Friday, August 13, 2010



Interview with Samaku President

By Don J Volau

3 months ago Volunteerism Gazette reported on a famous election victory (see blog archive – May)

“Samaku is an island west of North Arabia. Pop” 4 million, Samaku has gone unnoticed in world history generally due to its people’s penchant for peace. Samaku however should get some recognition from the volunteerism world as it has just elected a president whose full time job is volunteer manager.

According to its last census Samaku has 2 million volunteers. A figure large enough to inspire a volunteer manager to form his own political party 2 years ago. That risk yesterday paid off when Andy Cowling was inaugurated Samaku’s 4th President since the island state gained independence from Oldthink.”

3 months later our reporter Don J Volau secured this interview with President Cowling

Don J Volau (DV): Mr. President thank you for taking the time to do this interview

President Cowling (PC): Don, it is my pleasure

DV: How has your presidency been in the last 3 months?

PC: I feel it has been an exhilarating and very POSITIVE last few months Don. Some of our key successes have been the free public transport for volunteers via the setting up of a volunteer registration site, tax concessions for volunteers to offset petrol costs, the setting up of the National University of Volunteer Management and funding for SAVL - The Samaku Association for Volunteer Leadership

DV: How satisfying has this been for you given that you fought for these gains for volunteer management for many years?

PC: Well Don the only personal satisfaction I get is to see Volunteer Managers happy in their roles, feeling recognised and resourced.

DV: You’ve copped a bit of criticism over the years though and still do – how do you deal with that?

PC: I think I deal with this Don by trying to understand where people may be coming from.

DV: During your election campaign though you were criticized as being negative for pointing out, consistently, the issues facing volunteer managers and this criticism came from some volunteer managers themselves.

PC: yeah, at first I found this a strange one – I felt I was under the critical eye for advocating for the profession. But it was a great learning curve. And I came to understand where people were coming from.

DV: you say a learning curve – what do you mean by that?

PC: I think Don that traditionally volunteering has been seen as “nice” and “cuddly” and “warm”. Of course that has changed. Volunteering is now seen in terms of dynamic, value adding, innovative, community building and an important ingredient in both social inclusion and social capitol. How volunteering looks has also been changed by the diversity of the people who volunteer today and by the means by which they can volunteer. Volunteering is changing.

Volunteering is adapting to the changing world – the impermanent world. Volunteer management is trying to keep up with the pace and to a degree is lagging behind. Nevertheless I am positive that there are enough volunteer managers who can keep the pace. Our party campaigned on recognizing the true worth of volunteers. But we equally placed importance on effective volunteer management. And I think we resonated with voters who wanted to keep up as it were with volunteering!

DV: There are those of course who still resist change?

PC: and naturally so…it’s the case with anything. I think a lot of resistance has to do with fear. People are very comfortable in their familiar zones of being – hence the term comfort zone. And we have echo chambers where these people exist and think all is alright because they mix with similar people who share their viewpoint and rarely so they dabble with an opposing or alternate one and if they do its to criticize.

DV: Can you give an example?

PC: well during my election campaign I began highlighting some inequalities in the recognition and resourcing of volunteer managers. I did this after meeting several volunteer coordinators and managers who told me that they were struggling due to this. All I was doing was highlighting these issues and calling for action rather than words to address these issues.

DV: But you were accused of being too negative

PC: Too right and an agent of doom and gloom.

DV: how did that make you feel?

PC: Well at first I was flabbergasted – I was like’ hang on here – aren’t we on the same side here???” But after some serious and mature contemplation I understood

DV: an enlightened moment?

PV: Not quite Don. I just came to some of my own conclusions. It goes like this. They are the type of people who love to gripe, love to complain. And they get the listening ear, and the nods of empathy and the sympathy vote. But they won’t put it down on paper like the people who have genuine concerns. They will only share their stories verbally. Let’s call them the VMVs. They wont take action. They wont make change. They wont listen to advice. They have an underlying ease with their lot!

Now what happens when people come along who want to change Volunteer Management? Who want to make it a respected and recognised sector? The VMVs will have a go at them and accuse them of being trouble makers and doom and gloom merchants! But for them, the day when volunteer management is recognised and resourced is the day that their “story” ends!

When organisations have to properly resource and recognise their volunteers and volunteer management they will expect high standards in volunteer management! And rightly so. This threatens some people.

DV: So what next for you?

PC: I am just going to keep on doing what I keep on doing.

DV: Despite the negativity and the doom and gloom?

PC: Hey Don – I am actually mister Positive! I believe that Thoughts become things…so I choose the good ones! Always!

© Volunteerism Gazette August 2010


  1. I'm so glad the next world conference on volunteer management is going to be in Samaku!

  2. Thanks Jayne. Me too! I believe the nation is also holding the Super Advanced Retreat on World Volunteer management in 2020.

  3. The following was emailed to me by anonymous. Thanks for your comment

    It seems Don J that those who tend to feel victimised and complain the most as you say are also those who resist change for the better as they are so engulfed in their culture of negetivity that to have a positive change in the sector would leave them with nothing to whinge about. Perhaps change is all too hard and that we should be looking at issues of change management. Oh that's right you can't manage change but you can manage the impact that change has by the way you sell it to people.


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