Inclusion in volunteering: Mere presence or true contribution?

26 February 2015

Inclusion in volunteering: Mere presence or true contribution?

This week is Australia’s National Volunteer Week and so HSA Australia team member Tara Cantwell has decided to share some thoughts on the topic.

I’m a bit of a zealot when it comes to the ‘good stuff’ volunteering creates for people, so it saddens me that some members of our community find it tricky to get involved and stay involved. A “buzz word” for people not missing out in their community is inclusion.  But the word is so weighed down with formal associations of forced participation, in government policy, schools and even volunteering, that it’s almost redundant as a positive concept.

As a notion, it’s also aiming a bit low I think.   My thesaurus gives me an alternative word of inclusion – presence. At HSA we think there’s more than just ‘inclusion’ and ‘presence’, that these are just the beginning of a person’s journey to have positive control over their experiences in their communities.

At Interchange Outer East they use one-page profiles to increase inclusion for those volunteering.  For volunteers with disabilities and volunteers from a different cultural background, these profiles introduce people into their team in a positive way.  It also helps clearly spell out any particular things they want/need in terms of support in a way that cuts the barriers to volunteering.

In top tips on how to support Linda, she says “I might need help reminding me about a couple of things, like phones being away. Please remind me if I have forgotten”. Alyse says, “having an upset tummy is daily life for me, please don’t send me home”. Thu is volunteering from the local Migrant Information Centre and says, “I always like to work hard and have something new to learn”.

So they’ve covered the first step for ‘inclusion’ and ‘presence’ but what about contribution?  The ‘presence to contribution’ tool is perhaps a vital next step.  Designed to figure out how to move from positive introductions to powerful contributions for all involved. Contributions that lead to the life changing experiences we know volunteering is all about. No potential volunteer should miss out on that and no community should miss out on the contribution of that volunteer.


For more information

Migrant Information Centre East Melbourne

Interchange Outer East

Helen Sanderson Associates

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