This site is an emergent commons and learning lab: a place to share, play, and experiment with ideas about volunteer engagement.
Ultimately, I hope it helps change the conversation about volunteerism. Too often the narrative about service is sweet and anemic (“look at what those nice volunteers did”) or defaults to logistics and transactions. Instead, I envision a:
- narrative about service that is as generative and compelling as the work volunteers do.
- practice of service that draws on community-centric principles such as reciprocity, interdependence, love, stewardship, right relationship, justice, and co-creation.
- framing of service that understands it as a powerful adaptive tool that brings community together to meet common needs.
To support that vision, I borrow a tactic from the Solutions Journalism Network of complicating the narrative. Journalist Amanda Ripley explains it this way:
“Complicating the narrative means finding and including the details that don’t fit the narrative – on purpose. The idea is to revive complexity in a time of false simplicity.”
- Because service, volunteers, the agencies that engage volunteers, and the practice of community are complex and diverse. Oversimplifying them diminishes their richness and nuance and meaning.
- Because we need to fully reckon with the light and the often-overlooked shadow of service if we are to realize its potential.
- Because we have an opportunity to come up with more enlivening and equitable answers to the question of how we want to be in community with each other.
Ready to get started? Check out, comment on, and share the blogs below or on the right. Explore the concept of the Commons or the application of developmental theories (All Quadrant Model and Action Logics) to volunteerism. Go down a rabbit hole with my dissertation, which is a deep dive on volunteer value and the application of gift economy principles to volunteer engagement: Making the Invisible Visible: Capturing the Value of Volunteerism in Nonprofit Organizations. Thanks for visiting!
- When and Where to Use Wage Replacement Rates (or Not) for Volunteer Value (updated for 2022)“The most enduring and controversial question within the field of volunteerism is the one that relates to the ‘value’ of volunteers and the hours they contribute”. Andy Fryar This enduring question comes to the forefront each year during National Volunteer Month when Independent Sector releases its annual update of the financial value of a volunteer…
- A Contrarian’s Guide to Volunteer Value (Or an Ode to Volunteer Worth)1 Abandon numbers and dollars when describing volunteer value. In folk tales, when a gift is counted or priced, it loses its magic.1 2 Remember that you cannot measure everything that matters, especially when it comes to community and volunteerism. As William Bruce Cameron puts it, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not…
- From a Day of Service to Beloved CommunityIt was Martin Luther King Jr. Day which meant two things in my corner of social media: 1) lots of Dr. King’s quotes and 2) volunteer project photos. One post broke the mold though and stopped me in my tracks. Consultant and activist Breauna Dorelus said she wasn’t interested in my favorite MLK quote. She…
- Volunteer Engagement Assessment: Revealing the InvisibleYou know the organization. The volunteer manual is gorgeous. The volunteers are involved in a variety of roles. The CEO highlights achievements during Volunteer Month. They check all the boxes on how to engage volunteers. You also know the Volunteer Director feels like she is carrying the entire volunteer effort on her shoulders. She struggles…
- Gratitude, Reckoning, and the Top Volunteer Commons Posts of 2021As the year wraps up, I want to thank you for joining me in the Volunteer Commons. There are so many demands on our time and attention these days, and I am grateful that you spent some of yours with the ideas in these blogs. Thanks also to those of you who liked, commented, emailed,…