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Tag: voluntary sector

Introducing TeamKinetic: Steve Hall – Stepping into the Unknown

TeamKinetic …what fun we’ve had!

Tasked with introducing myself through a blog, I thought how I could best describe myself and the journey I have had so far with TeamKinetic.

There was a time when TeamKinetic was just a topic of conversation at the dinner table as Chris, my brother in law, would tell me how he and Rolf had been developing a piece of software for volunteer management. I remember Chris telling me how they ran the company out of the spare area in his dad’s office, which was often filled with construction workers and their muddy boots.

This was quite the contrast to my corporate job! I had spent seven years working for an American pharmaceutical company as IT Project Manager. I had initially enjoyed the job for its methodical approach required, with clear outcomes and a process to achieving them being visible. The job required me to travel hospital to hospital working up to three projects at a time. I was a testament to Lenny Henry and his #goodnightguarentee!

For sure I took advantage of all the free shampoo I could, my bathroom was full of them! But after that the benefits wore thin. Living out of a suitcase had become tiresome and I started considering what I could do instead; I wanted something that actually had an impact, a place where I could build something and see the results.

I decided I was in a strong enough financial position to hand my notice in and begin my journey into the unknown. I had several solo contracts that were going well and I decided that I would continue working for myself and would build my own company.

It was during one of my contracts in Birmingham, that I received a call from Chris asking for some help on the implementation of volunteer management website. Our chats continued and soon progressed into a proposition. I decided I would finish my current contract and then join TeamKinetic as a partner.

Eight years on I have never looked back. As the company has grown, our systems improved and our client base ever expanding, I have found gratification and enjoyment in my role! Each time we develop a new function, release an update or meet a new client I get excited that we are genuinely helping others.

As I am the ‘Implementer’ (cue mischievous face for comical value) I spend most of my time speaking and visiting our amazing clients. The interpersonal aspect of a job is something I value highly, wanting to work with people who are happy and also wanting to make a difference is very rewarding.

Each day brings a new task and challenges, every time a new one pops up I write it on a yellow post-it-note and put on my monitor, then upon completing them, I get to scrunch it up and throw it away, with deep satisfaction. My life a much happier nowadays, I spend more time with my family, I have a job that I wake up happy to go to, and I feel like I am making the better impact in the world.


Implementation Consultant

If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please feel free to contact me.

Sound advice for anyone who is thinking about Volunteering

Since starting Grassroots Nomad, the number one question that I have been asked is ‘How do I find grassroots / sustainable volunteering work?’

Unfortunately the answer isn’t a simple one as it requires a lot of dedication and hard work – before you even start to volunteer. But, if you aren’t committed to working hard to find the right place to volunteer, then maybe volunteering isn’t the thing for you.

Step One: What do you want?

The first step when deciding whether or not to participate in volunteer work is to think about why you want to do it in the first place. Is it to make your CV better (which it will)? Is it to make a difference (which you can do)? Or is it to learn something about the world, different cultures, a new skill, or even about what inspires you (which you will)?

So here are a few questions to think about:

Why do I want to volunteer?
What are my specialist skills?
What are my passions?
What are my interests?
What do I want to learn?
How can I transfer these skills to volunteer work?
What kind of countries, organisations, issues do I want to work in?

Now you have an idea about what you can offer, you have to think where these specialist skills are best suited. If you are a professional teacher, maybe you could help train teachers in remote communities and develop lesson plans? If you are an IT expert, maybe you could develop a website for a small organisation? If you are a social media wizz, perhaps you could devise a feasible social media strategy to improve an organisations’ online presence and boost volunteer/donation rates?

If you are not qualified to work in an area, then think hard about working in that field, particularly if it relates to children or animals. If you are not qualified to work around children, many of whom have faced incredible challenges in their lives, then please reconsider volunteering for a few weeks at an orphanage.

Volunteering at an orphanage or school seems to be the number one type of volunteer work that people want to do. Sadly, your presence might be doing more harm than good.

Step Two: Where will I apply to volunteer?

The key to stage two is research. This is not easy. There isn’t one site that you can go to which lists all the free, grassroots volunteering opportunities around the world (although I am working on it).

Grassroots volunteering opportunities aren’t available through travel agents or big tour companies. You have to do the ground-work yourself.

Now you know what you can offer and what you are looking for you will be able to target your research rather than flicking through hundreds of websites without any direction. These are the places that I go to when I’m looking for volunteer work and they have been very successful for me:

Read research papers in your chosen topic. E.g. My focus was human trafficking so I read a lot of articles by the UN and big organisations like Anti-Slavery International, etc. Look closely at their reference list. These organisations conduct interviews with small, grassroots charities that work within these communities. They are the experts.
Research organisations that collaborate together. If you have found one charity that you like the sound of, read their research and see if they collaborate with other organisations. This is a great way to give yourself a number of different options for volunteer work, as your first preference might not accept you.
Read articles written by previous volunteers. Verge Magazine publishes a lot of different articles written by volunteers. It was in one of their online editions that I read an article by a lady who spent time volunteering with the Himanchal Education Foundation in Nepal. I will be spending the month of November volunteering with them myself, so I will update you on my work.
Talk to people. Keep your ears open for new opportunities or organisations that you haven’t heard of before. There are also groups online, such as Responsible Tourism Networking Facebook group where people regularly ask advice about volunteering opportunities or sustainable travel.

Stage Three: Applications

Once you have compiled a list of potential organisations it is time to make contact and ask whether it would be possible for you to volunteer.

