Karen's story about the Vision for Volunteering

So we're recording. Hi, Karen. Um, thank you for your time this morning. Just wondered if you could start by introducing yourself, please

Hi, I'm Karen Watson, and I work at Volunteer Centre Newcastle. And for my sins, I've been doing it for 18 years. It's a long time

It is. And it's been many a change over the years. Yeah, I bet

I bet. Um, so if you could tell me just a little bit about how you've been involved in vision for volunteering so far. OK, so I'm employed by volunteering matters so very early on in the vision conception

Volunteering matters has been a partner around the table and the designated person in volunteering matters I linked up with as soon as I started reading about the vision. And so I've been getting information about developments from the named person at volunteer matters, and I've been using my networks to keep the groups registered at the volunteer centre informed What is the vision? How can we look at the vision as a community? And from that we've developed information sessions, um, and run some training sessions to coordinators about what the vision is and how it can support them to look at good practise in their everyday work small steps. But the first step is what is the vision and and making them aware that there is a vision? Yeah, yeah, which is the It's the first step, isn't it? Because, you know, volunteer coordinators aren't signed up for every newsletter or they're not signed up for national news

And so our role is to make sure if something's happening that involves volunteers or volunteering that we make sure that the sector is informed. Yeah, yeah. Um, you were also kind enough to support our workshop in Newcastle as well over the summer

And it was fantastic. Yeah, I think it's really important that the vision has a local face, someone that people can continue the conversation with, and it's not seen just as a theory. It's an actual

It's an actual thing we have to put into practise in our everyday stuff. So we've supported the vision staff as much as possible in terms of always informing people when there's an event, um, always making sure that we can attend, if possible, not to do anything other than be there for the groups that we work with and taking names of people who might be interested in more in depth. And that's why when we did our big Volunteering Network event, which is the biggest we've ever had, we asked you to come along and talk about it

And in our recent training needs analysis, we asked people what they wanted to know about in 2024 and the vision was in the top four. That's great. So that's something that I'm hoping that rather than me do it

I'm not an expert. What I'll do is I'll contact Well, I'll contact you or the team and say, Look, this is a request. When you're doing the Newcastle dates, I'll start to advertise them as early as possible so people can clear space in their diary

And if not, is there possible for the team to come and do a dedicated session? Yeah, so for me, that's how I can use my networks most effectively to keep the groups informed about all the changes. So the new animation, which is fantastic, I know Well, I watched it and I sent it to a few people yesterday, and, um, I'm going to be putting it on social media today, and I'm gonna be sending it in the next newsletter as the latest update. It is a nice animation, and it hopefully just kind of brings things to life a little bit

It is. It is a really, really nice animation, and I think it explains things really clearly. But very at a very gentle level

Yeah, it's wide open for interpretation, isn't it? So no, I was just saying It's really good as a refresher for people who have heard about it, but forgotten about it because you do. But it's also a really good introduction to the vision with the hope. So it's a cover all for everybody

It doesn't matter whether you know about it or not. I enjoyed it. Yeah, that's good to hear

So thinking about next year, um, and beyond potentially. But next year, what would you like to see? So when you think about the coordinators that you've chatted with, or perhaps on a personal level, what what would you like to see come next? Um, provision for volunteering, I think the events having the events in Newcastle, trying to do some dedicated sessions for people who can't get to the events whether that be as, uh, coordinators forum that we open up and do across all the volunteer centres in the town and we region because we're all getting funded by the North of town Combined authority on the UK Prosperity Fund to, um, look at how we give power to communities. And I think for me, that's the biggest challenge for coordinators to understand because we're funded to deliver in communities

But that doesn't necessarily mean that the communities have been consulted about what we're delivering. Yeah, it's Yeah, it's a really important conversation, isn't it? And I think people get their heads around a lot of the other concepts. But power and giving power is always a big challenge

Yeah, it's a good one, isn't it? You know, you know a lot of the engagement work we've done this year. That's definitely top of the list when it comes to just response. And, you know, um, thinking about what that means to people because it is

