Groop Conference 2019 New Approaches to Volunteering – Disrupt Innovate Change

10th December 2019

Alexandra Bond

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New Approaches to Volunteering

Disrupt Innovate Change

Groop Conference – November 21st 2019

Groop has a vision that everyone belongs, is inspired to take part and able to embrace life’s opportunities. Our mission is to strengthen, secure and connect groups for a greater society.

Volunteers, people who want to help in a variety of ways, are key to this.

‘Volunteering is positively linked with mental well-being, as well as, individual and community development’ Active Lives Survey 2018

The team at Groop want to drive change and encourage more people to get involved and volunteer. We all volunteer, we understand volunteering and we are constantly learning more from our customers about volunteering.

We all need inspiration at times so we planned our volunteering conference New Approaches to Volunteering –  Disrupt Innovate Change on the 21st November 2019 to provide an opportunity for people who are interested in volunteering, opening those opportunities up to the widest group of people possible, reaching across all communities and providing opportunities in new, diverse and innovative ways. Our aim was to bring together people who would share and learn from their volunteering experiences;  and to start a conversation about the future of volunteering.

“I really enjoyed the big variety of presentations, from Sports, to older people, young people and crime.It is not always easy to get such a wide range of speakers and all of them with very relevant content.” Nuria de Miguel. Independent Age

Our Speakers

We invited speakers of all ages and backgrounds, across sectors and at all levels of involvement in volunteering to share their experiences and help start a conversation that was chaired expertly on the day Andy Reed OBE of Saje Impact and The Sports Think Tank.

Sally Higham, CEO, Groop talked about how volunteering can open up life chances, improve your own health and well-being and build opportunities for yourself and others – ultimately creating your own personal eco-system around your work and your personal life.

“Some great stories coming out from everyone here about the beginning of their #MyStrengthCurve. Sally Higham has got people thinking about where it all began….”

Sally introduced her MyStrengthCurve© and encouraged others to reflect on their own volunteering journeys. Jenny Betteridge, Strategic Lead Volunteering, Sport England asked the question – Does the volunteering that supports our communities, reflect our communities?  She talked about the outcomes & impact of a more diverse volunteer-force, demonstrating that yes ‘someone like me’ does volunteer.

Jacqueline Sebire, Assistant Chief Constable, Bedfordshire Police outlined the importance of partnerships with the voluntary sector and communities to support young people at risk of involvement in violent crime and gangs.

“The speakers were excellent. Especially the ‘young volunteers’ section which challenged us to innovate, and talked in real and practical terms. Really good we had the police there and Sport England.”Alex Beaumont. LTA

Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteers, Royal Voluntary Service introduced RVS’s recent research report – Kickstarting a Volunteer Revolution.

“I enjoyed the morning sessions; the variety of speakers and sectors. The RVS session was particularly helpful with the development of our volunteer strategy and the younger panel members very impressive.”

Cormac Whelan, Programmes Manager, Positive Youth Foundation highlighted  how social action is the key to youth empowerment.

James Ogundare, Youth Advisory Group, Positive Youth Foundation talked about his experience as a young volunteer and how he gained employability skills.

Maria Imran, Trustee, Creative Youth Network read out her poem with a call to action for organisations who are seeking volunteers to reach out to young people.

“19 years old – Maria Imran @Creative_Youth wow! So much confidence, inspiration, commitment and leadership! Powerful presentation welcomed by all.”

Katie Taylor, Partnerships Executive, Groop spoke about her personal loneliness and how volunteering benefited her as much as the people she supports.

‘It started with – do you want a hand’ @GroopKatie on her micro-volunteering and helping Nina, her 88 year old friend.

Tony Jameson-Allen, Co-Founder and Director at Sporting Memories Network CiC and the Sporting Memories Foundation discussed how to recruit, train and retain volunteers.

Bridget Craigen, Youth Work Commissioner (QA and Learning) and Vicky Young, Senior Youth and Community Commissioner, Essex County Council shared their journey of moving from direct delivery of youth work  to building capacity in communities; and working with volunteers to support 300 youth clubs and projects; and how young volunteers are at the heart of all their work, from service design to delivery.

