Rachel Shadoan Muses

Capability Scotland

If you’ve been wondering what I have been working on like a madwoman, now is your chance to see. These are the fruits of our efforts to make Capability Scotland’s volunteering more sustainable.

Here is our group presentation, which I presented.

I haven’t made a true slidecast with audio or anything yet, but here is what I planned to say with the slides (only reviewing the video will tell me how close I got!)

Slide 1:

Good morning, everyone! Thank you for coming out in the face of such fierce weather to be here for our presentation. On behalf of the 2010 Design Ethnography program, I want to thank you for opening up your organization to us and offering us this tremendous opportunity for learning and growth. It has been a month long wild ride and a great pleasure coming to know the volunteers, staff, and service users of Capability. Thank you for that. Now, I’m going to give a broad overview of what we all did–our initial brief, how we approached the project, and the highlights of our findings. Each individual team will be giving a more in-depth look at their segment of the project in short order.

Slide 2:

You asked us to make it easier to recruit and retain volunteers. This is a significant challenge for an organisation as diverse as Capability. To ensure that we addressed the issue in appropriate depth, and to avoid redundant work, we decided to have each team focus on a subsection of the volunteer force. One group is focusing on the young volunteers–17 to 25 year olds. Another group is focusing on best utilizing the corporate volunteers. We have a group focusing on older volunteers, who make up the bulk of Capability’s volunteer force and name recognition. Finally, we have a group looking into the assessment volunteers, the MIND panelists and 1 in 4 poll takers who help steer capability in disability issues.

Sustainability means something different to each of these groups.

Slide 3:

For young volunteers, sustainability requires making the benefits of volunteering very clear.

Slide 4:

For corporate volunteers, it’s about finding the right volunteer at the right time.

Slide 5:

For older volunteers, sustainability requires facillitating usefullness within the Capability community

Slide 6:

For the asssessment volunteers, sustainability requires inspiring and motivating volunteers to continue to contribute their ideas.

Slide 7:

We all made these discoveries using similar methods–the standard toolkit of an ethnographer. After our brief four weeks ago today, we dove into fieldwork. We interviewed and observed volunteers, staff, and service users in their natural environments at Capability. We did a little talking, and a lot of listening. We then took all of the information from that distilled it. This part of the process involves a lot of Post-It notes. Secretly, they’re kicking us money for product placement. Once we have the insights down, we organized them, and reorganized them. We used the POINTs brainstorm that we did with you several weeks back, among other methods, until the themes and patterns that emerged in our interactions fell out into insight.

Slide 8: While each group has insights that are specific to their volunteer subset, four broad insights were constant across all groups. We found that all volunteers need awareness–about what

Capability does and what their role and responsibilities are within Capability.

All volunteers need support from Capability, in the form of unified training and consistent supervision and feedback.

All volunteers need recognition for their vital contribution to the organization.

And finally, volunteers need to understand the impact of their contribution. They want to see how what they are doing is furthering the mission of Capability Scotland.

Those are the broad strokes, the big four needs that Capability volunteers have. We’re going to follow that up, now, with an in depth look at the needs of each of the four groups of Capability Volunteers. So fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, and let’s rock and roll.

And here’s what I presented for my team. I don’t have a completed speaking plan written out for this assignment, but I have part of it.

Slide 1: Sustainable Youth Volunteering

Our group, Neha, Ilya, Leanne, and I, focused on young volunteers. 17 to 25 year olds. The iPod generation. The Facebook status updating, blog writing, youtube video uploading generation. One would think, with all the me-focused communicating that these young’ens do, that they are all about themselves. And in some ways, they are. If they can’t see the immediate benefits of an action, they often won’t take it. But inside the technology bubble, this generation is tremendously empathetic. They want to make a difference. They want social change. They just need some help seeing how their work has impact.

Slide 2: Why Capability Scotland Needs Young Volunteers

So why invest the time? Why does Capability need these volunteers?

Because if you build a solid relationship with them while they are still forming their identities, they will incorporate Capability into themselves. They will internalize their experience here, make it a part of their identity, and then stick around. They will finish school or university and become corporate volunteers, or perhaps even staff members. They will eventually retire and become part of Capability’s formidable older volunteer force. They will stay around and play many different roles as the grow and change alongide the organization.

