Thursday, March 14, 2019

And I did speak out!

As some of you may or may not have noticed I have become more involved volunteering as an activist for a few causes. And I guess on reflection I have always been a type of activist. According to our friend Wikipedia “Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society.”  A dictionary simply states that it is “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.”For me personally, it’s a very interesting form of volunteering. It compels you to take a stand, be a voice and take some form of action. Sometimes it is not easy. It may not be great for the faint hearted! It leaves you open to criticism. You will always find people with an opposing view. It’s not for everyone but more should be doing it. Our future depends on it. And I have never believed that more than I do today. Why do people become activists? Again, for me personally, it’s about finding a cause you care about enough to take some action to support. My actions over the last 12 months have been joining organisations, volunteering my time, attending meetings, marching the streets, highlighting my causes utilising social media and writing.
What is my main motivation for doing so?
  1. My kids. I am seriously worried about the future world that they may inherit. The science is in. We have been warned. When Governments around the world don’t take action, we, the people, will.
  2. It’s political. The rise of far right players in the political world is frightening. It must be resisted. We must learn from history
  3. Volunteer Management. We could all learn so much from how these activist organisations, recruit, motivate and organise their volunteers. They are all so far ahead of traditional Volunteer Management it’s not funny. We have so much to learn. So I am motivated to learn.
  4. Connections. Activists are so connected and do it so well. I have joined their footprint on Twitter and they know how to use it to their advantage. I have made amazing and inspiring connections. With a few exceptions I think the traditional field of Volunteer Management are still miles behind when it comes to their usage of social media. On a global scale the VM sector is disjointed.
I will continue to share my musings. On a mission. Talk soon.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” - Niemöller

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

In Memory of Susan – My favourite quotes

This week we in the volunteering sector lost a friend, a colleague, a mentor and an Inspiration. Her name is Susan J Ellis. Her writings will live on. Her inspiration will never die. Bloggers have written amazing tributes. I have posted on Social Media. But on my blog today I would like to pay my respect by sharing my favourite quotes from Susan. If you have a favourite please add.

Thank you Susan.
"Remember, no one gets paid to rebel.  All revolutions start with volunteers.
“No one will buy you professional status. You either have it or you don't. But it is different from competence on the job. It means affiliation with a field and a willingness to work together to build that field.
‘We in the volunteer community have some important things to say about why and how citizens get involved.
“Unless we work together, we cannot have visibility or power. Do not wait for some national or local organization to take the lead here. They will do what their funders want. What do you and your local colleagues need? And are you all willing to be volunteers yourselves to get it done?
“Just like the two workers chiselling marble, one saying “I hammer stone” and the other “I am helping to build a cathedral,” it’s all in the attitude.  And, if we express our work with a consistent vision, it will have a ripple effect.  We’ll feel proud, volunteers will feel fulfilled, our organizations will recognize the value of our role, and we can indeed change the world.
“So that’s why I don’t tire of my travels.  I may hate airport security lines and fight off jet lag, but I always know that my destination will allow me to meet wonderful colleagues doing extraordinary things with volunteers – well worth the journey.”
“Volunteerism is both reactive and proactive. It is a response to current events, social problems, and community needs that vol­unteers are often the first to identify. Volunteers can take action before institutions and government are able or willing to offer services. As such, volunteers are pioneers and experimenters, unlimited by the restrictions of tradition, public statutes, need to make a profit, or availability of initial funds.
“Marilyn Mackenzie, a Canadian colleague, is fond of saying that our field is “terminally nice.” While some people love my willingness to state an opinion honestly, others see it as aggressive. Because I want to stimulate discussion, I provide my perspective as clearly as I can. No apologies. Actually, I think I do try to acknowledge gray areas or to give credit where credit is due. But, yes, I say what I feel.
“Volunteering is inherently an optimistic activity. No one volunteers for a cause they assume is hopeless. So the very act of participation implies a dream: this problem can be solved, this cause can succeed, this effort can make a difference. 
“Volunteers have always been--and continue to be--on the cutting edge. They recognize issues and the need for change before anyone else does. Often they have to drag the Establishment kicking and screaming into a new way of doing things.”
In memory of Susan J Ellis.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Volunteer Leadership By combining your determination and our experience!

“Such is the upside-down, topsy-turvy state of our world that the children are now the adults and the adults are the children.

So leads Jonathon Freedland in his recent article in the Guardian titled - The school climate change strikes are inspiring – but they should shame us

I’ve written before about the school climate change strikes and other climate action volunteering but there seems to be so little if any scrutiny or discussion about this form of volunteering within the volunteering or volunteer management sector itself.

