.

This afternoon I got an email. Turns out two other people have also referred him. So it didn’t matter too much that my details were patchy.  Perhaps it was just enough.

And there’s a guy in London who can host him for a few nights. They’re working on a longer plan. And they bothered to tell me too.

MalikcropSo across London, people are doing these little bits. And they’re adding up to something. I’m so glad.

If you can host, just for a few nights, please consider it. It will have a long term affect.  I came across a pretty beautiful story of hosting today too- in Germany.  And the guy who stayed with us has a room now.  This is us on his last day. CHEESY PIC!

If you’d like some great online forms to make your Volunteer Coordinator life easier, if you work in Volunteer Management or involve people as a volunteer (like every single one of the lovely people at Refugees at Home) you might be interested in this training and a free taster session.  Access from anywhere.  See you there!

Libby and Maia: Refugee Help with a knock-on effect.

This post appears in Can I Bring Ivy: a blog about volunteering with kids.

Libby and Maia: Refugee Help with a knock-on effect.

We helped in Calais again this month.  It’s a lot quieter than it was last time I was there – which was just before the evictions.  Theyd rather a few more people!  But there was a small upside to this.  It’s alot easier to volunteer with a young person when it’s not full to the rafters.

I met Libby and Maia.  The whole three days I was there they were beavering away at the ‘dry food’ – bagging up sugar, spices, olives…  it goes to the free shop at the Dunkirk camp, among other places.  I asked if they’d mind a few cheesy pictures and a chat about what they think of it all.

It started as them coming along with an experienced chef and then finding something to do.  Now the dry foods are their expert area, but the first time they came Maia helped out almost everywhere.  clothes sorting, veggie chopping…

Why does Maia like it?  we talked a lot about how nice it is to feel you’re doing something that matters, and getting to the end of it.  Each small task has an end.  And Maia is happy that she can do SOMETHING, as she’s aware of how many people are forced to move and how difficult their conditions are.

Last time they came, they made a load of mini videos – Maia showed them in an assembly at her school.  I’m not sure it was what she intended – she said something like “my teacher just told me “you’re doing an assembly!”  Well, good on that teacher.

Mum Libby:  “I had at least six Mums tell me they want to come and help after that assembly.”

They might not have made it.  They probably didn’t.  But in her school there are also a few refugees – so the chances are some of the kids in her school will now have a litte snapshot of how their lives panned out up til now, and the interactions between everyone might just be a little more empathetic

And just recently, MPs voted 247-1 to maintain our promise to the unaccompanied children in Calais. Some of them have changed their minds since last time and there has been some pretty strong lobbying up and down the country.

This warehouse in Calais isn’t the perfect place to volunteer with a kid.  The woodyard certainly isn’t! But this pair have made it work, and the rewards for everyone are pretty immense.  Other times we’ve involved all ages in making spice bags – no travel required! and there are ways you can make most things work.

Vounteering isn’t just about the task  that you do.  It’s the glitter bomb of things that happen as a result of that one task.  They happen inside and they happen to others.

For more on the latest in Calais and Dunkirk – just from my perspective as a short term volunteer – here’s another post.

I support people coordinating volunteers through advice, project work and training.
Online courses – access from anywhere!

Covering our bases…Best Practice Basics

Very engaging and informative… with a positive, inclusive ethos” Natalie, Forest Farm Peace Garden

Volunteer Management has found its way back into the news recently for reasons we’d all rather avoid – no volunteer co-ordinator wants to end up in the High Court proving their volunteer is not an employee, or settling an employment tribunal discrimination case out of court… Whilst these situations are rare, it seems a good time to remind ourselves of the basics of getting involved and keeping people involved, whatever our project and however many of us there are doing it, voluntarily or as a paid co-ordinator.

Motivations Retention and Roles is an interactive and fun half-day session, part of a course of four, for those co-ordinating or supporting volunteers as part of their role. If getting people involved and/or supporting them in their voluntee055ring is what you do – or part of it – this is for you. The session reinforces the basics of best practice in keeping people involved, in particular creating roles that best suit your organisation.

The content includes:

  • Why do people volunteer and what do they bring?
  • Reimbursing volunteer expenses
  • Working out what you want as an organisation
  • Writing killer task descriptions!

