HOT TOPIC – APRIL / MAY 2010
During March of 2010, OzVPM were involved (along with People First Total Solutions), in inviting leading US trainer and volunteerism commentator Jayne Cravens to Australia, where she participated as a Faculty member with the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management, before conducting training workshops across four states
Jayne has worked in the volunteerism field with the United Nations in Germany, in Afghanistan and in her home country of the United States, and is regarded as an authority in a number of spheres of volunteer management – in particular the effective utilisation of the internet and technology in the effective engagement of volunteers
As has become our custom, OzVPM sat down with Jayne and asked her thoughts of her time’ down under’
OzVPM: As this was your first trip to Australia, how did the experience match up to your expectations?
I had anticipated that most of the traditional volunteer managers in Australia would be more receptive than people in the USA – or elsewhere – to my suggestions on ways to address emerging trends in volunteer management, based on conversations I’ve seen on OzVPM compared to other discussion groups for volunteer managers. That anticipation turned out to be correct! There was some resistance to some of the suggestions about emerging trends but, overwhelmingly, I heard people say again and again, “Yes, I *can* turn these challenges into opportunities. These trends could help me do even more!” My favorite comment was “Thank you. You really pushed me out of my comfort zone.” Another one I loved: “I’ve realized I need to change my attitude about some things!”
That was what I wanted to hear!
OzVPM: What were the main highlights for you?
The retreat was a highlight. I can’t pick my favorite group that I presented to, because each one was fantastic and challenging in its own way. The landscape of this country is breath-taking, and I loved being able to squeeze in some sites and culture amid all the presenting. I think I’ve presented to almost 200 people at this point!
OzVPM: A part of your trip included attending the Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management. What are your recollections of this experience?
The retreat was amazing. I haven’t been a part of anything like that anywhere else in the world. The level of conversation really is “advanced”, and it really is a “retreat”, not a “conference.” I may not have looked it at the end but, truly, I was quite energized! It set the tone for the rest of my presentations throughout the country.
The retreat is not an event that could happen just anywhere. I know of some countries where the level of conversation would have made people’s heads explode — it would have been too challenging! From the moment the conversations began, I knew this was something different. No one came with easy questions. I also felt a lot of great camaraderie. I’m really going to miss that when I leave. That’s not something I’ve found a lot among volunteer managers.
OzVPM: What are your general observations about volunteerism in Australia?
You’ve got a spirit of volunteerism that’s similar to the USA, an attitude of “let’s go help, let’s go make a difference.” While there seems, to me, to be a real need for greater diversity among volunteer ranks in Australia — people of different ages, from different economic levels, from different communities, etc. — there’s also a sincere interest in making this happen among most of you. You definitely have some pockets of strong resistance, but you also have some people that are hungry to try new things and reach new people.
Given your willingness to try new things, based on what I’ve encountered here, I’m shocked at how few folks are using the Internet to engage and involve volunteers, but impressed with how open most everyone has been to the idea. It will be interesting to see if things begin to ramp up in the next few years — I would really like to see Australia trail-blazing in using the Internet to recruit and involve volunteers.
I’ve not been around volunteer managers who had so much to share with each other during workshops until Australia. I really hope some of these workshop attendees will get on the OzVPM newsgroup and keep these discussions and debates going! There’s no reason to limit these great discussions and debates to formal meetings and presentations.
OzVPM: As many of our readers know, ‘online volunteering’ and the use of technology is a specialty area of yours. Do you have observations that you can share about how VMs in Australia are adopting these things in their work practices?
A lot of the lack of use of Internet here to support and involve volunteers seems to be based on the idea from volunteer managers themselves that they don’t know how to work with volunteers online, or the assumption that volunteers of a particular age or from a particular community aren’t using the Internet.
Luckily, each time someone would claim something like, “In our town, there’s not many people using the Internet”, someone else would say, “Actually, I’m in that town and I’m overwhelmed with emails from people who want to volunteer.” I hope I got the message through that, if you are managing volunteers well, if they feel supported and they are successful in their service, you are going to do great online. Those who have unresolved issues in their volunteer involvement or general problems in communication are the ones who will struggle using the Internet.
OzVPM: How does the volunteering scene ‘stack up’ against volunteerism practices you have witnessed at home or elsewhere?
You Aussies and New Zealanders don’t hold yourselves back as much as folks from some other countries — you don’t trot out interpretations of this or that law to say you can’t do something with volunteers. But you do have some “Big Buts” — statements that reflect attitudes that can sometimes hold you back from trying something new, like, “But I don’t have time” or “But I don’t think that group wants to volunteer.” I hope you will all push each other regarding your “Bit Buts.” And I hope you are all giggling as you read this.
I hope I’ve convinced at least some people that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission in a wide range of situations!
OzVPM: Are there any final thoughts or reflections you’d like to share?
This has been a fantastic experience. It’s my favorite training experience ever, and not just because of the scenery that greeted me on my days off. What happened inside the rooms was quite different than what I’m used to. I heard great questions. And I saw a lot of “ah ha” moments. I think some people found the excuse they were looking for to do things differently in their work with volunteers.
OK so here’s your chance to ask Jayne any other questions you’d like to know or to comment on the experiences you may have had when participating in any of Jayne’s Aussie training sessions recently. Press the ‘respond’ button below and lets hear what you think
Let’s hear what you think