We boast when we talk about “new and emerging trends” that we are way ahead of them or at least anticipating them but we are still stuck in a quagmire of volunteer management discussion focussing on us and our struggle to be taken seriously. Perhaps the emperor has no clothes.

Meanwhile, and pardon the French, the world is facing a shit storm. It’s called climate change. It is real, it is threatening and it should be frightening the socks off you all.

It is frightening our youth enough, that they have opted to volunteer for a noble cause…like…saving the planet for their future.

As Freedland goes on to say “It has fallen to those so young they are not trusted to decide what they can eat or when they can go to bed to sound the alarm about the crisis that matters most: the crisis of the climate.

How soon will it be before more Not for Profits take up the cause of fighting to save the planet. If they are now fighting for humanitarianism, for alleviation of poverty or for social justice or for refugees how soon will it be before they realise that it all will be further interconnected by the crisis that is not around the corner but here now.  This is not a long stretch of the bow.

Back to Freedland’s article “Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, an early and tireless environmental advocate, is right to say that the #FridaysForFuture movement is “not the first great change to begin with the action of just one person”: from Abraham onwards, our history and tradition is full of people who, alone at first, changed the world.

How often in our speeches and writings and blogs and newsletters do we write “Volunteers change the world?”

And yet, with this volunteering movement growing around the world why do we seem to be missing its significance? What can we as a sector learn about;

·         Volunteers self-organising

·         Organising at scale

·         Motivation of young people

·         Mass civil action

·         Innovative modes of management

·         The power of social media to mobilise volunteers.

Yes there are critics of these new movements springing up and a certain cynicism about youth action and you can read about those in the article as well. And yet we have heard that cynicism in the Volunteer management world as well. We have all come across one of these statements

“Young people are not reliable volunteers”

“Never take on students”

“Young people don’t stay”

“Young people are doing volunteering for selfish reasons”

And we may face cynicism in our own sector as well about the very notion that this is a volunteering movement. Some will argue that it is activism rather than volunteerism.

In a separate article written for the Guardian George Monbiot wrote about these children leaving their classes to protest against climate change - My generation trashed the planet. So I salute the children striking back

“The Youth Strike 4 Climate gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning. Before this week, I believed it was all over. I thought, given the indifference and hostility of those who govern us, and the passivity of most of my generation, that climate breakdown and ecological collapse were inevitable. Now, for the first time in years, I think we can turn them around.

By combining your determination and our experience, we can build a movement big enough to overthrow the life-denying system that has brought us to the brink of disaster – and beyond. Together we must demand a different way, a life-giving system that defends the natural world on which we all depend. A system that honours you, our children, and values equally the lives of those who are not born. Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible.

By combining your determination and our experience! What can our sector learn from this powerful sentiment?

Can we see the trees for the forest before there are no trees left at all?

The volunteer sector needs to be discussing this. The silence is deafening.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Volunteering Disruption!

Have you come across the word “Disrupt” What exactly is it? According to Melanie Burgess in an article written for “ In a nutshell, positive disruption is corporate terminology for changing things up and solving problems from a new perspective. It is closely linked to another buzzword, innovation. The most commonly used example of disruption is ride-sharing mobile app Uber, where the creators disrupted the taxi industry by solving the problem of expensive transport and tackling it from a peer-to-peer perspective.” Melanie goes on to write “ Despite disruption often coming in the form of new technologies, a Randstad survey reveals more than four in five Australians are unconcerned by the idea of technological advances affecting their job in the future.”

Melanie goes on to quote Juanita Wheeler, organiser of TEDxBrisbane and founder of consulting firm Full & Frank who says the best way to become a disrupter is to read.

“The greatest minds and the people most innovative and creative and continuously looking for better solutions across all aspects of life are people who read,” Juanita says. “They might see an idea in architecture and apply it in science or see an idea in a travel company and apply it to foreign aid funding.” She recommends reading research articles from universities as well as keeping up-to-date on science, technology and current affairs. “The more widely you read, the more inquisitive and creative your ideas become,” she says. “It’s completely out of vogue to some extent but to me it’s everything. The beauty of it is that reading is free.”

Linda Ronnie writing for The Conversation in an article titled “Why it’s important for HR to get out in front of workplace disruption” states “There is no doubt that future workplaces are going to look different and that they’ll be run differently too. More and more companies are hiring freelancers and remote work among full-time employees is also becoming the new normal.”
Is it important for Volunteer Leadership to get out in front of workplace disruption? I say - of course!

