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Dave Thomas, NCVS Volunteering Development Officer

Vision for Volunteering – What does it mean for us?

Dave Thomas, Volunteering Development Officer at NCVS writes... 

From my own involvement in this process, I am fairly confident that this is not another top-down attempt to regulate volunteering.

I was one of more than 350 people involved and Nottingham CVS was one of more than 300 organisations that attended some of the 14 workshops. I was also interviewed as part of the consultation. (I even have a namecheck on the Vision for Volunteering website).


Where did it come from?

The process to develop the vision has been led by five national organisations:

  • The Association of Volunteer Managers
  • Sport England
  • National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA)
  • National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
  • Volunteering Matters

There were seven discussion strands that looked at the impact on volunteering – and the impact of volunteers on:

  • Climate emergency
  • Employment and skills
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Healthy ageing
  • Resilient communities
  • Sports and physical activity
  • Young people leading change


Ambitious Targets

From this work, the Vision for Volunteering suggests ambitious targets for all of us to try to achieve in the next ten years

1. Awareness and Appreciation

  • Volunteering is something we all do across the different settings and stages of our lives. It has equal validity alongside public and private endeavours, and we are proud to talk about it.
  • Organisations involving volunteers understand how and when volunteers want to engage.
  • Volunteer voices are embedded in the leadership and design of volunteering initiatives, driving how they are involved.
  • Volunteering is appreciated by individuals, communities, organisations and policy makers as helping to enrich lives and enliven communities.t
  • The appreciation and celebration of volunteering is supported by common metrics for measuring volunteering which have been adopted by central and local government, and organisations involving volunteers.

2. Power

  • Everyone can engage within their community, identifying what matters to them and building the future they want to see
  • People supporting volunteers work alongside them as equals, channelling their interests and passions and supporting them to make change
  • First-hand experience is valued and the focus is on people’s ability to make change, whatever their role.People are supported to move between roles - volunteering, paid work and accessing services
  • Decisions are made by those best placed to make them, not based on a hierarchy
  • We recognise who is missing in our volunteering spaces and have the confidence and ability to rectify this and redistribute power
  • People working alongside volunteers are accountable to communities as well as to government or funders. Our focus is on building equitable relationships and deep connections.
  • Emerging social movements, causes and campaigns are supported and recognised within a wider movement for change. They work alongside and positively disrupt more established organisations. Larger or better resourced organisations support and enable groups with fewer resources.  

3. Equity and Inclusion

  • We have built and continue to foster cultures that are inclusive of all who want to give their time, making sure volunteering can fit with people’s identity, background and life experience
  • By listening to people who experience exclusion from volunteering, organisations and groups remove barriers and provide additional support, to ensure that everyone who wants to can volunteer
  • We encourage people to raise concerns about discrimination or inequity, welcome it as an opportunity to improve, and effectively address issues
  • Those in powerful leadership and governance roles look and sound like the communities they serve, which increases legitimacy and trust
  • We consider who has relationships with those who are marginalised and collaborate with others to make sure everyone is included
  • Good data on volunteering demographics is consistently captured, shared and used to drive change
  • Those who support volunteers have the resources, networks, and time to learn and adapt in order to be more inclusive. We share our good practice.

4. Collaboration

  • Organisations support and champion communities to drive their own collaborative activity and don’t feel the need to ‘own’ activity
  • Volunteers play an essential role in building seamless collaborations within and across all sectors
  • Collaboration nurtures and supports new people and organisations to engage in new projects
  • Moving between organisations and projects is normal and welcome – sharing of people, talent and connections is how we all work
  • We tackle the barriers that organisations can put up – we recruit, train and work with volunteers jointly wherever we can
  • Within an organisation or a movement, volunteers and paid staff collaborate well together - helping each other, learning from each other and recognising the value one another brings.

5. Experimentation

  • Experimentation is not reserved for times of crisis, but is incorporated into the way volunteering works day-to-day
  • Communities are supported to experiment and innovate to develop their own solutions
  • Those that create an enabling environment for volunteering - leaders, funders, trustees and government at all levels - support a culture of experimentation. This means that communities and organisations are trusted to design projects as they see fit, learn and adapt
  • Relationships are built on trust. We avoid overly bureaucratic systems, instead balancing change and flexibility with the need to protect people’s safety and wellbeing at all times
  • We embrace a genuine learning culture – seeking out and listening to those with expertise, wherever this lies, building on what works well, learning when things go wrong, and staying curious
  • We learn from and move on from approaches that are not working.
  • We become less fearful of being seen to ‘fail’.


Is this just a utopian vision?

In ten years, we might look back and find that the Vision for Volunteering was no more than a pipe-dream. However, it’s a dream that is already shared by a lot of Leaders of Volunteers in local as well as national organisations. If more of us are able to see that the Vision presents opportunities as well as challenges, it will be easier to meet and overcome those challenges.

Certainly, at least one of these challenges is AVM, NAVCA and NCVO to take up at a national level with government, but the majority of them involve us thinking about how we improve our own volunteer programmes at a local level.

But that’s not going to be difficult for us. We’ve survived, adapted and changed volunteering beyond recognition over the past couple of years and very few Leaders of Volunteers are telling me that they want to go back to exactly how things were before Covid.

I know I’ll want to write more about the Vision over the coming months, so if you’d like me focus on one or two of these challenges, please let me know. Also, I’d love to have your feedback about how you feel about these challenges. Please let me know at davet@nottinghamcvs.co.uk or call me on 07564 040767

A long time ago, a wise volunteering guru told me that there is only one thing that is constant. That is change itself.


Date Posted: 
Wednesday, 27 July, 2022

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