Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, once said:
“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.”
Volunteering is something that is very close to my heart. I spent two years in Ethiopia as a volunteer with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) in the early 2000s. I gained a huge amount from this experience. I know that it helped me to grow and develop. I still draw on these experiences in my personal and professional life. I also think that in some small way I made a difference. What’s more, over the last decade, before I joined Good Things Foundation, I have seen first hand through working for charities in Sheffield, how volunteering can transform lives and safeguard vital community services.
Now at Good Things Foundation I am inspired by the growing interest in and enthusiasm for volunteering from our partners who want to create opportunities for their employees to become Digital Champion volunteers and to support organisations in the Online Centres Network. In addition, I am impressed by the individuals in communities where Online Centres work who are keen to use their skills and life experiences to support other people to get online and feel more confident using computers.
Many organisations in the Online Centres Network are either 100% volunteer led or rely heavily on volunteers to deliver their services, including their digital inclusion activities. At Good Things Foundation we support volunteering in Online Centres in a variety of ways:
We are working with corporate partners such as Lloyds Banking Group to help their employees to use their digital skills to benefit community organisations in the Online Centres Network and the people they support.
We are helping to recruit Digital Champion volunteers from communities in Salford and to match them with local Online Centres through our partnership with Salford City Council, Digital You.
We have developed guides and resources for members of the Online Centres Network about recruiting and supporting volunteers.
We have a comprehensive guide for Digital Champion volunteers to help them support people to use our learning platform, Learn My Way.
Not only are volunteers vital to the work of Online Centres, the experience of volunteering is often beneficial to volunteers themselves; they grow and develop as I did as a VSO volunteer. Lee, a Digital Champion at Lloyds Banking Group recognises that volunteering is a great way to get more experience:
Lee (second left) with the other volunteers at Newcastle City Library
In fact, becoming a volunteer can often be the first step on someone’s journey to employment. Volunteering can offer a progression route. I know this from personal experience. I volunteered as a way back into work after I had my first child. In fact Iain, one of the people who has developed digital skills through Digital You in Salford, puts it really well when talking about his plans to become a Digital Champion volunteer:
‘It’s going to open up new doors, new ways of thinking and new people to meet.’
This Volunteers’ Week, we are grateful for the hard work and dedication of all volunteers who are providing much needed support to members of the Online Centres Network. Kofi Annan was right. We do need volunteers and now more than ever.
If you would like to volunteer as a Digital Champion, why not look for an Online Centre near you and make contact to offer your skills.