As Linda says “ Monitoring teams and keeping up to date with projects can be done via a number of platforms and more electronic solutions will become available over time. Already, companies are making use of cloud-based solutions, voice technology and machine learning to manage their people”

We cannot afford to miss the relevance of this in the volunteering space. How can we adapt to new and emerging technologies that can assist us in harnessing the power of community giving for our organisations?

The traditional modus operandi of volunteer engagement still continues but if we fail to read, be inquisitive and to be creative we will be left behind. Take for example an this in Linda’s article:
“Global consumer goods giant, Unilever, is already taking advantage of this. It’s launched a pioneering digital recruitment process that’s shortened its hiring cycle from four months to just two weeks. This saves 50,000 hours of candidate time while reducing recruiter screening time by a massive 75%. More than that, the process is fun and rewarding for candidates and they get better feedback about their participation regardless of whether they are successful or not.”

Now apply this to how we recruit volunteers? Is your process fun and rewarding for volunteer candidates? It should be! Could you reduce your volunteer recruitment screening time by 75%?

As Linda says “ New approaches are appealing especially to Millennials and the Generation Zs – young people who are tech savvy and used to interacting on multiple platforms, and who will dominate work spaces of the future.”

How are we converting that talent and those skills into volunteering? The idea of disruption brings up many questions for us in the sector.
Are we shifting the mode of volunteering to suit volunteering of the future?

Are we using the right language to recruit the next gen of volunteering?

Are we harnessing present and emerging technology to drive innovative volunteering?

Are we reading and continuously looking for better solutions across all aspects of volunteering?

I believe that some groups are doing well. They are mostly in the Activist sphere where they are mobilising at place and harnessing technology to be agile and effective. We can learn a lot from them. We must to simply keep up and to do so we must disrupt!

Friday, December 28, 2018

An Accidental Volunteer Meets Great Volunteer Managers!

Recently, as readers of this blog know well, I participated in a public demonstration and march in Brisbane. The march was to #stopadani. Adani want to open a new coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland. Right now their trucks and machinery are sitting on the land waiting for the final go ahead. People power will stop this mine. And I have now found myself as a volunteer activist. The people power movement is being led, in many instances by our youth. My motivation for volunteering is my kids. Climate Change is real and climate action must take place now.

Getting back to the march. I got up early one fine Saturday morning to take the 50 minute train ride to the Adani HQ in the city of Brisbane. I arrived far too early but decided to head to the site anyway. I couldn’t miss where Adani calls home in Brisbane. A tall golden building. I felt it rather apt. On arrival I was surprised to find a small group of people gathered around the front of the building. Not knowing anyone I just walked up and stood with them. In front of them were a small team of about four who were addressing them. They were all young and all very energetic. I looked around me to discover I was probably one of the oldest there bar maybe a handful. On listening I discovered that I has accidently joined the core group of volunteers who were organising this event. Nobody seemed to mind my presence and I stood there for about 20 minutes as people were coordinated and the planning for the event explained. Road marshals were picked and people were handed yellow vests. Megaphones were handed out. First aid officers were pointed out and the police liaison officer was introduced.  Banners were given out and I gladly took one. The coordinators made every one of us feel very welcome. They gave us time for questions. They told us how inspired they were that we were there. After the orientation they ran to every volunteer present giving them a high five. The mood was joyous. Personally I felt I had found my tribe. People I had never met smiled, spoke to me and made me feel welcome.

In terms of Volunteer management they were super organised. They were articulate and confident speakers. They knew their job and they knew how to do it well. They instantly made the volunteers feel welcome and appreciated. They explained what we had to do and how we would do it. They allowed for feedback. They were concerned about safety and wellbeing. They respected everyone’s contribution no matter what task they had.

They would I imagine  never consider themselves volunteer managers. I doubt the crowd assembled even considered themselves volunteers. But here stood leaders and a community willing to give their time about a cause they cared about. And on seeing how they were treated and coordinated I have no doubt that many of them will be back but this time bringing more friends and family with them.

Over two thousand more turned up that day. Maybe more. There was passion but there was also joy. The event went off without a hitch and it gained great media coverage.

I take my hat off to those leaders and volunteers. I am more hopeful for my future and my kids future because of them. I don’t remember their names but I will never forget the effect they had on this accidental volunteer.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018 - The year of lazy Volunteer Management Activism!

2018. An uneventful year for the volunteer management sector. Certainly in Australia. And I am talking about the traditional sector of Volunteer Management in Australia. In other countries some progress is being made. Especially in the UK.

