February 16, 2014

The Power of Peer Support

Posted in Best Practice, Leading Volunteers, Professional Development tagged , , , at 2:55 am by Sue Hine

JohnLennon[1]Stand up the manager of volunteers who does not have a worry about volunteer recruitment, staff-volunteer relations, establishing a new volunteer role, training and equipment for volunteers, getting funding for recognition events, maintaining database records, writing reports, and making time to check out volunteer satisfaction.  OK – perhaps not everything at once, but maybe one or two that are fast turning into Problem Pumpkins.    You come slap-bang up against something related to policy or practice you have not thought about.  Like: you are all for diversity in recruiting volunteers, but are you open to all comers?  Or you encounter that curly organisational infection you wish would go away.  Like: how do I turn around the organisation’s view of volunteers as economic saviours for the organisation?

Oh dear, is there no-one to claim they are worry-free?  So you are all suffering sleepless nights, chewed-off fingernails, failing to give full attention to volunteers, missing important deadlines?  These options are not to be wished on anybody.  What to do?

When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.

Well, that’s not much help when you have to go find the recipe for making lemonade.  Better go find your local network of managers of volunteers, the peer support group you belong to or your favourite online group.  You ask for some answers, aka solutions.  Do not be surprised if people come back smartly to ask What is the lemon?

That’s the trick, you see, getting to look at the lemon on the outside and the inside, to smell that tangy citrus, to taste the acid of the juice on your tongue.  Your peers are asking questions, getting you to explain, get into detail, digging to find out why this thing is a lemon.  Stick with this process, because you will discover the eureka moment that reveals the recipe for making lemonade.   Now you can see how the solution to the problem was there all the time.

No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking.  (Voltaire)

Of course you have to frame the problem to fit with your circumstances.  It is not for other people to tell you what it’s like for you.  When that lemon fits the frame it’s amazing how clear the picture becomes: you can see what needs to happens, and all you need now is to work out how to get there.  You’ve got some ideas, but let’s go ask your peers about possible actions.

Caution: walk away if people start saying ‘If I were you I’d………’, or ‘What you need to do is………..’   Solutions have to fit with your scenario and your style, not according to other people’s quick-fixes.

A Trouble Shared is a Trouble Halved    

OK – a proverb is not always a truism. Extended metaphors might be useful illustrations of a process, but you still have to get down to doing something, to deal with the other half of the trouble.  Supportive peers will offer suggestions like ‘When I had a similar experience I found this helpful……….’  Someone else might be able to share written material, like a policy or a template.  Another person refers you to useful on-line resources.

Enough!  Time to return to your desk, to draw up the plan and plot the strategy to deal with this lemon once and for all.  Some lemons are larger than others and take time and constant resolve to get them to the done-and-dusted phase.  Some lemons need collective action, so your first step might be to find allies for the purpose.

When you report an outcome to the peer group you will also tell them what you have learned from this experience: No-one has to go it alone.

…………………

The quote comes from Lennon’s song: Watching the Wheels

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