The Future Skills for Volunteering (FutVol) project has set out to address future skills challenges in the field of volunteering in Europe. Bringing together educational institutions, third-sector organisations and other actors from 10 countries (BG, FI, HU, IT, LV, PO, PT, RO, TK and UK), our project approached the matter by designing and testing a new skills concept aimed for volunteers. The ‘You Future, Your Volunteers’ concept combines a set of defined future volunteering skills, peer learning and foresight activities.
Skills’ recognition has become a very important issue in voluntary work. Volunteer managers and volunteers alike are aware of the increased need for quality and efficiency, but also of the opportunities offered for volunteers by validation. In many of the countries involved in our project, the non-formal and informal learning opportunities offered by the voluntary sector are essential from an employability perspective for young people in particular. The activities provided by our skills model can also support organisations in organising their education and training activities.
European volunteers learning to develop their future skills
On the other hand, the growing trend of autonomy in volunteering has shifted the responsibility for personal development toward the volunteers. We explored and tested ways to encourage volunteers to recognise their strengths and weaknesses through self-evaluation and to discuss their competences and plan for their personal development through peer learning activities. Having in mind the different cultures in each organisation, we learned that the peer learning process should be carried out in a friendly and participative atmosphere.
One of the key features of the skills model is our peer learning model. It combines various methodologies such as Design Thinking, SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result) with specific workshops where the volunteers alternate between self-assessment and peer assessment to understand, develop and discover new skills or to realise their existing skills.
We tested the model initially with volunteers at our second partner meeting and later with a total of over 100 volunteer learners in ten countries. They were guided to the discovery of 14 essential future skills for volunteering defined in the project (check the list below), and to add their own future skills to the list. One of our volunteers who participated in a workshop said this:
“I have tested the peer learning model with other volunteers and found it a very useful tool for self-assessing and discovering my competences in a structured way. In particular, it is interesting because it allows to share experiences and points of view with peers, get feedback and grow together. It can be a good starting point upon which to build one’s future skills and getting them recognised in the third sector. We also learn about methodologies such as Design Thinking and we all found it very valuable” - Chiara, FutVol Volunteer from Italy
After the development of the tools and their implementation during the testing period, their effectiveness has become even clearer both to the partnership and their stakeholders. Our tools serve both volunteers and third-sector organisations and their staff. On the one hand, there are components that allow for the recognition and validation of volunteers’ future skills that are easy to use in work recruitment situations as e.g. the STAR model is widely used by HR personnel, and on the other, the tools help organisations in engaging in foresight and managing future skills needs. Partners also learned about facilitating validation by using the tools to help volunteers recognise their skills.
THE 14 SKILLS
The testing saw a balanced proportion of female and male volunteers as well as a relatively wide age range in all partner countries and with overwhelmingly positive feedback. Moreover, the tools were tested both in group activities and individual ones, thus allowing for the partnership to acquire data on the their effectiveness in developing the volunteers’ skills via peer learning on the one hand and by testing their existing skills individually from a recruiter’s point of view on the other.
To access the tools visit the project’s website.
Sabri Ben Rommane, Cooperazione Paesi Emergenti, Italy
Marion Fields, Sivis Study Centre, Finland
Foresight activities supporting adult learning in the voluntary sector – lessons form the Future Skills for Volunteering project
According to the European Foresight Platform, foresight “is a systematic, participatory, future-intelligence-gathering and medium-to-long-term vision-building process aimed at enabling present-day decisions and mobilizing joint actions. It can be envisaged as a triangle combining “Thinking the Future”, “Debating the Future” and “Shaping the Future”.
In order to shape the future, volunteers and staff will need perhaps a whole new set of skills. So, our foresight model is, in fact, part of a wider skills model for future volunteering, so the information about skills needs it provides can be combined with peer learning and future skills recognition activities to ensure that volunteers and their organisations can keep on gaining competences that will help them make a difference.
The idea of the tool is that a voluntary or other organisation can together with its volunteers listen to their stakeholders’ perceptions about the future. Our step-by-step approach, guides users through stakeholder definition, information collection, joint analysis and a discussion workshop to create a plan. There are ideas for collecting information of what might happen in the future from the following stakeholders: the volunteers themselves, other volunteers and the organisation, clients/beneficiaries, the local community, society.
The information can be discussed together at a workshop through a set of questions, resulting in a vision of what needs to be done and how. We have also published a guideline on how to use the tool and how to facilitate foresight workshops.
Beside voluntary organisations, we tested the tools also in a school with young people and have had e.g. library professionals attend our testing workshops. Therefore, we believe that this tool can be transferred to many settings and will help in defining future needs also from a skills perspective.
To access the foresight model and other tools, visit the project’s website.
Marion Fields, Sivis Study Centre, Finland, coordinator of the FutVol project
The Future Skills for Volunteering (FutVol; 2017-1-FI01-KA204-034696) project was funded by the Finnish national Agency for Education under the Erasmus+ programme.