Keeping an Eye on Volunteer Management in 2011
Its 2011 and here is my first blog of the year. Happy New Year to those of you who’s New Year commences on January 1st.
For the Volunteer management sector I hope it’s a great one. I plan to keep an eye on happenings throughout the year and offer my own slant on things as well as engage in dialogue and debate about matters with people within the sector and with you the blog reader. Here’s some of the things I will be watching in no particular order
•Conferences: IAVE conference in Singapore this year – I will keep you up to date with what’s going on there
•New Zealand’s National conference on volunteering – it looks like a great line up of speakers and workshops, interesting topics and a good focus on leadership and volunteer management.
•The Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management will be held outside Australia for the first time ever. This year New Zealand will be hosting. No details yet realised by organizers. I hope to be there and report back, in fact live via daily blog
•It’s European Year of the Volunteer this year. Will be keeping in contact with European colleagues for stories on this. I am very interested to know if management of volunteers will be a topic
•Professional associations for Volunteer management worldwide. Will they make more noise in 2011? Will be keeping a close watch this year on PAVMW to see if they make any noise. When they do – I will tell you. If they don’t I will be telling them and you!
•IYV + 10 is being celebrated this year. Am I the only person who does not like this title at all? While I support the concept of having a year supporting volunteering I think we could be a bit more imaginative with titles.
•Volunteering Australia hosts another National conference to mark IYV+10.
•Dialogue moving our sector forward. More Volunteer Managers have entered the blogsphere writing. And I predict that even more will do so in 2011. I’ll be keeping an eye on the conversation and no doubt having my own say.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on how people are talking about our sector. I’ll be watching the Hot Topics to see what we are saying and wondering if we are rehashing the same topics or coming up with innovative ideas and or actions.
I am sure there are many ways of tracking progress in many fields. I’ve just invented my own novel way to track progress in the volunteer management sector. It’s called the Hot Topic litmus test.
Since April 1997 Susan J Ellis has given us a monthly Hot Topic on her website Energize. Down under Andy Fryar has done the same since July 2003 on his site Ozvpm
So I’ve quickly looked through almost 14 years of conversations and dialogue to conduct my Hot Topic Litmus test on certain topics. I will narrow it down to 2 or 3 topics for this blog for I could write a book otherwise!
Come with me as I go on a crazy travel adventure back and forwards through time. This is all done with a sprinkle of lightness and fun. We could land together on any random date or year and have a peak at the type of dialogue going on through the spectrum of these Hot Topics.
I’ve taken topics at random and again I must emphasize that they crop up at random. I don’t want to do anything as serious as year to year. Just compare it to being a time traveler in a time travelling machine that has gone a bit awry casting you into random years where you pick up snippets of conversation here and there.
Of course there is a serious side too
In 1997 Susan J Ellis asked if Volunteer management was really a profession. 13 years later the Association of Volunteer management in the UK was asking if Volunteer management was a profession in an article to Volunteering England’s magazine (February 2010 by Nikki Squelch)
In 2004 in another hot Topic titled “Chicken or Egg: Why Are Our Professional Associations Weak? “ Susan asked… “Which came first: weak professional associations or a weak profession?” and went on to state “This issue, which obviously starts at the local level on up (or perhaps on the national level on down), is integrally related with the recurring question of “is volunteer management a profession?”
In 2006 someone challenged a post I sent to Ozvpm by asking “Are we a sector really?” and continuing thus “I think there are a lot of assumptions made that VPMs have congruent agendas, ideologies, motivations and ambitions when clearly we don't”
In March 1998 Susan was asking Why don't we read and write more?
She went on to state “Some of you will head for the hills when you see this question! My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy "doing" that we won't make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”
And in 2002 Susan had this to say in her June HT “The two most frustrating aspects of how our field reacts to criticism are playing ostrich and generating backroom chatter. The ostriches simply don't pay attention. They are rarely aware of anything outside their own agencies or, if they read negative commentary, they never reply. More often, there is a good bit of discussion, but it's done as complaining to each other (on practitioner listservs, in the halls of conferences) rather than expressing opinions in forums where they might educate others. In general, volunteerism practitioners don't like to make waves. Isn't this ironic for a field that owes its history to pioneers and activists? A profession must stand for something and its members must stand for the profession.
Back to Ozvpm and 6 years ago Andy titled a Hot Topic “do we need a new title for volunteering?”
In it he made the intriguing point “Surely the more important part of any title is what a person actually does and not what their rate of pay is - after all, we don't use titles like 'paid CEO', 'employed gardener' or 'salaried bus driver' for staff who are on the payroll!”
Switch back to Energize and in 1998 a guest Hot Topic writer Sarah Jane Rehnborg, wrote a piece titled “The Limits of the "V" Word: Communicating What We Really Do”
Sarah opened her article by asking “Are we helping ourselves by continually trying to group everything that happens in our field under the label "volunteer"? We are selling ourselves short by not clarifying our language and by lumping all manners and forms of service within one broad and reasonably useless classification of "volunteer."”
Back to the present day now and the latest Hot Topic on Energize is The Word “Volunteer” Can Reveal, Conceal, or Confuse
“Confusing things is the fact that the English word volunteer is commonly used when something is voluntary but still recompensed financially. Thus the “All-Volunteer Army” in the U.S. means non-draft, not non-paid. Similarly:
•We are asked to “volunteer” to give up our overbooked airplane seat for travel benefits.
•Most medical experiment “volunteers” are paid for their time and expenses.
Again, most of us understand that this is not the kind of “volunteer” we mean in our field, but what’s the public perception of this label?”
And finally, for now, a responder to an Ozvpm Hot Topic wrote in 2009 “My frustrations over time has been resurrected by attending retreats and seminars, not eased. This frustration stems from the same issues being raised over and over, with no real outcomes.”
Well that’s an interesting snapshot of dialogue on the Volunteer management sector via the Hot Topic columns I mention.
I wonder if we should be asking if we are raising the same issues over and over again with no real outcomes.
Can you start my blog off for this year by telling me what you would see as some real outcomes for our sector in 2011 and how that might be achieved?