About 6 months ago, I was trying to develop curriculum for a “High Impact Volunteer Program”- the program was to offer the volunteer leaders not just a sneak-peek but a deep-dive on developing a volunteering program which is self sustained, motivated, a regular ongoing engagement which pulls people into it and creates ripples of change. Through its approach, it will generate more and more volunteers every year who will take the legacy of previous years and continue to develop and enhance it to create transformation in their own community.
While we continue to get volunteer leader’s inputs, here it was equally important to have a discussion with the volunteers community at large to include their insights and co-create the model with them. A volunteer ‘Navjot Multani’ from a large Indian conglomerate helped me put together a framework to collect some facts from the volunteers. The framework included the experience of volunteers, sense of gratitude and personal fulfillment, experience to gaining new skills and knowledge, direct correlation with career progression, his experience towards continuing to being engaged with volunteering in future and his insights on what transformation he brought about and the transformation he felt in himself.
Another volunteer from Pune, helped me run it by some volunteers and volunteer groups. A conclusive brain-storming among some volunteers, volunteer leads and me took place where 11 of us were of a common opinion i.e. the performance of a volunteering program becomes compromised when it becomes transactional; transactional here implies to giving of one’s time, knowledge, social network, expertise, skills, abilities, experience without any expectation or compensation. The ‘reward’ for transactional volunteering is the knowledge that one was able to “make a difference” by helping solve a problem or advance a cause.
Wherever we went beyond this transactional approach and created/aimed to develop the program as being a transformation for not just beneficiary/NGO/community but for volunteer as well, we stuck gold! Transformational volunteering reaches beyond the context and circumstances, it aims at developing pro-social behavior with greater empathy. The objective of transformational volunteering is to bring about a change in the volunteers themselves. Volunteers begin to feel deeply for the causes they work with. Their is an increased commitment for their organisations/cause, there is an increase in volunteer performance and there is an improved organisational resilience they work with. With the transformational model, volunteers experience a hands on process of learning that involves critical reflection and sense-making, this helps them acquire the critical skills necessary for being the true leaders. These leaders do not just contribute by volunteering but ensure that they continue to create more leaders and be associated with the program to reach masses and generate high impact. They don’t work for recognition but for the cause and that’s what defines a transformational volunteering program.
This differentiation between transactional and transformational volunteering helped me develop one of the important module of “High Impact Volunteering Program” which might ensure we move beyond numbers to depth in measuring impact of volunteering.
This exercise also put me in inquiry about what kind of volunteer am I? I got my answer after some self reflection, have you got yours yet?