International Volunteer Managers Day had the theme “Be the Voice” Not a bad theme but be the voice for what? Looking at the fairly mute reaction I wondered if it was a good theme for a sector afraid to speak out.

Still. It was good to see the day more widely recognised. The Queensland government actually had a statement on the day. A few days after I tweeted the Premier. I’d like to think that helped. But not many volunteer Managers Tweeted about the day. We are ten years behind when it comes to social media. Most VMs I know are not on Twitter!

I tried. I re-joined my professional association on Volunteer Management. I took on the social media and Marketing portfolio. Though I made great inroads in a short time I had to leave after the publication of a volunteer management survey. A third party and a big player in the volunteer sector took umbrage in a survey we did on volunteer management. I felt that pressure was put on our president. They felt we were taking “their space” I was most disappointed knowing the people involved. A letter from our board with an apology was hastily written. I could not sign. I resigned.

It was not right on many fronts. We need to end the politics in our sector. There are too many people in our sector in positions of power who cold be doing better. Some may be doing our sector a disservice. People should on board to further volunteering and excellence in volunteer leadership and not just enhancing resumes!.Our sector needs people of passion and commitment and advocacy. We will look back in ten years hopefully and learn from the present!

Volunteering Victoria has again stood out in Australia in regard to how peak bodies should behave! South Australia is not too far behind. Both present fresh perspectives on volunteering and volunteer management.

Volunteer Australia has concentrated much on submissions to policies that emanates from Canberra but alone is it doing enough to progress volunteerism and volunteer management? Work like the National Standards are having a positive effect.

AAMOV may cease to exist in 2019. They may have failed to see that Volunteer Managers need the voice of an advocate. I do hope they reconsider more advocacy because we do need a strong voice.

I still believe we need a national conference or forum on Volunteer Management specifically. The loss of the Retreat for Advanced Volunteer management is a shame. It should be revived.

We need more activist advocacy for the Sector moving forward. We need fresh voices and new thought. It’s the only way we will gain some traction and get more relevance in 2019.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

My Day of Volunteer Activism

“The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change” – The Oxford Dictionary

A few weeks ago I wrote

“History will record the present era as one of enormous upheaval and change. Let there be no doubt about that. Democracy itself is under threat. The middle class is disappearing and the 1% has more wealth and power than ever before. Scientists are pulling their hair out as governments around the globe ignore the real threat of climate change. People are on the move in their millions, displaced by war, hunger, terror and collapsing economies. Around the globe extreme right wing actors are emboldened with a louder voice.  But what has that to do with volunteering and with those that lead them? It has everything to do with us. Because the modern and future volunteer is an activist for the globe. If there is no leadership on the issues that matter to the people then people will take matters into their own hands. They will not only be volunteering for causes that they hold dear. They will be volunteering for the very future of their planet and for the future of their children and grandchildren. “

Well today I took action. Here is the story of my day.

Saturday morning 6am. I am awake ready to head into the city of Brisbane. It’s about 55 minutes away by train. It’s also my first day of leave from work as I take a pre-Christmas vacation with my family. It’s the end of an extremely busy week at work. I am simply exhausted and have not slept well. I could just turn over and go back to sleep for the next 3 hours. My body screams at me to do so. It’s a cloudy day. It isn’t too hot. I don’t have to move.

But this is what volunteering means. I don’t have to and I do. I throw myself out of bed and hit the shower. Today I am volunteering for the future of the globe and the future of my kids. I’ve been in Volunteer Management for 23 years. I’ve volunteered for various organisations since I was 16. This feels different. The feeling of compulsion to do this is particularly strong this morning.

Last night I had sat down with my young kids to explain what I was doing. Now let me tell you a bit about the proposed Adani Mine in Queensland Australia knowing that I have a substantial global audience.

The Carmichael coal mine is a proposed thermal coal mine in the north of the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, Australia. Mining is planned to be conducted by both open-cut and underground methods. The mine is proposed by Adani Mining, a wholly owned subsidiary of India's Adani Group.

“Coal is killing us and our planet. Pollution from burning coal is the single biggest contributor to dangerous global warming, threatening our way of life. Coal mining drains and pollutes our water supplies, harms our health and destroys our natural landscape.” – Stop Adani Website

And so here I am today.

The starting spot for the rally was at 10 Eagle St Brisbane. This is the HQ for Adani.

