I just finished our last internal meeting here at VolunteerMatch before the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. As I was typing our message map, it struck me that some of the juiciest, most thought-provoking, and ultimately most inspiring times I’ve had at NCVS were “off book.”
That is, they weren’t part of any official guide or program, but instead were organized by participants to add another voice/perspective/experience to the mix. For example, at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, D.C. a few years back, I met Darian Heyman Rodriguez during a rowdy hand of poker in the hotel lobby. Flash forward to this month, and we’ve invited him to bring ideas about community organization to our Best Practice Network webinars. And they call this work!
At NCVS this year, an “event” I’m really excited about is also off book. Rabble rousers and cause engagement specialists Scott Henderson and Brian Reich are organizing a splinter “idea throwdown” at a separate location. They’ve invited members of the conference to show up and talk about what’s not working in volunteer and service, what’s screwed up, and ultimately how to create measureable impact in volunteering and service now that we live in a digital age.
Or as the invitation says:
Everyone talks about the transformational power of digital and social media, the contribution that technology and the Internet are having on our society, but for all the changes and advancements, most things about our society are operating largely as they have for a long time… Before we can do more and achieve what we know is possible, we have to stop doing the things that aren’t working. We need to shift the focus away from activities that are nice and interesting, but aren’t important, and start focusing on the things that will help accomplish our goals.
As my team knows, I love looking for screwed up things, so this should be good. More importantly, a super interesting mix of service and volunteering leaders have signed up to attend, and if even half of them come out and speak their minds, this could be one of the most revealing — and inspiring– moments of New Orleans for all of us.
Robert led VolunteerMatch's communications until 2014 and is editor of Volunteer Engagement 2.0. Today he lives in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he works with VSO, the leading INGO involving volunteers in the fight against poverty.