28 Jan 2020
Here Vicki Sellick from Nesta, reflects on how the nature of volunteering is changing and what innovations we might expect to see.
Tapping into this sense of community and reciprocity, rather than talking about volunteering, could unlock a whole new group of givers who see participation as a norm not a new act.
I recently hosted a fascinating discussion here at Nesta about the changing face of giving.
It was part of the government’s Review of Volunteering and Community Contributions in Later Life, commissioned by recently appointed loneliness minister Tracey Crouch, who has been a long-time advocate of the power of volunteering. Colleagues from across the charity sector gave their time to chew the fat with me, alongside a number of innovators and a few pioneers in public services who we have got to know through our extensive social action funds.
The group set out with the task of identifying some of the trends and technologies that will shape how we give in the future. There are plenty but the three that struck me most were as follows...
I expect we’ll see more about the opportunity to give your data to good causes in the next five years as charities gamify giving and others ask for your browser processing capacity. But as Jamie Ward Smith of Vivo (who founded Do-it.org) pointed out, there might be a limit to the take up and impact of this sort of giving.
We know that people who give their time as 20 year olds are more likely to do so as 50 and 70 year olds because we build a habit of volunteering. Is the same true for latent giving of data where your smartphone sends your data away for medical research? Will you get the benefit of endorphin release from such acts of altruism? Will you kick start a habit of giving? Or will it simply pass you by?
Kieron Kirkland from CAST suggested that whether it's your hard-earned Bitcoin, Ripple, Dash or Ethereum or any one of the cryptocurrencies being launched in 2018, you will be able to see where your financial donation to charity has gone in exact units because blockchain creates the power to keep a record of where the wealth now resides. Harnessed well that could put information in the hands of givers, refuting the press headlines of charitable waste and encouraging them to give more as ever penny really is making a difference.
We might just ditch the idea of volunteering altogether. We’ve known for a while that many people give their time but do not identify with the stereotype of volunteers who they see as ‘Nice nanas’, and that includes volunteer grandparents themselves!
Whether it's Parkrun or Henpower or residential giving at Abbeyfield, volunteers are motivated to give by community. In fact they might not see it as volunteering at all, but rather what it means to live in their street or be part of their club.
Tapping into this sense of community and reciprocity, rather than talking about volunteering, could unlock a whole new group of givers who see participation as a norm not a new act – it’s certainly part of the premise behind the exciting Participatory City experiment in Barking and Dagenham.
Vicki Sellick is Executive Director of Programmes at Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation.