The Leapfrog team were in Elgin last week for their first scoping workshop exploring stories of impact with volunteers and volunteer coordinators local to the region. The aims of the workshop were to understand what impact looks and feels like for the participants in their roles, the journey that impact takes in their organisation, and to gather insights around the values of volunteering.

The workshop began with a presentation by the team about the Leapfrog project, and with an ice-​breaker where each participant introduced themselves and their motivations for working the sector. Here the participants shared insights around how volunteering helped them to build confidence and learn new skills; how it helps to break down power hierarchies as everyone is on a level playing field (particularly in regards to wage and responsibilities); how many clubs and services would be unable to run without volunteers; and how volunteering brings people together and is highly rewarding.

The workshop then kicked off by asking the group to visually describe what impact feels like for them by choosing from an array of materials, including modelling clay and Lego, and constructed metaphorical and abstract sculptures to represent their feelings. This was followed by asking the participants to then visualised, using the same materials, what impact actually looks like in their day-​to-​day practice. Once completed, each participant presented their two models back to the rest of the group. It was interesting to see in some cases the stark contrasts between the models. It seems that how impact feels is not always allowed to be articulated in how it is required to be documented and communicated in practice.

So to begin thinking about a resource for new volunteers, over lunch the participants were asked to note down on large sheets any resources they had been given when they began working in the voluntary sector. The participants shared a wide range of advice here, which included making sure you enjoy it and that volunteering doesn’t feel like a chore; taking care of yourself as much as you do for others; knowing that there is no right way to help others so be open to change; and that the role of volunteers is to support people to cope and be independent. 

The second part of the workshop returned to the idea of impact and focused on mapping out the journey impact takes in the participants’ organisation and how it is communicated. Using A3 sheets, the participants mapped out the channels and direction of this communication and were encouraged to think about the key challenges, moments and sites of tension, the people involved, and materials used. Once completed, each participant again presented back their map to the rest of the group, which led to a group discussion. A consensus was reached around the difficultly for volunteer coordinators to sustain the engagement of a new volunteer due to the lengthy recruitment process. Within the recruitment process, issues surrounding matching volunteers up to available roles was raised. Here it was suggested that a much more person-​centred approach was need so as to create roles for volunteers based on their skills, assets and interests. A need was also identified in formalising practices in the organisation which are currently informal done, such as sending out thank you cards to volunteers leaving the organisation. Formal feedback loops were also discussed in terms of often having to shoehorn stories of impact to fit with the expectation of funders.

The workshop finished by introducing a take-​away task, which asked the participants for their ‘tricks of the trade’. For this task, we asked the participants to think about their role and consider what key pieces of advice they would pass on someone new who’s thinking about becoming a volunteer, and write these onto cards provided to bring with them to next workshop.

This week, the Leapfrog team will host the second workshop for this project, with the aim of developing ideas for tools based on these collected insights.