Ep 22: No Strings Attached?: A conversation about ethical volunteering as a force for social good, and the sense of freedom that comes with doing something good for others.


In this episode, I talk with Kate Chandler @heritage_kate about something that we are both passionate about – #volunteering!  Kate is a heritage professional from the UK, living in Dublin. She has worked and volunteered for the National Trust and English Heritage, and has held roles in volunteer coordination and management.

Click HERE for Accessible Transcript

@heritage_kate talks about her own experiences as a young girl, visiting historical places and being captivated by the stories she’d hear and the rich history surrounding these spaces that were so magical for her.  Kate has always had a passion for heritage conservation and volunteering was a wonderful opportunity for her to surround herself with historical spaces that she loved so much.

@heritage_kate credits her volunteer experiences during her school years for directing her higher education and career path working in the heritage sector.  Volunteering offered her the opportunity to try out different things to see where her interests might lie.  She was able to connect with place and space in such a deep and meaningful way that were so special and impactful for her freely, with no strings attached. 

@heritage_kate shares that she has learned important life-skills from her volunteer experiences, such as facing fears and how to talk and interact with other people, which was something that never came easy for her. She says that volunteering has impressed upon her that everyone is equally important and that volunteers are invaluable to organizations (something that can often be overlooked). Volunteers have a wealth of knowledge and experience.

@heritage_kate believes that volunteering is a force for social good by allowing people and communities to come in and to contribute to a shared purpose and goal with no strings attached.  There is a possibility for a kind of democracy about volunteering, but there isn’t always.  Volunteering has the power to really bring people together, particularly in local communities. When you choose to do something for somebody else – to work towards something outside of your ‘self’ – it can contribute to your own happiness.

We discuss, in depth, the concept of ethical volunteering and issues that many volunteer managers and organizations face. @heritage_kate feels that volunteers are integral to the heritage sector, but are often relied on too heavily.. She feels that there are two thorny areas in volunteering – privilege and vulnerability to exploitation. Kate recognizes her position of privilege in being able to pursue volunteering which has impacted how she looks at volunteer coordination and management. Volunteering is a luxury, as unpaid work, enjoyed by some, and voluntary work should never replace paid work.  

@heritage_kate call to action for anyone interested in volunteering?  Just go and talk to people in the place that you are interested in volunteering with.  Meet them and see where what you want out of volunteering might meet with what they are looking for and how you might meet in the middle.

@heritage_kate words of wisdom to listeners, especially those in a position of power and managing volunteers… make sure that you are reflecting on that and using your position of power to  improve the ethics of volunteering in your area. There is always room for reflection.  Everyone has different reasons for volunteering so make sure you’re checking in with them! Come #ListenAndLearn #Volunteering #Road2Volunesia.

Kate’s Resources and References:

Ten Percent Happier podcast by Dan Harris – the episode is 183 ‘Fighting Depression with Social Connection’ with Johann Hari. The study he refers to is ‘Culture Shapes Whether the Pursuit of Happiness Predicts Higher or Lower Well-Being’ by a team of social scientists led by Dr. Brett Q. Ford of Berkeley – the 2015 article of the study can be found here: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/xge-0000108.pdf
And the organisationmentioned is Fair Museum Jobs, who aim to “establish a better standard (“The Manifesto”) for museum job recruitment that is based on the principles of fairness, transparency, equity and inclusivity.” Their website is here https://fairmuseumjobs.org/ and they can be found on Twitter at @fair_jobs


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Garth von Buchholz 📲

Author of the Digital MANiFESTO, educator, blogger, speaker & digital literacy activist

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