Saturday, 22 October 2011

Zonta District 24 Conference: Undervaluing Volunteering Part 1

Melanie Oppenheimer has a personal vision: to have volunteering recognised for the community value and economic contribution we are making to Australia.

Sounds a bit businessy and straightlaced at first glance. Sounds a bit like counting things. And what fun is there in that?

But on reflection think about all the hours we do volunteering for Zonta. All the money we gather and the long term impact Zonta projects deliver for individuals and the communities around them. Perhaps I do want to start counting things – cause otherwise our efforts are “counting for nothing".

Marilyn makes the argument that economic systems only account for corporate output and not the volunteering or even "women's work" when building stats and GDP calculations
  Melanie opened her presentation with some Australian data:
There are over 600,000 volunteering organisations in Australia, which cover 4.6 million volunteers. 
The 2010 Productivity Commission estimated that the Not for Profit sector generated $43 billion in economic value.
That's pretty stunning stuff - who knew we were that busy!

Melanie described the current political view of the volunteering sector is much akin to the tale of Chicken Little. 
I don't mean the flop Disney version - not that I have seen it to judge - and Yes - I will get my Disney references any way I can!
 We all know the story. Here it is summarised on one page:

source: - with apologies to people who like Dubya Dubya
I bet he wasn't interested in volunteers either. Volunteers ain't sitting on vast oil reserves.

So let's have a look at the story and how it may relate to the volunteering.

Chicken Little is out enjoying the sunshine when an acorn lands on his head and he becomes convinced that the sky is falling! 

Hang on - why would I bore you with reading when Uncle Walt has already provided a cinematic treat!

The joy of this 1943 clip is how political it is. And that was Melanie's point too

Every tale has a moral – is it don’t be a chicken but have courage? Don’t believe everything you hear?

Or perhaps we could use it as a more cautionary political tale where the chicken whips up mass hysteria and the Fox takes advantage of this, eventually eating them all?

kinda reminds me of this
Anyway - I am sure you can see the relevance of this story to volunteering.

Volunteers need to have courage, to hold their convictions and continue to deliver without fear or favour. And without kowtowing to inappropriate forces.

Whatever version of  Chicken Little you prefer, Melanie reminds us to be wary of the government's recent interest in volunteering.

In Part 2 I'll lay out her reasons why.

Thanks to Melanie Oppenheimer, Assoc Prof, School of Humanities, UNE and the Zonta District 24 Conference

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