This is one of my favourite images of last year: a self-organising group in Clapham that came together immediately after the riots.
The #riotcleanup movement emerged overnight, on the back of a simple #hastag - courtesy of good old twitter.
No ‘managers’. No forms to fill in. No long-term commitment required. Just people that turned up. Because they cared. Because they could. Brilliant.
And this image (for me at least) amply illustrates why we need to start thinking differently about volunteering: what it means to volunteer, why people do it, and most importantly: how volunteering needs to be ‘managed’ in the future; or not, as the case may be.
Human beings are complex. Volunteering means different things to different people. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. There are numerous drivers, incentives, ways of doing it.
Some do it to make friends. Some do it to develop skills. Some do it because they’re concerned about what’s happening in their communities and are no longer willing to leave fixing things to faceless bureaucrats, that frankly, might not be doing a good enough job.
It’s a broad church.
What strikes me about the above image is the look of pure, unadulterated joy in the faces of these participants. Black, white, young, old. This ‘project’ created a common bond, a shared purpose, a willingness to stand up for what they believed in: their community. But this wasn’t just about ‘giving’. As you can see, they look alive, connected, part of something. Friendships were made, laughs were had, and a deep feeling of purpose and meaning was thrown in as part of the bundle.
These are the feelings, experiences and memories that are priceless. You simply can’t buy them in the shops. With these types of benefits, its easy to see how this could become something that people do more regularly as an integral part of their social lives.
So the punchline from this quick post is this: As human beings, we have a long history of collaboration. Working as a collective, sharing, contributing to our community is nothing new. Indeed, its the very essence of being human. All we need to do is create the conditions for people to get involved, by helping people find opportunities that resonate, and fellow change-makers that want to help. Lose the forms. Stop trying to ‘manage’. Let people work it out themselves.
So to all you budding activists, hear this: Start thinking differently about finding the people you need to deliver your social mission. Become a black-belt at conveying your purpose; an expert in asking for help and leave the rest to the people that want to help.
Arguably, they have a much better idea of how they can fit into, and compliment your mission than you every will.
The future of volunteering won’t need managing as much. It will need curating. Big difference, in terms of the skills required, and fundamentally: the approach.
In our hyper-connected, networked world - delivering your social mission has never been easier. Its time to move on from the industrial age paradigm of control, hierarchy, structure - and move the agenda on. With over 10 million people on both Linkedin and Twitter in the UK, and over half the population on Facebook (32 million) - its time to start using these networks as a force for good.
We here at GoodPeople are planning to make that easier. After two years of development, we’re just about to push the button on www.goodpeople.co.uk - a network that will make it easier for people to use their skills and networks as a force for good. If that sounds like your cup of tea, come along and register and we’ll let you know when we launch.
So to all the nay-saying dyed in the wool charity types that think twitter is just for young people that share banal posts about their breakfast. Think again. Hopefully, this image amply serves to dispel that myth.
If you think its time that charities started using social media more effectively, or started to think differently about technology in general, a Cabinet Office review needs your help.