February 13, 2011

Mapping the Environment

Posted in A Bigger Picture at 4:08 am by Sue Hine

I’ve been sticking my head above the parapet lately, having a look at the wider world.  The view from the top is pretty amazing, and it’s not just seeing the range of organisations out there that engage with volunteers. 

When I start looking at the bigger picture I get way beyond the mission focus of my organisation.  The big picture is broad spectrum, reaching beyond community garden endeavours in my local suburb and further than the grunt of a national campaign on a political cause.

I am learning about Community Development.  It is a broad-band exercise, a collective approach to social change.  Community development might be political or economic, social or environmental, and everything in between. 

Descriptions of Community Development include some really important key words:

  • Participation
  • Capacity building
  • Social capital formation
  • Mobilisation
  • Sustainability
  • Empowerment
  • Networking
  • Collaboration

Powerful stuff, and when you add in ‘social innovation’ and ‘social entrepreneurialism’ you can get a picture of the active dynamism that is ‘community development’. 

That is when I begin to see that Managers of Volunteers are really practitioners of Community Development.  They are agents of social change.

Think about it:

  • You mobilise  volunteers to participate in your organisation;
  • The volunteers enhance and build your organisation’s capacity to deliver services;
  • You are able to build social capital  for your organisation, drawing on volunteer enthusiasm and expertise; and
  • You do not achieve any of this without establishing networks in local and/or national communities;
  • And you don’t get anywhere without collaborating with others on projects and programmes;
  • Engaging volunteers in your organisation mobilises communities of interest, and empowers individuals to become more than they thought possible;
  • All of which contributes to make your organisation sustainable.

I am talking about civil society here, that social cohesion, association and democracy and ‘communal health’ that acts as a kind of glue for humanity.  It has worked for people in Egypt this weekend, and it works every day in large and small organisations under the leadership of a manager of volunteers.

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