- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 November 2012 13:47
Youth Leading Youth
Jenny Geale and Mark Creyton of Volunteering Qld have recently completed the first stage of a research project into youth led volunteer organisations. Jenny Geale reports on some initial findings.
The subject of this study was “youth-led volunteer organisations”, although almost immediately it became apparent that even this terminology, our most basic of ‘assumptions’, was to be challenged. Through a series of interviews with eight organisations across the social justice, arts, science, public policy and community services sectors, we have begun to compile a series of working definitions, thoughts and concepts around “organisations led and staffed by unpaid young people”.
At least one young leader from each organisation took part in an interview that addressed a range of questions around volunteer engagement. Unbeknownst to us, our method of data gathering (through semi-structured one-on-one interviews) conformed to what has been revealed as the personal, communicative style of these organisations.
Interview results are beginning to group into four key themes – people, process, purpose and pathways – and within each theme are some challenges that give rise to rethinking around volunteering in this community.
Additionally, the research has turned up a series of meta-questions around gender (and the attitude towards imbalance) as well as the use of terminology such as “volunteers” and “youth”.
Work is continuing to refine these findings, which will ultimately be delivered as a series of presentations, workshops and tools for all organisations that engage with young volunteers.
The Moreton Volunteer Initiative: Researching collaborative practices in volunteer engagement
The Moreton Volunteer Initiative was initiated in late 2009 by Volunteering Qld through funding from the Integrated Skills Development Strategy, Health and Community Services Workforce Council Development Strategy, Health and Community Services Workforce Council.
The initiative is designed to enhance, explore and develop collaborative practices in volunteer engagement between target group organisations in the Moreton region.
Organisations involved in the project are:
- Pine Rivers Neighbourhood Centre
- Redcliffe Community Association
- Red Cross Family Support Service Redcliffe
- Caboolture Neighbourhood Centre
The project commenced in January 2010 and is coordinated by Volunteering Qld’s Leonie Bryen.
The project will be completed by June 2010 and a report on the learnings from this project will appear in the second edition of the ‘Innovate’ Research Bulletin. So stay tuned.
Responding to the rural skills crisis
QUT researchers develop and trial a model to engage and support retired and semi-retired professionals as episodic volunteers.
Researchers at QUT will kick off an innovative project in 2010 that will provide a potential solution to the professional skills shortage currently faced by many rural and remote Qld communities.
Focusing specifically on engaging retired and semi-retired individuals as episodic volunteers, the study will work collaboratively with key agencies, including the Department of Communities and Volunteering Qld, to develop a theoretically based model of the pertinent motivators and incentives likely to attract and support the ageing population in short term volunteering projects.
Skills and experience relating to planning and infrastructure are two of many areas reported by rural agencies as being in short supply and which if overcome, will have a significant impact on the sustainability of regional communities.
In addition to surveying a wide range of retired/semi-retired individuals to establish the key motivators and incentives supporting episodic volunteering, the research team will work closely with several rural agencies to trial and evaluate the model and to ensure its suitability to a variety of agency types, skill shortages and locations.
A key outcome of the study will be the establishment of an ongoing service which will connect interested retired/semi-retired persons with episodic volunteering opportunities in rural and remote areas.
Financial support for the project has been provided by the Australian Research Council, the Department of Communities and through the Queensland Governments’ Smart Futures PhD Scholarship Fund.
Social enterprise and volunteering
Piece by Associate Professor Jo Barraket,The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-profit Studies, QUT.
In recent years, the idea of social enterprise has gained the attention of non-profit organisations, policy makers, philanthropy and some private business leaders. There are ongoing debates about just what social enterprise is.
For some, it means the take-up of business practices by non-profit organisations; for others it is about developing earned income streams to support public and charitable purposes; others see social enterprise as modelling new approaches to social and environmental innovation, regardless of which sector a venture operates in; finally, those interested in grass-roots forms of social enterprise are interested in the way in which collective and mutual business ownership can deliver resources to communities while contesting mainstream markets.
