Posts Tagged ‘Volunteerism’

In John McKnight and Peter Block, recent book, Abundant Community, they state,

Volunteerism was never designed to be efficient, only satisfying.   Systems were never designed to be satisfying, only efficient.

This simple truth speaks to something that I have come to know in my heart over the last few years working in volunteer management.  As I have often described it to people, instead of trying to figure out how I can do the same or more with fewer people, I actually look for ways to involve more people in the work.  If your goal is to mentor a child, do you really want to do that efficiently?  If volunteers are seen as resources, then the standard view of creating an efficient program would be to reduce the number of volunteers it takes to mentor a child, or to get more mentoring out of each volunteer.

But a mentoring relationship is not a system, it is a building block of community.  The rules are different and we can not use the same language to talk about mentoring as we use to talk about manufacturing.  It is too easy to confuse not only why we do what we do, but the beauty in HOW we do it.  We build community through making connections between people and between associations.  More connections, stronger connections, are better.  Taking more time with one another leads to higher quality relationships.

I refuse to be efficient in volunteering.  Can anyone give me a reason why I should accept this language and concept of efficiency for volunteering and community building?


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It’s only the opening day of NCVS, but already there have been an outstanding number of volunteers noted and organizational shout outs.  I have met some great volunteer leaders; making new friends and reconnecting with old.  Conference is all about making these connections and re-energizing around service and so far NCVS is meeting its mark.

You can find quotes from the opening plenary on Twitter under #ncvs and can even watch the action at: http://www.volunteeringandservice.org so I will not recap what went on.

2 great off the cuff moments:

  1. Mika Brzezinski calling out “Morning Joe” for dropping F-bombs on live TV
  2. Mo Rocca stumbling over the “Cougar” Kids Club name wondering if it engaged a certain population of older attractive moms.

What I thought might be helpful is a rundown of the people and organizations represented during the plenary as well as a few observations.

First the observations and then the run down after the break.

  • Large for profit companies come across as having a very different understanding of the service movement.  They used different language and seemed to focus on different priorities in addressing social problems.
    • The CEO of JP Morgan Chase used a lot of language that did not resonate with me.  Although I think I support a lot of his overall message, he came across as both defensive and accusatory, defending big business’ role in providing jobs, paying taxes, and providing retirement investments; as well as insisting that organizations use their “brains” and base decisions on “facts” (which to him is the bottom line).  … More on this in a future post.
    • The exception to that is when the company put its community relations person in charge of the talking points (Target).  Laysha Ward connected with me around Target giving back 5% of income, partnering with the school for a library makeover that they really wanted, and having a 3 part strategy towards partnering in the education space including volunteerism, arts, and social services.
    • Ben & Jerry’s also provides a great example of partnering with the social sector in a win-win project.  Scoop it Forward is fun, creative, and uses what Ben & Jerry’s does best (create & market delicious ice creams in inventive flavors) with what VolunteerMatch does best (connect people with opportunities to volunteer).
  • “Morning Joe”, Joe Scarborough, seemed to be the least of a good fit of all of the speakers and moderators.  When he referred to Millennials (my own generation) as “babies” Twitter lit up with great folks like @menista & @ngongang of mobilize.org, @socialcitizen with Case Foundation, and @AtlasCorps speaking up for the role Millennials are already playing in social change.  My major disappointment was that no one actually on the panel put in a plug and spoke up about the huge proportion of the audience that actually are millennials taking a lead in making a difference.

Ok, if you want the run down of organizations/Campaigns that were mentioned in the opening plenary (mentioned, not featured), check it out past the break:


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In a few weeks I will be attending a self organizing summit convened by HandsOn Network during National Volunteer Week. Hope to see you there!

Here are the details:
Join the most creative thinkers at LEAD – A Get HandsOn! Summit to learn how individuals are using social media tools and other innovative strategies to change the landscape of service.

Social innovators will share interesting experiences such as locating disaster victims with cell phones, quickly gathering thousands of volunteers for one-day projects and organizing person-to-person service efforts through Web-based technologies and other tools.

Whether you are a community organizer, government or nonprofit leader, corporate community affairs director, student, social media expert, or volunteer leader, there will be something for you at the LEAD – A Get HandsOn! Summit. Come and embrace new ways of engaging people to create citizen-centered change.

Imagine. Create. Inspire.
Speakers include Rich Harwood, founder of the Harwood Institute; Allison Fine, author and social change connoisseur, and Heather Mansfield, social media expert. James “JB” Brown, AARP Brand Ambassador for Community and Host of CBS’ NFL Today and Showtime’s Inside the NFL will moderate an engaging discussion! Click here to learn about the other dynamic thought leaders who will be presenting at LEAD.

LEAD – A Get HandsOn! Summit is sponsored by University of Phoenix and SAP. To read about all of the activities and events planned during National Volunteer Week, visit http://www.handsonnetwork.org/events/nvw2010.

Registration is only $125 and includes access to all sessions, a continental breakfast, buffet lunch, a unique gift and an invitation to a special reception themed, “Inspire…Serve… Solve: A Celebration of National Volunteer Week and the Serve America Act.” This reception, co-convened by Points of Light Institute and ServiceNation and supported by Procter & Gamble on the evening of April 20, will honor the countless Americans who are making extraordinary efforts to address challenges in our communities.

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