By the end of the morning session you will:

  • Understand what motivates volunteers, and how organisations benefit
  • Assess their organisation’s needs and write a task description to fill the need
  • Understand the process of recruiting volunteers and how it relates to volunteer retention
  • Be able to explain appropriate expenses and why reimbursement is necessary

You can browse other course titles here.

To book, just call Happy on 020 7375 7300. Details of the courses are online here but it’s best to call to book. The price of each half day is from £50. I look forward to seeing you there!

Great Volunteer Recruitment and DBS Checks

Training at Happy for LVSC April 8th

DBSFlow2auto2I’ll be running a full day workshop at Happy/LVSC next month addressing the recent changes in criminal record checks for volunteers, and looking at all the great ways of recruiting to keep your organisation and volunteers safe. It will build on the half day workshops I’ve delivered in London and beyond on the recent DBS changes.  Things people liked about those workshops…

  • “Opportunity to discuss as a group”
  • “Practical/real exercises”
  • “Clarity – I’d had DBS overload!”

If you missed previous courses and would like to spend some time considering checking and recruiting volunteers:  now’s your chance! The course is on 8th April – to book please see the details in this brochure...  or call Happy on 02073757300.

More details of what will be covered:

  • Picking apart the JARGON of DBS
  • Activities: checking real-life volunteer roles
  • Visual explanations of different levels of check
  • Group discussion to explore individual recruitment issues

Take a look at these resources for more of an idea of the course:

Example Activities

Example slides from the presentations

 

Who Can Volunteer?

UPDATE:  This course is now included in the LIVE ONLINE training: “Who Can Volunteer: Age, Immigration and Welfare Conundrums”

If you’ve joined me for training around Volunteers and the Law in the last couple of years, you’ll possibly remember a discussion around where exactly Asylum Seekers are allowed to volunteer.  whocanvolunteerYou may remember me explaining the odd nature of the law – only in a charity, nothing public sector, no NHS.  “But what about a children’s centre?” Some people asked. Or… “We’re a social enterprise?” And then my guarded response… weigh up the facts, and the risks for your organisation, and maybe think about disregarding these guidelines.  Or at the very least signpost your volunteer somewhere else.

Well now you don’t have to pick your way through these decisions.  refugee actionAfter a huge amount of effort and public support – ‘ongoing badgering’ as Fiona Liddell puts it! by Refugee Action and others,  Asylum Seekers now have the right to volunteer in any organisation.  You can also volunteer if you have had your asylum claim refused. This is great news and evidence that campaigning works.  punishing povertyMaybe we could move our thoughts now to benefit sanctions and mandatory work activity – undermining the nature and the positive effects of volunteering and creating sick individuals and communities.

I’ve updated my slides, and share Here…  this example includes some other info too about creating contracts and the common law duty of care.

Please get in touch if you’d like more info or would like to collaborate on campaigns around the blurring of the edges of volunteering.

Work. Fair. Volunteer.

Mandatory work placements weaken our community sector.  Volunteer managers should keep sight of our definition of volunteering, and be honest about what it’s not.

In the training I do, discussion can arise when we’re looking at volunteer motivations.  “Why DO people get involved in the first place…?”  is a question I ask a lot.  We play bingo with volunteer motivations, we look at research, we tell stories of ours and others’ experiences, we unpick what it is that makes people get involved and we look at how understanding this is the key to getting the best for everyone out of volunteering.

VMT SlidesMore often than I’d hope, people’s responses include… “because they’ve been sent… because they’ve been told to”.  This is tricky.  A big reason why people get involved in something is because they’ve been asked, or even had their arm twisted into it by a persuasive friend.

How is this different to being told to volunteer by a stranger? punishing povertyPossibly a stranger threatening that you’ll also lose the state benefit you’re entitled to?

Volunteering. Spending time, “unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone…other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment.”  This definition is from a national survey in 1997 and is very similar to both the Police Act and Jobseekers’ Regulations’ definitions.  Many would go further, adding that it needs to be independently chosen and mutually beneficial (Greater London Volunteering).  Voluntary.

P1020067croppedWe sometimes lose sight of the reasons people find themselves at the door of an organisation.  Maybe because we need their help, maybe because we know that the experience once through the door is a brilliant one and we think it’s worth the coercion.  (Read YMCA’s compelling argument  here.)   But whatever we call it, defining voluntary activity and how people choose to get involved is important so as not to lose sight of what it achieves.