I got there far too early but I was glad to do so. With my interest in Volunteer Management I was delighted to mix with all the event volunteers who had decided to meet an hour before the March. I was so impressed by the volunteer coordinators. They gave out roles, they talked about health and safety, they talked about First Aid, they gave out different colour vests for different tasks and they were super friendly and welcoming.

There were no forms. No checks. No interviews. No barriers.

Most of the volunteers there at the start were young people. And this was inspiring. 

But I worried as I looked around. I could see only about 50 people gathered an hour before the rally. I need not have worried. As the rally took off and marched toward parliament house there were at least a thousand of us!

As you can see I am hopeless with selfies

And we marched. Through the streets of Brisbane.

And it was wonderful.

And it was a start.

But here are a few points I would like to make after my experience.

·         I am not a rusted on Green supporter. I was a member for a short period and left because no one connected with me.

·         I attended today as an ordinary member of the public. Yes there were people there from schools. There were students. There were people form the Green movement and the left side of thinking. But this is bigger than labels. For this movement to work you must win over the ordinary member of the public. You must win over the office worker and the construction worker and the bank manager!

·         1,000 people in Brisbane today and thousands of others across the country marching was good. But it is not nearly good enough. In Brisbane this week 14, 000 might attend a soccer match. Normally 35, 000 will attend a Broncos match. We can be happy but we cannot celebrate a thousand people marching in our city taking action on one of the greatest threats to mankind!

·         Politicians will not take notice of 1,000 people

·         Today we marched on parliament. It was closed. No one was there.

·         Today we protested outside Adani HQ. It was a Saturday. What was the impact?

What we need to do


·         Nonviolent peaceful resistance: And this will be the topic of my next blog! Contact me on if you want to take action! 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A new form of volunteerism is arising and I told you so!

My blog post on November 4th 2018

“History will record the present era as one of enormous upheaval and change. Let there be no doubt about that. Democracy itself is under threat. The middle class is disappearing and the 1% has more wealth and power than ever before. Scientists are pulling their hair out as governments around the globe ignore the real threat of climate change. People are on the move in their millions, displaced by war, hunger, terror and collapsing economies. Around the globe extreme right wing actors are emboldened with a louder voice.

But what has that to do with volunteering and with those that lead them? It has everything to do with us. Because the modern and future volunteer is an activist for the globe. If there is no leadership on the issues that matter to the people then people will take matters into their own hands. They will not only be volunteering for causes that they hold dear. They will be volunteering for the very future of their planet and for the future of their children and grandchildren. “

Citizens want to take action now on the cause they believe in. If we stifle their ambition with too much paperwork and bureaucracy they will walk away from us and do it anyway. They will baulk at traditional on boarding methods of volunteering. And they will demand to see the impact of their volunteering. They will also want more of a say in how their movement or organisation operates. They will reject hierarchy. Not for them the bottom rung of the organisational chart! They will lead and cast aside tired leadership methods, soundbites and ways of doing things. They will not tolerate any lack of diversity. They will not tolerate anyone thinking “young people don’t stick around”. They won’t be there for you every Tuesday at 9am and in fact will be there when they are ready to be there. They may not accept the title “Volunteer” and will run if you call them a Vollie. They won’t be patronised and they will tell you to stuff your four hour orientation program! They will demand you utilise the best technology available and they will not be silenced on social media. 

What happened on November 30th 2018

From BBC News

Thousands of Australian school students have urged greater action on climate change in protests across the country. The students skipped school on Friday to highlight what they say are inadequate climate policies by the Australian government. On Monday, Australian PM Scott Morrison rebuked their plans for "activism" during school hours and insisted his government was tackling climate change. Many students said his remarks had bolstered their resolve to protest.

"We will be the ones suffering the consequences of the decisions they [politicians] make today," protester Jagveer Singh, 17, told the BBC.

From CNN

Thousands of Australian children skipped school on Friday in defiance of the prime minister to protest for greater action on climate change. Organizers estimated around 15,000 left their classrooms in 30 locations across the country, including Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, carrying signs reading "procrastinating is our job not yours" and "I've seen smarter Cabinets at Ikea". Friday's protests followed similar protests in Canberra and Hobart earlier this week. As the children prepared for three days of protest, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament "what we want is more learning in schools and less activism."

From The DJ Cronin Blog

Thousands of Australian children have made me so proud of our youth this weekend. School kids across the country volunteered to do what they did! They volunteered for the globe. They volunteered for our future. They volunteered for their own kid’s and grandkids future.

I have seen many marches over many years. I’ve participated in quite a few. These kids have inspired me to believe there is hope for my own young kids!

Thank you for volunteering to speak out and take action! Thank you! 

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