Reconnected - Hunter Region social capital consultation
The Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP - Member for Fenner
Shadow Assistant Treasurer | Shadow Minister for Competition and Productivity
Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits | Shadow Minister for Trade In Services
Social capital conversations – Hunter Unions Building, Newcastle
On 16 September 2017, a group of charities from the Hunter region joined Labor's Sharon Claydon and Andrew Leigh to discuss successful strategies for building social capital and community engagement.
The small group conversations generated dozens of ideas and observations, some of which are set out below.
Please note that this list does not reflect Labor policy, but the ideas that were proposed by the charities and not-for-profits in attendance.
Engaging and enlisting volunteers
- People respond willingly to things they perceive as having an immediate impact on their community and to moments of crisis.
- Share agency and authority with volunteers – provide more board and committee opportunities for young people.
- To give volunteers an opportunity to use and develop existing skills, create job roles rather than stand-alone tasks.
- Provide proper support structures – ‘code of conduct’ and ‘risk management’ and skills checklists for incoming volunteers.
- Consider the interests of your intended collaborators – offer short commitments, food and a good experience and they will return and tell others. Make overtures to the kinds of people you expect would benefit from collaborating with you, rather than expecting them to come to you.
- With an increasingly sedentary and office-bound workforce, volunteering opportunities that combine physical activity with social good have extra appeal.
- Community projects, with concrete local goals, are good focal points for generating new involvement.
- Show how tasks and contributions are part of a project that is meaningful on a broader scale.
Culture of Community Building
- Use collective events (ie street festival and markets, career day) to anchor existing groups and create culture of volunteering and co-operation
- How to use volunteers to generate more volunteers (ie. run “friend raisers not fund raisers”)
- Promote the benefits of volunteering for an improved lifestyle – wellbeing and fulfilment.
- Culture and concept of volunteer sector could be refreshed or rebranded to encapsulate ideas of social collaboration, activism and community building and to recognise the contribution of people ‘giving back’ to their community and the benefits of social connection.
- Make a point of celebrating achievements of volunteers and the organisation.
- Be public – visible events showcasing work of the organisation, benefits for the community and the opportunities to be involved. Community stalls and one of market days to introduce people to opportunities without implied commitment.
- The administrative work around public liability requirements and insurance needs can limit the value of engaging volunteers.
- Short term volunteering among young people has numerous additional impediments – i.e. different insurance and duty of care / working with vulnerable people check
- Acknowledge and reward volunteer co-ordination – provide tools to enable co-ordinators to give structured training and experience to volunteers.
- Good volunteer managers, with appropriate training and skills, increase satisfaction and retention of volunteers and increase the capacity of charities. Generic modules and hubs for sharing information could assist for organisations that don’t have specific resources for volunteer management.
- Facilitate networking opportunities to bring organisations doing similar work together and to share systems knowledge across sectors.
- Government should find ways to facilitate access to in-kind admin services, structures and support. For example, corporate and business buy in – setting up staff volunteering days, with paid leave provided, either for specific skills or group labour
- Good outcomes require proper investment levels – but the valuation of returns is still vague. Organisations that can point to economic and social benefits will make a more compelling case for support
- The sector needs clear indication that governments are committed to the value of the social inclusion agendas in the not for profit sector.