Tris Lumley, Director of Innovation and Development, NPC challenged the conference to consider if we have to put informal volunteering into structures; and to celebrate the ‘being human’ part of volunteering and drive up from the bottom and educate the top.

“For volunteering as a topic to be given such a tremendous platform for debate, discussion, engagement and enrichment speaks volumes to importance all those in the sector truly believe it holds for the charity and public sectors but also society at large. To gather so many industry professionals together for such inspiring, informative and enlightening sharing of best practice, experience, common challenges and suggested solutions was a real privilege to be a part of. The energy, enthusiasm and atmosphere in the room definitely spoke to the new era volunteering is beginning to merge in to and I truly felt like between us we perhaps began a bit of a social movement to disrupt, innovate and change the face of volunteering for the future.” Rebecca Poppleton. Senior Volunteer Acquisition Manager. Cancer Research UK

Over the course of the day, the conference speakers and delegates through intuitive questions and feedback considered a range of issues and questions.

There are a number of studies that indicate that in the region of 50% of the UK population volunteer at any one time, and also that most people in the UK volunteer at some point in their lives. Studies also show that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to volunteer and that some volunteer teams do not reflect the communities they serve culturally or ethnically.

Rebecca Kennelly, RVS, spoke about how 56% of people from the lowest socio-economic groups are not volunteering but that by making the offer more flexible, more people across all backgrounds may be able to get involved.

“How can we make volunteering more accessible?” Director of Volunteering for the @RoyalVolService Rebecca Kennelly, spoke to our audience at the #GroopConference2019 and wants to start a conversation so we can continue to celebrate the joy of #volunteering

Organisations could start thinking about how they can meet the needs and interests of all the individuals who are interested in volunteering, ensuring they are able to offer their help at times and in ways they are able to; they may want to provide different things to different organisations and not just commit to one organisation or one form of volunteering.

Recruitment processes could be changed to ask people if they have a special skill or something that they love to do that they would like to offer or share, rather than just continuing to advertise roles or ask for long term commitment,

Organisations may be putting off volunteers by having on-boarding processes that take too long or feel too complicated and could consider creating a new infrastructure that offers individuals the opportunity to identify volunteering tasks which match their availability and skill set, without the need to become affiliated to an organisation – most people, if asked, will offer to help or volunteer!

“Stop thinking about the roles you need as an organisation – think about the people and their talent and how you can use it. How your organisation can change the process.” Rebecca Kennelly, RVS.

By introducing new and innovative ways of volunteering, i.e. micro, online, task-based and virtual volunteering, organisations can provide volunteering opportunities that can fit into people’s lives.

Targeted and skill-based and short-term support can often be more effective than traditional volunteering and may be more attractive to potential volunteers as it takes less time than a weekly commitment.

“It is so important to offer both targeted and open community opportunities through partnerships, using youth voice and volunteering as a way to tackle some of societies biggest challenges.”  Helen Killingley. Trustee Access Sport. Spirit of 2012

Bridget Craigen, Essex County Council outlined the importance of Listening and working in partnership with volunteers, young and old, to make sustainable clubs in the communities.” She explained the importance of involving young people “At Essex Youth Service we empower our young people – they are at the heart of all our work, from service design to delivery. They are part of the commissioning process within SEND, volunteering and schools ensuring sustainable social action.”

Speakers talked about the importance of retaining volunteers as well as recruiting new ones.

‘It is no surprise that the initial gloss derived from volunteering begins to wear off after time,

but organisations should use this insight to emphasise the personal benefits to be gained

from volunteering. Highlighting these benefits even more than currently might help to attract

more people for the first time, or those who had volunteered at some point in the past but have

since given up.’ Kickstarting a Volunteer Revolution – Royal Voluntary Service 2019

Tony Jameson-Allen outlined how Sporting Memories Network CiC provide opportunities for volunteers to get involved in research and measuring impact as well as/or volunteering for regular weekly commitments.

Positive Youth Foundation Tips for youth empowerment through volunteering.

✔️ make it FUN

✔️ Show that you genuinely care about your #volunteers

✔️ Ensure your volunteers are celebrated & #valued

Your volunteers will stay with you for longer.

