Festival can help to spark volunteering

Stirling 2020

George Thomson examines the importance of volunteering as Stirling celebrates the work of volunteers

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19th September 2018 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

As a candidate city for European Volunteering Capital, Stirling is well positioned to host the Festival of Volunteering 2018. Stirling Council’s vision is for Stirling to be “Alive with Volunteering” and its City Region Deal places people and the third sector at its core. A major project funded by the Robertson Trust is underway to convert the empty barracks into a new charity hub in the heart of the city. We’re working with all the new tenants, supported by OSCR, SCVO, Stirlingshire Voluntary Enterprise and the Robertson Trust, on a shared governance initiative.

There’s a shared desire for the festival to be life enhancing, full of enjoyment and contribute to the common good. To explore the untapped reservoir of our people’s energy and talent.

This is a serious matter, in the last four years whilst the volunteer participation rate has remained around 27%, we have seen a fall in the amount of time given.

This year’s week-long celebration will focus on inclusive volunteering and building strong communities. We know that the current system isn’t working, and we’re determined to turn this around in Stirling and make it the norm for everyone to belong to the volunteer family. In the end, to achieve change the question is not an abstract one about the wonders of volunteering. It’s a question about whether each and every one of us has an experience of belonging and giving time voluntarily in some activity that makes sense to us.

George Thomson

George Thomson

Festivals are a time to let your hair down, to be creative and to be re-energised. They bring people and organisations together from different starting points but with an openness to create new volunteer relationships. It’s a bit like the Red Hot Chilli Pipers mixing tradition up with modern interpretations full of energy and fun. This week, for instance SVE will be running a workshop on re-inventing volunteer awards and here’s hoping there won’t be any more Unsung Hero accolades!

Our aim is to create a setting for people and organisations to collaborate, take risks, experiment and try new things. We also want to inspire debate and today’s festival kicks off with the Association of Volunteer Managers first ever event in Scotland, in association with Heritage Volunteer Organisers Scotland. The focus of the conference will be inclusion and how good volunteer management inspires great participation. There’s a real buzz in the heritage sector around volunteering which is great to witness.

This weekend, a business group in Stirling called Go Forth is running a highly imaginative arts event called Animating the Streets supported by young volunteers and we’ll also have our volunteering Family Day in the city’s King’s Park on Saturday 12pm - 4pm, which attracted over 500 people last year. Over 30 voluntary organisations and charities will be taking part, with lots of fun free activities from the kids from water walkers to bubble football. We’ll also be there will our eye-catching commUnity bubble tent which we road-tested at Go Live! at the Green. What we learned from that festival is that people want to volunteer along with their kids, partners and friends whereas the current system mainly seeks individuals. Our festival aims to be more imaginative about responding to what makes sense to groups and families, and this will be very interesting I think.

The festival will draw to a close on Tuesday 25 September with a Youth Volunteering Conference at Stirling’s Tolbooth, co-designed and co-delivered by young people. The event will bring together practitioners, young volunteers, policy makers and researchers to discuss the challenges and solutions to engaging young people as volunteers. We’re delighted to report that tickets for this event have completely sold out. We’re particularly looking forward to the Q & A session between our youth panel and Aileen Campbell, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government. The minister will also present Stirling Council with its official certificate of candidacy for European Capital City 2020 at the closing ceremony.

So why volunteering? Simply put, people are interested and willing to give time for others. Young and old, male and female, diverse, rich and poor. We’ve been missing them. As author Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand before being understood”.

Volunteering at its best is friendly, uplifting and rewarding and we want to listen to the actual volunteer experiences and feelings of people. Researcher James Davies is making the keynote speech at the youth conference and his PHD work in exploring the experience of young people in our most deprived areas, has revealed the value of belonging, being part of the team and making a meaningful difference to young people. We know the kind of environments that need to be created and moving away from tired language and mindsets about unpaid work will be part of the feelgood journey. A journey that has community spirit and community building at its heart.

George Thomson is chief executive of Volunteer Scotland

21st September 2018 by Pat Armstrong

Well said George.My own feelgood journey at https://www.acosvo.org.uk/blog/change-good-rest..and feels a very apt read on #worldpeaceday