By Aoife Murphy, Communications Manager, with Emma-Jane Hampsheir-Gill, Gracie Chick & George Fielding

As part of Volunteers Week and in time for Power Of Youth Day, we want to champion the voices of the young people who launched the Vision For Volunteering and were instrumental to the inclusion of a wide range of voices and perspectives so that the Vision is truly representative and relevant to all.

The Vision For Volunteering launch was brilliant, and so inspiring to hear from the young ambassadors from the #iwill movement.  They are the voices of the future.” – NCVO

At Volunteering Matters, we are proud to be part of the Vision for Volunteering, a movement that strives to create a diverse, innovative, sustainable, ambitious and person-centred future for volunteering. It has been a privilege to work with a range of organisations and people from various sectors who all have one thing in common – an indelible believe in the power of volunteering and what that really means for people and their communities. The launch of the Vision for Volunteering marked the start of a new phase of work, connecting all those in the volunteering community/ecosystem who are inspired to improve volunteering.asking of us that we believe in ourselves and what's possible in the future."

The actual launch event itself took place on 6th May, hosted as part of Volunteer Expo Live at the Birmingham NEC. #iwill ambassadors, young people leading social action across the UK, were involved in shaping and developing the youth strand of the vision, so we were thrilled when three #iwill Young Ambassadors – Gracie Chick, George Fielding and Emma-Jane Hampsheir-Gill – agreed to help launch the Vision. This was a 30-minute session held on stage, introduced by Ruth Leonard, a volunteer and Chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers.

Excitement grew when TV Presenter, Paralympic Medalist and Children’s Author, Ade Adepitan MBE, was welcomed to the stage for an inspirational opener to the Launch, describing volunteering “as a bank of kindness!” while setting the scene for what was to come…

An indescribable energy rippled through the event when Gracie, George and Emma-Jane took to the stage. Everyone felt it. With their conviction and passion, they brought the Vision to life, inspiring and gently challenging the audience by focusing attention on the power and lived experiences in the room. Their sessions offered powerful insight into the incredible potential of a future in which people wholeheartedly embrace new ways of working together.

Collectively, Gracie, Emma-Jane and George believe that “the conversation around how volunteering needs to change and evolve for the future is an absolutely essential one.”

The Vision welcomes that conversation about how best to include a whole new generation in shaping, not just the voluntary sector, but every aspect of thriving and caring communities. It’s ambitious, and refuses to shy away from challenges that turning the Vision into a reality presents.

For Gracie this is just the start.

“Being part of the Vision For Volunteering launch was an incredible opportunity. We were standing on stage and asking big, bold, exciting and challenging questions about reimagining the world we want to live in. This is important because only once we start asking those questions do we begin to see what that world could look like, and start building it. We have reached the point where we all need to do more.”

For George, “The task was not just to launch the vision but to demonstrate it in action. No one group is more instrumental to the future of our social fabric than volunteers – bringing life, colour and hope to all civic institutions, places and projects across our United Kingdom. The challenge remains: as the organisations most frequently tasked with responding speedily to the emerging needs within our community, members of the voluntary sector must also internally and openly reflect the demographics of those we are here to help if our services are to continuously adapt and achieve their maximum beneficial impact. Beyond any other resource the goodwill and the intention of people is the best asset anybody can ever count on. The Vision for Volunteering is an opportunity which we must all collectively capitalise on, a strategy exists as an instructive and optimistic guide to all of us, asking of us that we believe in ourselves and what’s possible in the future.”

Pictures from the Vision for Volunteering Launch

According to Emma-Jane, it was essential to launch the Vision in a way that affirmed its principles.

“Our session could easily have been another lecture or a panel discussion. But that’s not what the Vision is about. The Vision asks us all to look at volunteering and social action with fresh eyes and to pivot away from repeating the past. That’s what we did on that stage: as a team we broke new ground and took the audience on a journey, empowering them to connect with the Vision’s aims rather than prescribing a final destination. As young people, we may have been a minority in the room, but I really feel that our presence and message cut through and moved people to make change.”

Supporting the Vision’s statement that ‘the future of volunteering needs more diversity, more collaboration, more experimentation and more devolution of power’, George and Emma-Jane recapped on how they lead by example on this. In late 2021, the partners of the Vision For Volunteering ran a series of 14 workshops across seven strands, three of which were co-chaired by #iwill Ambassadors. To involve and engage with a wider demographic including young people, the team ran their third workshop through social media, a different approach to what was originally prescribed. The team thus ensured that a wide range of voices and perspectives all had input into the Vision and that the final product was truly representative and relevant to all.

The team are keen to see shared learning from the Vision For Volunteering workshops being actioned. George explained:

“Volunteering should be about opening doors, not numerous closed ones. The Vision kicks down those doors and barriers. Volunteers are people who care. Volunteering for me means freedom, a gesture that provides a natural network, where I can try my best and know that it is good enough. As a wheelchair user, I have learned to quickly read a room, and if I can’t be authentic, I don’t stay. Volunteering breaks down barriers so that I can be part of helping to make the world a better place.”

Quote says Volunteering breaks down barriers so that I can be part of helping to make the world a better place.

Gracie added; “At the end of the event, having school kids come up to our stand and say that it made them think about the future they want and what they could do in their own communities to create changes – that gave me hope! What I love about the Vision For Volunteering is that it includes them too and that it has the potential to help create a world where every single person, especially young people, has the opportunity to be good.”

On reflection, all felt that delivering the Vision was an empowering and unique experience that sets an example for truly collaborative and equitable volunteering moving forward: “We need to fully live the Vision in a way that is intentional and we need to give everyone a chance, opening doors to let people in. “