The 2030 Agenda recognizes the need for all of society to be involved if we are to meet the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). As part of this approach, volunteerism is recognized globally as a powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation. Volunteering provides new channels for interaction between government, the private sector and the people through civil society and grassroots organisations. The scale and depth of volunteer action have been acknowledged across the full spectrum of SDGs. Hence, it is vital to amplify the voices and efforts of volunteers in inter-sectorial dialogue.
Forward Singapore is an effort by the nation to come together, examine our values and aspirations, and build consensus for our future. It is an opportunity to refresh our social compact and set out how the citizens and residents can work collaboratively, to shape the next phase of nation-building together.
With this as the backdrop, Singapore’s Inaugural Volunteer Management Conference saw representatives from the nonprofit sector across social services, education, health, arts, sports, public service agencies including the defence forces, grassroots entities, the corporate sector and champions for social good coming together, to collaborate on Volunteer Management as a strategy for ForwardSG. DPM Lawrence Wong and Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin shared their insights, lending their support and encouragement of the movement.
I moderated the first panel of the conference with leaders from the People-Public-Private sectors where we envisioned the change we want to be in integrating systematic voluntarism into the national strategies and plans. The key takeaways from this dialogue were:
A. Being the change and the vision for the future:
• Take ownership of the social compact, with a shared understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities that the 3P sectors play (government, employers and the community)
• Ensure our social compact does not fail, by taking an ecosystem approach to develop sustained relationships with cross-sector partners
• Have a sense of shared purpose that leads to remarkable growth and fosters a culture that emphasises shared values, norms, and identity among the collaborators
B. Collective efforts specific to volunteer partnerships:
• The conditions for collective impact are common agenda, shared measurements of impact, mutually reinforcing activities, trust and communications and a facilitator/ coordinator to keep the collective in synch.
• The need for the volunteer engagement strategy to be the ‘Boat and the Bridge’, where volunteers, corporate partners, civic groups are ferried in to get exposed to areas of need where they can learn, understand and be motivated to cross the bridge to develop a sustained relationship and become champions for the causes they serve.
• Collectively work towards measurable and material impact, where time, talent and treasure contributed are tracked, the level of engagement and future-focused outcomes are also considered vital
• Go beyond the ‘doing’ to see volunteer management through the value-creation lens, through strategic and creative thinking that delivers impact, enhances productivity, ensures relevancy and stays agile.
C. Exponential impact that focuses on the‘ so what’
• Beyond activities and outputs, how outcomes deliver impact through strong volunteer management capabilities that allow the 3P partners ensure supply matches demand to achieve exponential impact.
• Explore how the ESG (environmental, social and governance) commitments by organisations incorporate grassroots and civil society volunteer-led approaches that can help ensure that actions are rooted in the experiences of communities most impacted, thus moving away from fragmented approaches to the range of issues addressed
• The simple yet vital step to negate fragmentation is sharing updates on current efforts. Next integrate and deduplicate the processes, after which resource sharing can be embarked on to increase efficiency and productivity. The partnerships will then reach a collaborative stage where joint planning and delivery can be undertaken.
In Singapore, the development of volunteer centres operated by community-based organisations (CBOs) is responsible for coordinating the development and deployment of volunteer and resources to meet community needs. This incorporation of volunteerism into the national strategies and plans fosters community partnerships to support each town’s effectiveness and strengthen the social compact. #ForwardSG