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A Wellbeing Economy, Volunteering and the Promise

In a stimulating and challenging presentation to the Volunteer Glasgow AGM, Jimmy Paul from the Wellbeing Economy Alliance explained what the Wellbeing Economy means, and its implications for volunteering generally and for Volunteer Glasgow in particular.

Quoting Kirsty Flannigan of LCDT Jimmy explained vividly some of the things a Wellbeing Economy means:

  • “It is when you’re able to develop assets that meet the real needs of our communities
  • It’s a single Mum asking for space to support families and young people with addictions and mental health issues
  • It’s about equality.
  • It’s about respect.
  • It’s about empowerment.
  • It’s about ownership.
  • It’s about trust”

Jimmy described the tension between the pressure for economic growth on the one hand and wellbeing on the other. He explained that it means paying attention to the direction and composition of growth, not just its rate.

He outlined the links between the Wellbeing Economy and volunteering, some key points being:

  • That volunteering gives a sense of purpose and helps people feel a part of society
  • That if we work less and have fair pay, we can spend more time doing other things we care about e.g. volunteering
  • That volunteering has a high social impact …and low carbon

Specifically in relation to Volunteer Glasgow’s Befriending and Mentoring Service, Jimmy noted that this is a good example of investing “upstream” into children and families. It builds a sense of purpose, capacity and also builds relationships and community ties. He commented that there is also a lot we can learn from younger generations on e.g. climate action! He contrasted this with volunteering as ‘failure demand’ which creates dependency – food banks being an example of this.

Lastly Jimmy outlined the aims of “The Promise” – a root and branch review on the part of the Scottish Government working with all kinds of organisations to support shifts in policy, practice and culture so Scotland can keep the Promise it made to care experienced infants, children, young people, adults and their families – that every child grows up loved, safe and respected, able to realise their full potential. He asked what role can volunteering play in achieving this?

Jimmy posed the following questions for discussion:

  • What could you do more of to help deliver a Wellbeing Economy?
  • What are you doing well already?
  • To what extent are you aligned to The Promise?
  • How might WEAll Scotland and Volunteer Glasgow support each other in the future?

Following the AGM and a Q&A session with Jimmy, those present broke into syndicate groups to discuss the implications of Jimmy’s presentation for the city’s ambitions for volunteering, GIRFEC and The Promise, and for Volunteer Glasgow’s priorities.

The outcomes of the syndicates will inform the further development of Volunteer Glasgow’s strategic plan.

A few of the key points raised in the syndicate sessions were:

  • Several of the groups discussed the need to find better ways of measuring the value of volunteering. There are different ways of measuring impact, for example: cost benefit analysis; social impact bonds; and qualitative rather than quantitative approaches. It was noted that the calculation of the “worth” of volunteering by the Bank of England (up to £100bn) is indicative of a willingness to acknowledge volunteering as an economic force.
  • It was felt that the Wellbeing Economy would free people up and allow people access to other types of volunteering. There is a danger that “Micro volunteering” helps to sustain the wider gig economy. It was felt strongly that volunteers need to feel part of something tangible.
  • Related to the above point about the need for volunteers to be part of something, concerns were expressed that the city is not always giving sufficient emphasis to volunteering infrastructure services that support all the forms of inclusive volunteering that Glasgow needs; instead sometimes viewing volunteering as something that just happens organically and for free, with in contrast a tendency to emphasise big events – for example the Commonwealth Games or COP26, with limited emphasis on how to capture learning from these events.
  • Some implications for the work of Volunteer Glasgow were discussed – for example, that the organisation should endeavour to work with partners, communities of place and interest to support the development of a Wellbeing Economy. Also that there is a need to do more to find out what kind of volunteering roles are most beneficial to people and how to be more creative to ensure potential benefits are realised.
  • It was felt that we need more collaboration in funding, strategising and bringing key issues to the top. It was noted that together we are a stronger voice, empowering and giving a platform to ‘quieter voices’.

A big thank you to all our members and stakeholders for attending the AGM event and contributing to the discussions.


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