'Change the Tune' this IVMDay

5 November 2019

As someone whose office is next door to young musicians practising, “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” for the umpteenth time, “Change the Tune” is particularly apt.  

Change -the -TuneLike these young musicians, volunteer managers can keep banging on about the same issues, almost to the point where we become deaf to it.  A particular grumble is that other staff members do not believe that they have any responsibility for volunteering. 

If it has to do with the volunteers, then it must be the responsibility of the volunteer manager.  Why won’t our colleagues engage with the volunteers and the volunteer programme?  At meetings of volunteer managers, I heard this conversation repeated and I began to think that this needed to take place back at the office, with my colleagues.  What could I do to change the tune?

To start the process:

  • Volunteer management sessions were delivered to the staff at each of our four centres.  An adapted version of the session was delivered to the central team, which includes Senior Managers and our Chief Executive.  Staff identified challenges and barriers to working with volunteers and produced an action plan to resolve these.  One centre started their pre-activity huddle fifteen minutes earlier to allow sufficient time to chat with volunteers.
  • A training session on how to effectively involve volunteers was delivered to almost the entire staff team.   Staff, in a fast-paced brain-storming exercise, came up with fifty ways that they could involve volunteers.  This is now a resource available to all staff.
  • “Introduction to Volunteering at Sistema Scotland – Ensuring a volunteer friendly approach” was written as an induction document for new musicians.  I deliver a session on volunteering as part of the induction of all new central team members.
  • Team-building sessions are being delivered to each of the four centre teams.  Staff and volunteers participate to collectively produce an action plan to improve the performance of their team.   A volunteer commented, “It was great to have the chance to join in discussion with the Staff.  I loved that.”
  • The new role of Lead Musician for Volunteer Support was introduced.  It is a powerful symbol of the cultural change Sistema Scotland committed to achieve.
  • At any and every opportunity I mention volunteering, particularly to explore how volunteers may feature in or be impacted upon by colleague’s work.  Volunteering is discussed as a standing item on the agenda of each centre’s team meeting. 

Sistema Scotland believes that like health and safety, and data protection, the volunteers and volunteering are everyone’s responsibility.  Any staff member may be in a position where they need to offer support, guidance and direction to a volunteer.  The work to embed this within the organisation has been hugely successful and we continue to build upon this.   As a team, we worked in harmony to change the tune.

Damian is happy to be contacted to follow up on anything from his blog.  Contact him on: damian.sherwood-johnson@sistemascotland.org.uk