Saturday, July 30, 2005

rambling in D minor

greenbelt sweatshop
due to a slight error there was a bit of a mix up at the greenbelt office and on the spur of the moment i decided to offer assistance … monday and tuesday found me and a group of willing volunteers stuffing envelopes with tickets
(made me realise that i never want to work in a factory)

at one point i commented that here we were working underground (basement office) in a hot room doing a mundane task ... if this was Nike we would be campaigning against the terrible working conditions … maybe we should bring it up in a seminar at the festival

also made me ponder on the whole issue of volunteers and what our motivation for helping is ... at one point we were discussing why people are motivated to volunteer ... the fact that it gives them power ... or maybe it makes them feel better about themselves ... or even gives them a feeling of self importance ... or maybe they just want to help

it is the first thing that springs to mind when you are faced with a jobsworth type at the actual festival … hmmm wonder why you do this every year? … one year a friend commented that he was convinced that a particular volunteer steward slept with his picture beside the bed and fell asleep every night muttering ‘next year I’ll get you next year’

the fact is that we wouldn’t get anywhere without volunteers and therefore you are locked into the ‘can’t seem ungrateful – any help is help – grin and bear it’ loop … but the fact is that sometimes you are dealing with a complete muppet who is more of a hinderance than a help

this is a general conversation and has no bearing on the experience in the office the other day :) honest

it made me ponder why I volunteer … my instinctive reaction is that it is something I believe in and therefore I am willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen … mixed with a bit of - my friends are in a fix and need some support - but then I have been helping with this festival for a very long time so it is natural that I would feel some obligation to offer assistance if I can be of any use … personally I always get satisfaction for a job well done and despite my jokes I am not afraid of hard work … and i have always believed that you shouldn’t ask anybody to do something that you are not prepared to do yourself … but why do I do it?

All of the things that I do are unpaid so in that sense it is volunteer but we have always taken the attitude that as the lady wife is the breadwinner I am able to involve myself in projects that have no need to pay me …which in my opinion means they get my skills without having the extra burden of having to pay for them … the only proviso is that they pay my expenses … don’t see why on top of everything else I should be out of pocket

So in one sense I am a little different in that I treat any volunteer stuff as actual work and apply the same ethic as I would to a job … turn up on time … working for someone therefore I do as I am asked … do the job to the best of my ability … work hard … and because I have spent so long working like this it is hard to peel back the layers to discover motivation … I only involve myself with things that I believe are important and relevant and in areas I think I can bring something to the table … so most of my ‘jobs’ are in areas to do with the arts and in particular Christian organisations … so I am motivated by things I thing that are important to me … I guess there is a layer of feeling useful but probably no more than anybody else who enjoys their work

As for power I don’t think that can be an issue … in the way that I work I am only as good as the last thing I did for anyone … I guess you build up a reputation for being able to do certain things and being reliable … but I don’t hold any position … the organisation is under no obligation and can just use somebody else anytime they want to … there is no come back I can’t complain about my career path or ask why I wasn’t promoted above someone else or even ask for a pay rise

That is one of the interesting side issues of doing what I do … in most people’s lives salary is the measure of success … how you are doing compared to those beside you in comparable positions … looking above to see where you are aiming … I don’t have any of that so how do I measure how I am doing

In the case of greenbelt (and this is just discussion and pondering I have no hidden agendas with greenbelt - it is just a good example of the genre) … I have worked alongside them in various roles for many years but they don’t pay me a salary … I don’t get reviews or assessments … and they are under no obligation to me … they could replace me any time they wanted and I have no come back

Which is fine and I have no issue with the arrangement … I have always felt that greenbelt is a very important festival … a non profit making charity … and they always appreciate help and support and treat everybody as family rather than staff ... it depends on volunteer help because it keeps down the price of the tickets and there is certainly a feeling that this large group of people as a team made this thing happen every year

Often my lady wife has commented that I could earn a lot of money doing what I do in the big wide world … and that is probably true … but I have never been motivated by earning money or having a career path … I gain satisfaction from having been involved with something that worked and watching people enjoy what we managed to do … I guess it depends what your measure of success is … for me it is about bringing something in on time – under budget – to the best of everybody’s ability … simple things like that

The downsides are that you have no job security … for all you know you could be one of the muppets … you sometimes suppress the feeling that you have no value because you have nothing at all to judge it against … if I said tomorrow that I couldn’t work with greenbelt anymore would they notice? There are probably a hundred people who could do what I do (no different from being in a paid job I suppose) … sometimes it would be nice not to have to answer the question ‘what do you do?’ with ‘not a lot really I don’t have a proper job’

And it costs me … a lot of time and money and energy … there are many inconsequential expenses that you never pass on to the people you work with because you don’t want to be an added burden to the organisation … all those hidden bits and pieces that you can ill afford to carry but you know that if we all piled in expense claims it would cripple the finances (not just greenbelt but any thing I have ever worked with) … you know that and they know it and you just have to believe that they appreciate every little thing you do in all the myriad ways you do it … but sometimes it would be nice to have a salary and a an expense account and not worry that you always have nothing coming in and plenty going out

And greenbelt is a particular example (also the acg) of where in some roles you might be leading a team of people or hosting something on stage and you know that people have no idea what you do … they think all you do is wander onstage for an hour or so or turn up and tell everyone what you want done and then stroll off to a meeting but you don’t do an actual job … trust me something like greenbelt is for me a 9am -1am workathon for about seven days … plus all the hours of meetings throughout the year and the endless phonecalls and emails.

my motivation? … doing a job well … making it happen … being the best I can be at the thing I do at that moment… and if sometimes that is stuffing envelopes on a hot summer afternoon then so be it :)

funny conversation 64b
As I am helping GB office with the ticket chaos and the various other things I am doing for them I keep having to call the office … I call in to speak to sarah and apparently the following conversation takes place

Laura: sarah it’s steve for you
Sarah: which steve?
Laura: can’t remember his surname
Sarah: well is it visuals steve or camp steve that helped us with the tickets last week?

And then while laughing a lot she repeated the ‘funny’ conversation to me when she got on the phone

I mean please what do I have to do … married for 20 years … working with and for greenbelt for longer than that and they don’t know my name and apparently my sexuality is not in question at all bastards … wait until they want me to fetch them a coffee onsite … like an elephant I never forget :)


Caroline said...

don't you believe it sunshine... (gb that is) Dare I be the one that points out that ahem, actually, employment legislation is increasingly being applied to 'volunteer' jobs - cf. and,,2-1463794,00.html

i hate to be a harbinger of doom but....trustees should beware, it only takes one nutter....

1 i z said...

Just as well we don't attract any nutters the...hurrrhmmmm!

I think really that just reinforces a feeling that I find in the organisation generally that you try and treat volunteers right anyway. You don't want your employer to only treat you right because they 'have' to, and 10 times that if you're volunteering for something like GB.

I'm particularly glad that coming out of its years of crisis mgmt, GB is taking volunteer management increasingly seriously - including getting a professional consultant to provide advice and training.

I understand that at her session the other week (which I couldn't make) she looked at 'why' people volunteer and their motivations...I'll be bugging Ben for more details when I see him.

Myself...well I guess the motivation boils down to this, something like Greenebtl just simply cannot exist without massive volunteer input. I think GB is a good thing, I probably want to see less of it than I used to, so being one of those volunteers and hence helping to ensure it continues to exist for the next bunch of wanderers who need what it has to offer makes sense.

Of course there is also pay-off ona personal level, in that I get to experience a different sort of festival and spend time with wonderful people...not sure that, that in itself would make all the hours and costs worthwhile though.

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