Friday, 18 February 2011

Just how difficult is it to volunteer for the Big Society?

There's an article over at the Evening Standard, where the reporter tells of a friends attempts to volunteer. The piece looks to do what we have often done before, claiming that no matter the real world doubts over the Governments sincerity, the concept of the Big Society is something to be strived for. Unfortunately, the friend found themselves unable to volunteer, as the familiar story of cuts  meant her intended Charity had to downsize and could not take her on.

This has been one of the bones of contention in the Big Society. The Coalition Government  wants voluntary and community groups to take on more public services, but at the same time cuts their funding. Like with the NHS and an increasing number of public services, it seems to be a case of do more, with less.

When that is the case, innovation is often part, if not all of the answer.

As we've said in recent articles, there are ways and means, such as using Social Media to deliver more effective Social Marketing for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. Perhaps an innovative approach to volunteering may also work.

The volunteering scheme cut in the Evening Standard story, was a befriending scheme ran by Age Concern. A hugely valid and useful service, but obviously with costs associated. Alternative ways of keeping the service going are being looked at, so best of luck to them. and yet, where does the cost need to be in this? Certainly admin, but the main backbone of the scheme is man hours and being voluntary, they're free.

That's the sort of schemes that are needed, where as much as possible, the only spend is in man hours. If these were possible, funding and cuts would make no difference. It's a crazy situation when the valuable hours a volunteer offers are turned down because there's no money to put them to use. There's surely another way, so as to not let this precious time go to waste.

In my specialist area of Social Media, and to a certain extent in virtually all online work, there's no capital expenditure in creation and promotion, as there's no actual physical product. The only cost is time. This makes me think that people like me, working in computers, could volunteer their services, regardless of the funding available to the body approached.

Hmmm, I'm going to think about this over the weekend and report back on Monday.

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