1st Month Reflections

9 May 2022

It has been a month since I started in post as Volunteer Scotland’s new Policy Officer, and it’s certainly been a learning curve!

Sarah Latto (white BG)Whilst I have 14 years of experience working in the voluntary sector, and 20 years in a variety of volunteering roles, this is my first paid Policy post. My recent tenure as the Chair of the Scottish Volunteering Forum – which exists to influence the policy landscape – has given me some of the knowledge and relationships required for this post but I still have a lot to learn.

What I might lack in experience I certainly do not lack in enthusiasm! I am a self-confessed volunteering geek and have a real passion for its impact to transform lives and communities. I also believe that volunteering has the potential to achieve so much more if it was better represented in policy. As such, nobody wants this new role to succeed more than I do.

I have spent a significant amount of time in my first few weeks doing three things – reading, listening, and making connections. I have read countless policy documents, briefings, research reports and official parliamentary records, as well as numerous documents produced to support the development of the upcoming Volunteering Action Plan. I have also been listening to my colleagues, both within Volunteer Scotland and in the wider sector, to identify their realities and expectations for my role. Finally, to make sense of this information, I’ve created several maps and indexes to identify key themes and establish connections.

All of this has led me to several early conclusions:

  1. In the Policy landscape, Volunteer Scotland has a clear role to fill – representing the voice and interests of the spectrum of Scotland’s volunteers. Volunteer Scotland’s mission is 'more people volunteering: enjoyably, safely and regularly'. To do this, we need to ensure volunteers – formal to informal - are at the centre of our policy work.

  2. We need to focus our influence on ensuring volunteering is truly for all. We know from our extensive research that certain groups are less likely, or able, to participate in volunteering. We need to interrogate existing evidence, conduct more research, and consult widely with our stakeholders to identify and address structural barriers.

  3. Volunteering has an existential role in thriving, resilient communities. Covid-19 has raised the profile of volunteering, but volunteers have been the invisible thread binding communities together for far longer than the past two years. We need to use our influence to ensure that volunteers have the resources, skills, and knowledge to keep the heart of our communities beating.

  4. The volunteering sector has never been more united. Developing the Volunteering for All outcomes framework, and our upcoming Volunteering Action Plan (VAP), has given our sector a shared purpose and fostered important connections. Volunteer Scotland will have an important role in supporting the delivery of the VAP, including the ongoing influence of decision-makers, but success is reliant on maintaining and building this volunteering community.

My next step is to draft a Policy Plan, detailing our objectives for the next year, which I will then share with key stakeholders for feedback. I’m also still very keen to hear from and speak to any Volunteer Scotland stakeholders about what you think our key policy priorities should be so please get in touch at sarah.latto@volunteerscotland.org.uk

It's an exciting time for volunteering in Scotland, but there is also a lot at stake. The VAP will be launched on the 15th June and in many respects that is when the hard work will really begin. I’m delighted to have joined Volunteer Scotland at such an important time, and look forward to working with many of you to ensure that volunteering realises its potential.