It's a challenging topic, isn't it? But it's a really important one. So for me, you know, Newcastle City Council are very clear that they want an asset based community development Focus. Which again is us as connectors, asking the community what they want

Yeah, but the big challenge is having the capacity to respond to that. OK, because there's no point in doing a consultation if you're not then supporting the change. So we have to be able to say to people in power in the voluntary sector will this group want to change their local environment by doing a litter pick? Because the park has got broken glass in it

Where do they get the equipment now? Newcastle City Council is great because they'll lend you litter pickers and arrange for rubbish pickups. But what about ideas about people wanting to do planting? Or they want to take over an abandoned community centre because they really miss it as a hub, having the capacity to do that level of governance support, Having us having the knowledge of how to do that is a challenge. So for me, power is the thing that I always get stuck on myself about how we best yeah, release power and support empowerment

Yeah, it's really interesting stuff. Um, yeah, really, really helpful. We could have a whole of that conversation about that I think exactly, and I think that that's for me

Sometimes that's what we almost need to do is break down the components. So you've got the vision. But sometimes the vision is overwhelming for people's brains about how they might have to change

So it's almost like having an have an introduction to the vision, but then follow that through. But let's look at what this means and have those intense focus groups because the focus groups, when you stand in the rooms and watch the events and you see people you've never met before really getting into conversations, there's not sometimes enough time to really bite into what that means. Mhm

Yeah, a bit more depth, A bit more time to actually say right out of today, one action that everybody wants to agree that they're going to try, whether it be a discussion with your manager, whether it be changing something and send yourself a letter. So in three months, when you come back to the next session, you know if you've done it, yeah, I like that idea. Yeah, you know, I mean, I know it's old school, but for me, sometimes it's that networking that actually is what you get out of the event

And if you do hear that, yeah, and if you can find a group in the area, the same as you, that you could perhaps work on something together with the community and join forces because for me, that's what the vision is about. It's not working in silo. It's saying, like we are all in this area

We're all in the West end of Newcastle. How can we come together to better help our communities understand that they can take the lead? Yeah, it's really, really important. And again, I think we hear a lot, and I think we know that, you know, wherever we move with the vision, that place is just so important

Um, thank you, Karen. We could talk all day about this. So maybe we need another

Maybe maybe we need another chat in. Is there anything else you would like to reflect on or request or kind of mention around vision for volunteering? No, I think it's really important to keep up the momentum. Yeah, for me, it's having that because there's different people at every event

Hm. So having regular events having that capacity to do regular sessions. Whether that be, you know, you have a a training thing that we can use or slides that we can use when we're delivering training and talking about the vision, that's OK with you

I. I did a training session, I think, before your team was recruited, when the vision was still a vision, not with staff. Um, and people really liked it

They really enjoyed it. But I was a bit like I've written this of what I've read. What if the discussions are going the wrong way? So just even if it was the volunteer centre coordinators being empowered? And that's why I like your community champions role? Mhm

Because I think if people actually felt empowered and trained to know that what they were saying about the vision is, OK, then you would have more faces popping it into conversations. Yeah, and so maybe people feeling a bit more sort of well equipped to have those I think it's It's for me. It's like, Oh, am I saying the right thing about the you know that what I mean

It's like any volunteer good practise training. I always if I design something I always run past someone else and take on board what they've said or if they've asked me a question about what I mean so that I'm on the right track. So I like the champions

I like that you're recruiting across the sector and it'd be good if you had a champion in each area that that was connected to the volunteer centre. So they could. When they're out there and they're meeting a group, they can say, Oh, the volunteer centre can help you with this and then they can Do you know what I mean? So that the champions know who we are, and we know who the champions are

That's a really good point, OK noted. Thank you, Karen. That's OK

You know me, I. I like to talk about things that are gonna make an impact. And I think the vision is the biggest thing that we've had both on the horizon to start with

But now it's got a body. It's not just a third, there's a body, there's a team behind it. And I think that what's been achieved is amazing

And it's looking forward to how that develops over the coming years. Yeah, Brilliant. Thank you, Karen

I'm gonna stop recording now. Thank you.

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