Things to consider when writing your email/letter:

Keep it short and use simple language. Often English is the second, third, or even fourth language spoken by the staff you are emailing. If you use complicated language you may be impressing yourself but they will just be confused.
Explain what you can offer. Why should they let you volunteer? Volunteers are a lot of work for an agency as they require training and divert staff away from their day-to-day work. Make it clear that you have specialist skills and aren’t just looking to beef up your CV.
Be flexible. It is important that organisations pick volunteers that are able to offer skills needed by the community. This might mean you are working on something you never expected, but volunteering is about helping in a useful way – it is about what the community wants not what you think they want.
Be open minded, passionate, and show your dedication to the values and goals of the organisation.
Be respectful. Don’t assume that because you have qualifications that you know more than the people already working in these communities. Respect the work that they do, their motivations, and their backgrounds.
Once you submit your application, it is time to wait. Many organisations might not have frequent internet access or check their emails regularly so it might take some time for them to reply. Don’t lose hope!

Stage Four: Success!

After a few applications, you will find your organisation. Now it is time to discuss timeframes, what assistance they are able to provide with visas and accommodation.

See if you can conduct any fundraising before you leave, or if the organisation requires any resources that are hard to find – e.g. calculators, etc – that you may be able to bring with you and donate to the community.

Updated tip: Be flexible! In the hour or so since I posted this article my volunteering plans in Nepal have been cancelled due to increasing unrest and danger in the area. Now I have no idea where I am heading – back to the planning and research!

Is it time to look at the third sector afresh?

The role of the 3rd Sector in the delivery of Health and Social care may be the only long term way to ensure some services survive.  This fantastic article from Sarah Swindley, Chief Executive, Lancashire Women’s Centres outlines some of the major problems but also shed some light on the potential benefits.



How do we best define and articulate the role of the voluntary sector in health and social care? I’ve been asking myself that question increasingly regularly.

I run Lancashire Women’s Centres – a medium-sized regional charity working across a number of areas, including health, social care and criminal justice. As well as being a charity, we are also a company, a provider delivering NHS contracts and part of a private-sector-led criminal justice supply chain. The boundaries between the sectors are so blurred they’re becoming hard to see. However, we retain at our heart a set of core values to offer the best services to the most vulnerable in our communities and to have the basic aim of putting ourselves out of business by not being needed any more.

In 2013, Lancashire Women’s Centres was the overall winner of the GSK IMPACT Awards, funded by GSK and run in partnership with The King’s Fund and awarded annually to recognise and reward charities doing excellent work to improve people’s health. One of the key benefits of winning this award is the opportunity to join a growing and formidable network of past winners. As a group, we regularly get together to build our leadership skills, to share challenges and solutions and to shape our relationship with The King’s Fund, the NHS and the wider health and social care system. The knowledge and expertise we bring from running a range of successful health charities is there for commissioners and policy-makers to use and draw from. But how far is this expertise recognised?

The external environment since we won has changed fairly dramatically, with integration of health and social care becoming one of the key challenges to be addressed by the NHS five year forward view. However, despite the recognition in the Forward View that ‘voluntary organisations often have an impact well beyond what statutory services alone can achieve’, from the discussions we’ve had locally and nationally, it appears that the third sector is still poorly represented in successful integrated partnerships. Why is that? How do we better articulate our ‘offer’ and how it fits into an integrated model?

There are some considerable barriers to integration. Looking from the sidelines I see the practical issues – pay scales, organisational culture, information-sharing and measurement to name a few – which mean local authorities and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have difficult conversations ahead. Bringing volunteers into the picture as recognised assets who will support outcomes in health and social care and add to workforce capacity is only just starting to happen.

When thinking about writing this blog, I hosted a roundtable for local health leaders from CCGs and public health – to gauge their view of the sector and understand how they saw us fitting into the developing plans. It was apparent that there is a definite appetite and willingness to engage with the third sector, although lots of energy has been spent trying to find a single point of contact, which seems to be causing some paralysis. Working through consortia and partnerships goes some way to addressing this, but I wonder if the same would be asked of the private sector?

Much of the third sector is well able to operate with maturity in a competitive market place. The skills and delivery models within the sector go far beyond delivering volunteer-led services to older people, vital though this work is. Third sector organisations provide flexible and diverse services within health and social care, reaching and benefiting communities often most distanced from statutory services.

I would like third sector organisations to be treated as providers that are already modelling integrated commissioning. Lancashire Women’s Centres work holistically across silos to reduce individuals’ vulnerability and help them to reach their potential. If you help someone to free themselves from debt, improve their literacy, live safely without fear of abuse, then as a consequence their health improves, their management of their long-term conditions improves, their attendance at A&E reduces, and their risk of suicide decreases. Commissioners are starting to understand that.

There is a view that what the third sector offers can be replicated and driven from inside the NHS, that community programmes can be bolted onto clinical services. I would argue this is the wrong way round and is the most expensive option; I advocate getting clinicians out and into communities. My vision for Lancashire Women’s Centres over the next couple of years is for us to have access to GPs that ‘belong’ to the service users – who will be able to prescribe medication or send for X-ray in a responsive way that fits those with complex needs who might not turn up for an appointment because they are scared to go out in case the bailiffs come, or are so wracked with anxiety they can’t get out of the door.

So let the third sector be round the table when plans for communities are being shaped – we understand this is no guarantee of future funding, but we have links to communities and patients that can help shape services in new ways.



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