Young volunteers also bring with them fresh perspectives. They are steeped in the latest technologies, and can pass on those technologies to Capability to harness. They are also unafraid to take risks. Young people are doing a lot of exploration at this point in their lives, and Capability can benefit from their risk-taking.

Finally, young people are the best advertising engine you could hope to harness for free. If a young person really loves something, they’ll share it. With one Facebook status update, you can reach hundreds of other people–a pool of potential volunteers. This generation is globally connected. They crave travel, and develop international connections that they utilize to pass on their thoughts, ideas, and experiences. Young people are connected in a way no previous generation has been. If you hook a few vocal young people, you have open access to hundreds of their friends.

Slide 3: Young People Need Capability So They Can Contribute

But now why do young people need Capability?

In spite of the seeming self-absorption that young people you may have met or raised seem to exhibit, young people desperately want to contribute. One only has to look at Facebook pages for causes to be convinced of that. They are hungry for ways to make a difference, correct injustice, help the helpless. They’re just not sure how to do that in a way that actually has impact, so instead they sign Facebook petitions. They enjoy helping people–they just have to be shown how their help has impact.

Slide 4: Young People Need Capability So They Can Gain Experience

Young people also need Capability to gain experience. They need to learn skills that can help them later in life. They need to try things that will challenge and stretch them and cause them to grow. Your teenager is not going to come to you and say, “Mom, what I really need it so be challenged so that I can grow as a person,” but all the exploration that young people do speaks for itself. Capability can help young people with that growth.

Slide 5: Young People Need Capability So They Can Build Community

And finally, young people need Capability to help them build community. They want to meet new people, make new friends, and have a vehicle for connecting with old friends in new ways.

Those are the reasons why young people need Capability–now let’s talk about what they consider when they’re thinking about volunteering.

Slide 6: Volunteering Considerations

There are 4 key areas that young people contemplate when they’re thinking about volunteering. They are concerned about time commitment. Young people have a lot of demands on their time, from their school to their work to their Facebook farm. So they are looking for engagements that are flexible and conventient.

Young people want to work for causes that resonate with them. They want to feel connected to a mission, something greater than themselves. Whether it’s a personal connection to the cause, a general belief in the mission, or just a convergence of opportunity and personal interest, young people want something that fits them.

Career benefits are a huge issue for young people. They want to see how their volunteering will further their career goals.

Finally, they want it to be social. Everything about this generation is connected, and they want their volunteering to be rich with connection as well.

Slide 7: Overview of Fieldwork

How do we know all this?

We talked to a lot of different people. We talked to Capability volunteers and staff. We talked to volunteers from other organizations. We talked to people who had volunteered, and those who had never volunteered. We talked to those were looking to volunteer, and those who couldn’t be bothered. All told, we interacted with 49 people in our quest to understand the youth perspective on volunteering.

All of their stories, however, are too much to present here. We wouldn’t just be here all day–we’d be here for three weeks. So we’ve taken all of that information and condensed it into personas. A persona is a tool that vividly demonstrates the themes and patterns in our data. We create characters from our rich fieldwork that illustrate the key points that we came across. So we’re going to introduce you to a few of our personas, and walk you through their process of considering capability.

The presentations themselves went well. There were some technical difficulties with my presentation of the iVolunteer project–the projector cut off the right edge of the slides and the mouse I was using as a clicker ran out of battery halfway through the presentation, but all in all it was all right. I do not feel that I put on my best performance, but I was certainly solidly in the adequate territory.

It was what happened after the presentation that was really glorious. We had a structured workshop in which we brainstormed with our clients the ways in which they can implement our recommendations. It was amazing to see them incorporate everything so quickly. It was a glorious thing to behold, their new ownership of our ideas. I feel that we really revolutionized their organization. It was a totally different high than a computer science project high. We have just set in motion changes that will impact thousands of volunteers, staff, and service users, that will in turn improve the lives of the people they touch… It was very cool. “Bloody magical,” was the phrase in my head at the time.

I will have a full run down of my thoughts on the subject later, as well as a comparison of the computer science project emotional curve to the design ethnography emotional curve. This was my first real project, and dang it all, if I don’t really love it.

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