Sue Hine, Independent Advocate, Wellington, New Zealand
I can be a very rude and cynical person, and the following press release brings out the worst in me. Please tell me where I have got it wrong in my response ….
Coalition government confirm plans for social action and volunteering
23rd May at 17:27
The full programme for the coalition government has been now been published. Described by David Cameron and Nick Clegg as ''historic'' here's what's been pledged in relation to social action and volunteering.
'The Government believes that the innovation and enthusiasm of civil society is essential in tackling the social, economic and political challenges that the UK faces today. We will take action to support and encourage social responsibility, volunteering and philanthropy, and make it easier for people to come together to improve their communities and help one another.
1. We will support the creation and expansion of mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises, and enable these groups to have much greater involvement in the running of public services.
2. We will give public sector workers a new right to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector workers to become their own boss and help them to deliver better services.
3. We will train a new generation of community organisers and support the creation of neighbourhood groups across the UK, especially in the most deprived areas.
4. We will take a range of measures to encourage charitable giving and philanthropy.
5. We will introduce National Citizen Service. The initial flagship project will provide a programme for 16 year olds to give them a chance to develop the skills needed to be active and responsible citizens, mix with people from different backgrounds, and start getting involved in their communities.
6. We will use funds from dormant bank accounts to establish a 'Big Society Bank', which will provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies.
7. We will take a range of measures to encourage volunteering and involvement in social action, including launching a national day to celebrate and encourage social action, and make regular community service an element of civil service staff appraisals.
Before you swallow all this as fine and wonderful, a brave new world in which all your long-lost prayers for volunteerism, your NGO services, your best practice management of volunteers will be answered, consider the renegade’s views:
• Yaaaa….w…n…. Enthusiasm for civil society is a bit of re-cycling from a couple of decades ago. Ditto ‘social responsibility’. What I know is that people coming together to improve their communities and to help one another takes one heck of a lot more than good intentions and a government policy.
• Hello! Devolution of power from public servants? Community organisers, Neighbourhood groups? In another age we would have called this anarchy – only now anarchy has become a political instruction for social action.
• Community organisers were the most despised and rejected of men and women in the 60s and 70s for their activism in ‘community development’. I am suspicious of the rehabilitation of this term.
• Maybe there will be some tax breaks for philanthropic disbursements. But I bet there will be a lot more boundaries put on the charity $, who it goes to and for what purposes.
• Get them while they’re young. That’s the story. Rub their faces in what it means to be a responsible citizen, being multi-cultural, and force them to get involved in their communities. A National Citizen Service is not going anywhere.
• A Big Society Bank? Let’s do a raid and see just how much funds they will release for my really good community project.
• [Pause, for scribe to stop laughing.] I’m sorry, I have been laughing out loud at the image of public service bureaucrats compelled to undertake regular community service. The least the government can do is ensure such efforts are not confused with the Justice system and community sentencing….[further giggles, sote voce]
OK – my comments are directed at the plotting of the UK government, a newly elected Conservative/Liberal coalition. The really astute among you will notice (and I hope it hits you in the face) there is not a whisper, not a note, not a jot of a reference to managers of volunteers, the sine qua non of achieving the government’s aims and intentions.
So where is the voice for managing volunteers, and how can we make it heard?
Sue Hine began volunteering a very long time ago. Sue has been engaged with community organisations for more than 40 years, as a trainer, facilitator and clinical supervisor, and a volunteer in all sorts of roles. Her direct experience of managing volunteers is brief by some standards, just 6 years. But it was volunteering that taught Sue most about management, what worked and what didn’t, what made her feel valued and how a poorly run organisation did Sue and their client group a big disservice. Now Sue has become re-tyred, freed from alignment to any organisation, and free to tell you what she thinks and to float ideas that might get you thinking.