The vast number of volunteers at London 2012 were widely praised for their contribution to the Games, and there are hopes that the volunteering spirit will continue long after the end of the Olympics and Paralympics. There seems to be a general recognition that many of the sports clubs which trained our Olympians relied on volunteers, and if we are to see more children grow and thrive in sport, then we owe it to them to volunteer our services.
I wonder whether the volunteering spirit could be extended beyond sport? The Scouts Association, for example, is always looking for volunteers and indeed the difficulty in finding them is a key reason for the huge waiting lists. It is said that many parents don’t want to volunteer their time to help with Scouts, Beavers etc because they value their time without their children. They look at it as a sort of low-cost childcare, where the children are well looked after, whilst the parents can have a peaceful time. Those parents leave it to others to entertain, engage and excite their children. I can imagine that the Scouts are likely to have an even bigger problem recruiting volunteers as people turn their attention to sports.
How about the post-Olympic volunteering spirit extending even further? Could we all share a little of our professional know-how with children? After-school talks; company open-days; bring-your-child-to-school days?
We don’t seem to have a problem with time. I wonder how many man-hours are spent at car-boot sales around the country every week, transferring old and unwanted “stuff” from one house to another – people traipsing from car to car in muddy fields, buying and selling semi-meaningless junk. I fully understand the value of re-cycling, up-cycling and even free-cycling, but it seems to me that it’s all about people doing (virtuous) things for personal gain, rather than doing something for others.
Many big corporations already have such activities as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. Small companies usually don’t have a CSR budget. But they would probably understand it better if it were re-labelled as “volunteering”.