Some big questions came out of a conference ‘Celebrating Volunteering’ today. Inevitably, the ‘Big Society’ lurked around – and Alison Elliot speculated that perhaps just as the Church declined as an institution when the Welfare State grew, so the reverse might become true now. I think it is probably going to be as much about partnership as ‘either (State) or (Church)’.
Then there was the usefulness of volunteering: it can be used as a step-up to a job, or to gain skills, as much as to serve the community. Does motivation matter? If there is a good outcome – the homeless housed, the parent encouraged, the lonely befriended – does it make any difference why someone helped them?
And then, how do you ‘let go’ a project? Sometimes, it is taken over and changed, or become no longer necessary, and the small Church group that started it has done its work. But that relinquishing can be hard, and it is always tempting to measure success as growing bigger and more ‘successful’.
One last thing that had not occurred to me: in the Victorian period, the Church’s charitable work was a great nurturer of civic skills – governance in committees, accountability and so on. Involvement in StartUp Stirling has certainly taught me an enormous amount.