The definitional debate about social enterprise is likely to continue for some time; in our work, we define social enterprise as organisations that exist for a social or community benefit, trade to fulfil their mission, and reinvest a significant proportion of their income in their mission.
Despite the definitional vagueness of the term, a consistent idea put forward about social enterprise is that they are sustainable businesses. For some, this means full commercial viability, yet sustainability can be understood in other ways. Research conducted by the EMES research group in the European Union finds that social enterprises are what they call ‘mixed resource’ organisations, drawing on a range of inputs – including earned income, paid and volunteer work, grants, and member contributions – to support the fulfilment of their missions.
The need for this resource mix within some types of social enterprise is not surprising, given that their missions are often centrally concerned with responding problems arising from market and/or government failures.
The role of volunteers in Australian social enterprise has also presented clearly in a national survey we have recently conducted with Social Traders.
In this research, which involved responses from over 300 social enterprises, we found that, on average, our respondents received 5,222 hours of voluntary service per year from their members or participants, and an additional 334 hours per year pro-bono assistance from external organisations. The number of volunteers working with social enterprises ranged from zero to 50 000. These figures suggest that voluntarism is alive and well within social enterprise.
Reflecting on differences in working with young people as volunteers
Run for the hills sonny-boy: Developing organisational identity for long term retention. Guest feature article by Catherine Williams.
Catherine Williams is the cofounder of a new youth empowerment campaign, “Enough Said.” She has been the Campaigns Manager for the Queensland branch of the Oaktree Foundation, Australia's first and largest entirely youth-run aid and development organisation.
Williams’ previous experience includes domestic and international experience in the humanitarian sector, including most recently working as volunteer coordinator with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Syria and extensive facilitation experience through previous volunteer management, campaigning and executive roles.
Youth-volunteer retention is intricately bound up in organisational identity. This is because young people rarely compartmentalise the various aspects of their life, and so volunteering cannot be isolated from lifestyle choices, friendship, community and the person's individual identity.
Therefore, volunteer organisations are chosen because of their vibe as much as for the specific volunteer activities on offer, and this is where organisational identity comes into play.
Organisational identity is a collective culture based around a common direction and it nurtures a sense of belonging.
Youth-based organisations excel at creating strong organisational identity because they weave together elements of branding, community-building and they enter into a relationship with their volunteers.
This article will look specifically at the relationship-side of this equation, as this is fundamental to successful volunteer retention. Developing organisational identity for long-term volunteer retention involves four core components:
The importance of groups in working with volunteers
(A précis of “Group Processes and Volunteering: Using Groups to Enhance Volunteerism” by Debbie Haski-Leventhal and Ram A. Cnaan Published in: Administration in Social Work, Volume 33, Issue 1 January 2009, pages 61 – 80).
The authors of this article focus on an area of volunteer management which is often neglected in both theory and practice. They firstly note the importance of groups in volunteering with the impact of social processes in engaging and retaining volunteers in organisations. Following this they develop a typology of groups engaged in volunteering:
- Habitual volunteer groups in which people volunteer together over time and become friends.
- Dual identity groups involving people who are already involved in a group together who then volunteer together (such as a corporate volunteer team).
- Training-induced groups in which new volunteers are deliberately brought together to train and form a long term team.
- Provisional task groups in which episodic volunteers are brought together for a defined project.
The authors provide a range of key volunteer characteristics and a specific case study for each typology.
They also provide some key thoughts on practice implications for volunteer managers. Suggestions include:
- Recruiting existing groups in the community to volunteer will not only be more efficient in recruitment, but also their need for supervision may be minimal as this may well be managed within the existing group.
- The use of group tasks, and a focus on “us” rather than individuals, from induction through to actual placement will bond the volunteers together providing greater commitment and improved leadership.
- Breaking episodic volunteers into smaller groups with specific tasks and identity, will enhance temporary group cohesion and increase job commitment.
Collated and edited by Mark Creyton, Director Education, Research and Policy, Volunteering Qld.
We are actively seeking contributions from researchers and practitioners which provide new understandings and approaches to the field of volunteering.