It is the act of choosing to get involved and sticking to it that is the transformative thing, not the simple turning up.  Cajoling, motivating, nudging you to go, hearing about your first experience, encouraging you into the second visit, you getting round to it in your own time… all of these things happen from persuasive and well-meaning colleagues, support workers, friends but the choice is ultimately yours – and that’s how unemployed volunteers might build confidence, skills and attitudes that lead to employability and work.  Either this, or maintain these attributes instead of feeling gradually more useless and unemployable.LVSC Intro VOls

Mandatory work activity is not volunteering.  Volunteers of every flavour built the voluntary organisations we work and volunteer for, and motivations for this were – and remain – many and varied.  They didn’t do it because they were told to.  Plenty of people, unemployed and otherwise, are continuing to build our communities as volunteers – although some are being lost because they are being forced elsewhere to complete unmatched work placements; as well as a loss to the organisation, what loss of experience and skills for the volunteer?

Mandatory work placements in private companies – Asda, McDonalds to name just two – are simply unfair – they make a mockery of competition, and don’t achieve their goal of job creation or getting people into employment.

Mandatory work placements in voluntary organisations shift our mission from community building to disempowerment, and muddle our view as a nation of voluntary activity.

I will continue to work for support and funding to persuade, cajole, motivate, and encourage as many people as possible into volunteering: this experience has an amazing effect on individuals and communities.  Volunteering – Getting Involved – Participating – changes lives, and there are projects up and down the country providing these opportunities and getting people into them every day.

Support them. Not Workfare.

Other links:

Find out private, public and voluntary organisations participating in mandatory work activity programmes. Avoid them!

Mental Health Charity Mind’s statement on the workfare scheme and the work programme

IVR’s ‘Gateway to Work’ report: the link between volunteering and employability

Pathways through Participation research: why people get involved and stay involved.

Find your local Volunteer Centre: often the place in your area that knows the most about volunteering projects for harder to reach groups.

http://www.do-it.org.uk/wanttovolunteer/aboutvolunteering/vcfinder

The high profile case of the volunteer forced to work in Poundland in favour of her own freely-chosen volunteering http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1170650/

My Values… in Spoken Word.

Why do I do what I do?

It’s a funny thing.  I started fiddling with this a couple of months ago because I was blown away by two spoken word poets.  They said what was inside of me.  I realised that some people describe why I’m driven to keep getting people involved, sharing experiences that challenge our assumptions and standing up for social justice FAR BETTER than I can explain it – and they’ve never even met me.

Coincidentally, I’ve just started working on the local Words over Waltham Forest Festival recruiting and co-ordinating the volunteers. It’s exciting – language and literary inspired events in libraries, pubs, pop-up-whatevers all over my home borough.  So it seems appropriate to share these words now.  Over to you, lads… You say it so much better than I ever could.

“You can’t explain the present ‘til you work out what the past meant”  KATE TEMPEST
“You can’t explain the present ‘til you work out what the past meant”
KATE TEMPEST

“Language is a gateway to an attitude” GEORGE THE POET
“Language is a gateway to an attitude”
GEORGE THE POET

"How do human beings ever learn to do anything?  Performance... feedback... revision"  BABA BRINKMAN
“How do human beings ever learn to do anything?
Performance…
feedback…
revision”
BABA BRINKMAN

"Cos in this country of billboards covered in 'tits'... I think we should try to get used to this."
“In this country of billboards covered in ‘tits’… I think we should try to get USED to this.”
HOLLIE MCNISH

“We all have different abilities, thought process and genes… so why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?”  SULI BREAKS
“We all have different abilities, thought process and genes… so why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?”
SULI BREAKS

“It was you that didn’t know when to stop digging deeper and building higher…” DAN le SAC vs SCROOBIUS PIP
“It was you that didn’t know when to stop digging deeper and building higher…”
DAN le SAC vs SCROOBIUS PIP

"I'm not sure I've worked out how to work it" TIM MINCHIN
“This is my brain… I’m not quite sure I’ve worked out how to work it”
TIM MINCHIN
(Okay. This isn’t spoken word. But hey it’s good)