Dave Thomas from Nottingham Volunteer Centre talks about his journey with the Vision for Volunteering. He discusses how he first heard about the Vision, what he's done locally in response and what impact its had on his and the Volunteer Centre's work.

OK, there we are. So we're being recorded now, Um, that's on screen, so Yeah, no problem. Perfect. Great

So thank you, Dave, for joining me. We're here today to talk about the visual for volunteering and how you've been working with it over the last, uh, year or so. So can you just start by telling me how you became involved with the vision for volunteering to begin with? I think I first spotted it in a one of the national organisations E bulletins, things that come around regularly, which was kind of floating the idea of something like a sort of a national volunteering strategy and that, I think, turned into vision for volunteering

And right back in the early days, there were a few, uh, meetings and discussions, um, around vision. But at the same time, there was consultation going on about things like the volunteer centre quality accreditation. And so I think in my mind, I probably said the same sort of things in various meetings which, um I can see now are reflected in the themes that have come out within the vision and I I I'm very positive about the vision

Um, I don't think there's anything particularly new. Although my my cynicism in the early stages was Oh, yes, another national initiative being foisted on us poor local peasants. Um, but it's not, um and certainly from the experience here in Nottingham

Um, the the grassroots element of it, I think, is as important, if not more important than the the stuff that's actually sort of kind of sitting there on the website and in the in the information that we're discussing. Lovely. So yeah

So you found that the, um the vision was kind of aligning with what you were doing then once. Yeah. Go on

Yeah. So, once you, um, once you had the vision once the vision had been kind of published, what did you then do in response to that vision? We, uh, had a couple of discussions in the early stages in our leaders of Volunteers Network. Um, it's quite a big network here in Nottingham

We've got sort of very active participation from a whole range of different types of organisations. And, um, perhaps again, me being a little bit cynical decided that I didn't really want discussions about it to turn into Is it a good idea and what should have been in it and what it what's in it? That shouldn't be. So

We approached it relentlessly. Positively, Um, which sort of fitted in with my own view, anyway? And so we went to the Leaders of Volunteers Network and said, Here it is. It's got a whole pile of themes

Let's look at the one at a time the network agreed to that. And so subsequently we've taken one for each of the subsequent network meetings, and we've still got one to do. The very last one is still outstanding with us

Um, but for the others, we've had, um, small group discussions, um, with feedback. And then there's been large group discussions, but the focus has very much been on. What does this mean for us here in Nottingham? And so what can we go? What can we do with the communities that we work with? You know, the communities of interest, the demographic, um, communities, you know, the outer states, places like this

So how do we make those themes relevant to organisations and people here in Nottingham and the creative ideas and, um, the you know, the discussions that we've had have been, well, fantastic. I've been really, really pleased with the positive way that people have taken them on board. And, you know, I think almost everything we ever do There's an element, some in there of diversity and equality isn't there

And the discussion that we had around that at least of volunteers network, um, we had to overrun because it was there was so much feedback coming back from the breakout groups that, um the, um the bit that we planned for the sort of second half of that meeting had to be cut back. And so that that shows you the level of the kind of enthusiasm for, um for taking what I think is very much a a strategy. And OK, I'm not convinced it will ever actually be fully delivered, as it says on the page

But I'm hoping it will be an ongoing aspiration that we can continue to work towards. And I think all of those you know, in 10 years time we will. Statements are things that we will continue to work towards

Um, I don't think I'll see them to see them finally achieved. I'd like to think they would be But in my incredibly advanced age, I may well be retired within 10 years. But it's all about those kind of little changes and and movements towards that

That greater goal? Yes, absolutely. So I think it's it's direction of travel rather than arrival. That, I think, is probably going to be most valuable to us here in Nottingham

Um, and in fact, it's not just being discussed at leaders of Volunteers Network. It's feeding through into my own work. And, um, I was I deliver training, um, about five different training courses that we do for leaders of volunteers

Um, and and because of the discussions that we've had around vision for volunteering, I've rebranded the one that was called Be a better leader of volunteers into advanced volunteer leadership. And so that is looking at things for people who are perhaps more experienced. And so that is going to be more discussion based

But I've also developed a new course around impact really around the question of what difference do your volunteers make? And again, that's something which I've long thought is, um should be sort of built into every volunteering programme, every volunteer role description, but so often that they start off with the tasks now because the vision doesn't come up volunteering from what are the tasks involved in this? You know that. OK, the task may well be washing up, sweeping the floor and putting the chairs out. But the difference

You know, the reason for doing that is to support the vulnerable people who are coming along to this whatever session and looking at it that way around. And I think and so building in some training around impact and and And that will very much draw on those vision for volunteering themes, Um, using resources from all over the place. Actually, I've got, um, some material I've got from Australian Association of Volunteer Managers That's coming into that course

And I've got stuff from the private sector as well. Um, from C, IP, D and places like that. And so I think that, um, again that the the vision for volunteering, I think has encouraged us perhaps to think a little bit more broadly than just recruiting volunteers and asking the question to do what and rather than to do what? What to make, what difference And then looking at how we sustain them as well

And that really is very much fitting in with the volunteer centres core functions as well as from certainly the experience and the discussions. You've had pretty, well every leader of volunteers aspirations for their own volunteer programme. Because, after all, if you can recruit, recruit, induct and train, a volunteer who lasts for 30 years is far better than having 30 that last one year age

Yeah, I love that. OK, well, that discussion around kind of impact kind of segues nicely into my my final question. Um, which is what? What is what is the impact that you've seen of your work with the Bishop of volunteering on the work of your volunteer centre on your kind of day to day work? One of the things about impact for me is it's not about numbers, but I must mention numbers very briefly that I think nationally, there's been a lot of publicity about the disappearing volunteers and the reasons for it, you know, Post covid lockdown being, uh, being lifted

So people coming off furlough, um but also I think the changes that people are looking for within volunteering and so in terms of impact I think that and we have our num sorry. In terms of numbers, our numbers have held up in Nottingham perhaps better, slightly better than the national average. And OK, we have seen falls in numbers year on year, but not as bad

Now I think the impact of that is that volunteering in Nottingham is offering the volunteers something that's attractive, something that they want to do. They see them that, whatever their motivation is is able to be met now, hopefully as the volunteer centre as a network of leaders of volunteers, we're kind of somewhere near the front of that. But it's, I think, of a movement right across the sector, some part sometimes supported, sort of through national initiatives, live vision for volunteering, and sometimes it's not really, um, and I could be very rude about national health responders in the RVS at this point, but I won't, um that hasn't been a particularly effective project in this area

But the mutual aid has and it's Inc incredible how the traditional volunteer centres the mutual aid groups that grew during the pandemic don't really fit, but you can slot them straight into vision for volunteering. They're there They work, you know, And it's about a volunteers identifying needs for themselves. And so, you know, we've long used phrases like putting the volunteer at the centre

Well, no, we can't because the service user for most organisations has to be at the centre. But, uh, recognising that volunteers themselves have got far, far more to offer than simply being that sort of the canon canon fodder for the tasks that staff recognise that need doing. And so volunteer, led and volunteer sort of developed, um volunteering, I think, is going to become increasingly important

And so as an impact of vision for volunteering, I think that's quite a big one. I'm on mute. Sorry

I was just saying that That's really, really great to hear lots of really, really good stuff. Um, thank you so much for your time. It's an absolute pleasure

And thank you very much indeed. For for your time and for for asking me and yeah, let's hope you get get some more. Are most of them coming out positive

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