I have ran a few volunteer organisations over the past few years, which is why the whole idea of Localism and Big Society is not really a new thing for me, or any one of us. From the Sunday morning rugby club, to the residents associations, there are many people who volunteer on a weekly basis for the good of others.
But there is a fundamental flaw with the Volunteer organisation and that is the accountability. What happens when someone in the organisation just is not performing? As a leader, you have no real “sticks” to use, and if things go bad, they can just walk, and if things go really well, you have no “carrots” with which to reward effort. However, this is not the real problem, as I find the personal pride of the volunteer is normally enough, the real problem is accountability to the public. What happens when a leader, or the entire organisation does not perform as well as the public would like? It is normally really hard to find a volunteer, never mind someone “dumb” enough to lead it, but if people start questioning performance and maybe even asking for resignations, what happens then. Presumably if it has got that far, then the poor volunteer has already suffered because of it, and then to go through the further strife, why would they bother – they will probably walk. Most likely, they will have been asked to resign by people who have no idea what it is like to do such things and have never volunteered a days worth of effort themselves. So, the person walks, what happens to the organisation, they lose a key person (it doesn’t matter who it is, every volunteer is key because they are there) and depending on the psychological impact, the organisation could fold.
Why is it personal experience? I have lost good people who have worked with me because it’s just too much hassle, reading grief on websites, and interactions with people do not always “glide along”. I have also had my own performance called into question and while I am happy with what I do, there are those dark days when you wonder why you bother!
Many people ask “why should I bother”. And it will become a common problem when these organisations are full of people who are doing things because they have to rather than they want to. We will see libraries ran by parents who barely have enough time for themselves, forests ran by people who don’t really know what they are doing, but know that losing the forest is a bad thing, health ran by GPs who learned medicine, not accounting.
I love doing what I can, while supporting my family. I often ask myself how I keep on top of what I do, and invariably its my family who suffer in the end and I know that the balance is always hard and difficult decisions have to be made. From not having time to help with our allotment, to not being able to go to weddings that I want to go to. But I choose it. Imagine HAVING to do it, all the time, just to keep our communities alive, as well as having to work all the hours god sends to keep your job and pay the rising bills and taxes as the economy declines.
You won’t have to imagine for long, its very nearly here….
- Thatcher’s Big Society (And Big Birthday) (iaindale.blogspot.com)
- Big society cuts: hard times for the charity that Cameron held up for praise (guardian.co.uk)
- Pondering Big Society (fightingmonsters.wordpress.com)