Volunteers may want to move between roles and organisations when their lives change. It is important to consider how we keep the 51% of young people who volunteer engaged as they start full-time work and start having young families of their own – they will need volunteering roles or tasks that can fit into their increasingly busy lives and diverse lifestyles.

“We would love to see more of this style conference – it felt quite dynamic. Always interesting to hear about engaging BAME, lower socio-economic and any approaches from ‘risk takers’.”

Growing the diversity of people who volunteer was a core element of the conference, some organisations may not be addressing diversity of volunteers positively. Speakers and delegates encouraged organisations to consider different ways of reaching out, including setting up targeted programmes to enable people from all communities and socio-economic backgrounds to get involved, so that they can ensure their volunteers reflect the communities they serve.

Other useful links

Community Works – Diversity and Volunteering

NCVO – making volunteering more diverse

There was an overall message throughout the conference about the benefits of volunteering to peoples’ well-being. With loneliness impacting on lots of young peoples’ lives, often accentuated by the ‘great times’ other people are sharing on social media, volunteering can be a great way for young people to meet new people, learn new skills and overcome loneliness.

Maria crediting @Creative_Youth for the opportunities and the trust that has shaped her journey #mystrengthcurve

Katie, Partnerships Executive at Groop, and Maria, Trustee at Creative Youth Network, spoke about how young people want to help but often don’t know where to start, and that charities and community groups are not reaching out to them effectively.

Millennials, leaders of the future. Such humbling words from people so young. Katie @GroopLtd sharing her story of supporting her local community and that volunteering is infectious! “Smile and you will make 5 more people smile.”

Organisations need to find ways of letting young people know about the volunteering opportunities out there and ask them to help. For example, why not recruit a young volunteer to manage your social media and get requests out to young people across a range of social media channels. Watch Maria’s inspiring and powerful poem here.

Cormac and James from Positive Youth Foundation spoke about ensuring the volunteering opportunities provided are enjoyable and fun as well as meaningful, the importance of celebrating successes for young people and providing the chance to gain important employability skills.

James Ogundare – @positiveyouth96 talks how to create an attractive offer to volunteers – make it fun. A genuine experience – allowing volunteers to develop personally and make a difference. 

Tony Jameson-Allen talked us through the benefits of sport – keeping physical active, remaining cognitively stimulated and staying connected. One of the ways to do this is through volunteering.

Tony Jameson-Allen shares the sobering truth regards people living with dementia and the efforts from @SportsMemNet to support those in need. This can only be achieved with the great work of volunteers.

As well as the ‘feel-good factor’, we should reflect upon what organisations can provide that offer volunteers some skill development opportunities and other inputs that can enhance career opportunities and career progression.

Existing volunteers can act as mentors to support new volunteers – from younger age groups and across all communities and income levels.

‘It’s all about good role models’ Dr Jacqueline Sebire, Jenny Betteridge and Sally Higham discussed how to create opportunities and ensure volunteers are supported by peers and mentors.

In a rapidly changing world with technology at our fingertips, organisations can access technology to pro-actively communicate with and motivate volunteers, providing them with information and feedback about the impact their skills, knowledge, experience and time are making individually and as part of a wider team.

The key to solving violence is our communities. Dr Jacqueline Sebire can arrest the perpetrators but she can’t stop them reoffending- that is where we (the volunteers and the community) step in…

Technology is a by-product of what Groop is about – the tools provided by Groop can support you in the delivery of your volunteering strategy and the insights gained from the conference can provide you with practical things that you can do to move your strategy into action.

“Thank you for a thought-provoking day. Sometimes you worry about investing time and money in coming to a conference because it may not meet your needs but this was spot on.” Natasha Banke. Hull & East Yorkshire Children’s University

“Thoroughly enjoyed the Groop conference, it had a very unique feel compared to other volunteer conferences I’ve attended.” Dan Roberts. Greater Sports

“It was such a good day, avoided so many traps of one day conferences – the diversity of sub-themes around the headline made it feel vibrant and fast-paced.” Adrian Stockman. Sport and Recreation Alliance

Join us at our next conference in 2020 to continue the conversation… date to be announced.