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6/11/2012

CELEBRATE VOLUNTEERS EVERYDAY!



They are the backbone of our society and organisations.

 

 

This is the message delivered by Sakis Pappous, member of the member of the EuroVolNet, a European project lead by ISCA, and Senior Lecturer and Course Director of Sport and Exercise Management at the University of Kent.

 

 

Sakis shares with us his expertise and unique vision on volunteering experience management and recognition and emphasises the crossroads between formal and informal education.
Enjoy the read!

 

 
 
Why is it so crucial to develop a rewarding scheme for sport for all organisations?
SP: “It is important, not only to realise that the time and effort that volunteers  put into their volunteering and appreciated but what also needs to be done  is to establish a proper procedure for recognising it . A certificate scheme and awards ceremony are a simple way of doing this.  In the University of Kent for example, by putting the university logo on the certificate, students know that the university appreciate and value their work, and it is a great addition to their CVs.  Many students present their certificates that we give them at interviews as 'proof' of the value of their work.”
 
 
What do you personally think of the BBC’s Unsung Hero Award to celebrate people working behind the scenes to make sport accessible to all?
SP: “BBC’s Unsung Hero Award is a brilliant example of an innovative way to honour people from all over UK who have made a significant positive difference in the world of grassroots sport. This award is celebrating its 10th year in 2012, it is very successful and it receives huge media coverage.  One of the strengths of the BBC’s Unsung Hero Award since ten years ago when it was first started, remains on fact that the organizers have managed to get an advantage by adapting and using the opportunities offered by Social media. The Unsung Hero Award can serve as an inspiration for the implementations of similar schemes at National level across Europe.
 
 
According to you to what extend does the EuroVolNet project provide answer to uphold, nourish and reward the willpower of sport volunteers?
SP: “In my view, EuroVolnet major contribution was the development of ‘The Voluntary Services Tutorial’, which is a product of hard work and exemplary international collaboration between all the partners of the network. ‘The Voluntary Services Tutorial’ can be viewed as centralised 'knowledge bank' where best practises and useful resources are stored and made accessible for all grassroots associations who look for inspiration across Europe.
 
 
Universities are a major pool of volunteers, yet under estimated by sports organisations. How can we develop stronger links between these two sectors? What are the needs?
SP: “The volunteer sector should not be afraid of approaching academic institutions to look for potential volunteers. Modern Universities have realised the importance of volunteering with regards to employability (new skills, experience etc). One thing we've worked on at the University of Kent is to recognise the need for voluntary experience for our final year students.  In our Sport and Exercise Management Degree we have included a work placement module, in which we ask students to gain some applied experience and quite a lot of them work in sport related voluntary clubs.
 
Learning experiences in formal education are normally clear defined through pertinent and valuable objectives, competences and skills. Do you see a need -and if yes what kind of new approaches should be developped- to identify and validate “invisible” learning experiences in non-formal and informal education?
SP: “Indeed one of the challenges that formal education is facing is to make the link between theory and applied practice and recognize it in a formal ‘academic; way. In my opinion, this is feasible; you just need to be creative and innovative.  
A very good example can be drawn upon a new module that we've worked on at my University over the past three year. It is a new module called 'Social Justice Practice'. Students have a lecture a week on this - covering areas such as financing and management of the voluntary sector or analysis of the theoretical perspectives of ‘civil society’ concerning the ‘third’ sector. In addition to the theoretical knowledge students have to undertake approximately 20 days (140 hours) of voluntary work within the academic year. So here you have a good example of an academic module that goes go “the extra mile” of combining theory with applied real life volunteer experiences.
Overall, there is certainly a need to revise the way work is assessed in formal education in order to enhance the so-called “invisible” learning experiences. This would require a move away from examinations and assignment work and more into assessment of work productivity and outcomes that test qualities such as drive, determination and initiative.
With an emphasis on assessing the process people undertake to learn and solve problems rather than the outcomes, we by de facto assess the intangible aspects of learning and better prepare people for life and the workplace.
 
You often remind us during the project that “Volunteering comes from the Latin words voluntas which means "will, choice". And as the old proverb says ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.” What about the political and institutional will to celebrate volunteers, where are we now? Did the European Year of Volunteering help to raise the profile of volunteers across Europe?
SP: “The general picture shows that the European Year of Volunteering made a very important contribution in terms of raising awareness about volunteering. Now the challenge is to keep this interest alive. In concluding that there will be lasting effects in terms of policies we have to be optimistic but prudent at the same time.  An important element when we talk about the sustainability aspect of a Year has to do with funding. We have to keep an eye in the years to come to see if at a national level policies will be  implemented building on the dynamics  gained in the Year.”