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VAT: Nov/Dec Volunteerism's Newsletter Vintage: 1996

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On a Personal Note -- Professional, Too

Dr. Ivan Scheier   .

I'm now in my fifth straight year of farewell tours and will soon begin my 73rd year of life. Surely, it's time to get real about closing out a career. So, this will be my last regular article for Grapevine. I'm deeply grateful to Sue Vineyard and Steve McCurley for having offered me this important forum the past eight years, first as The DOVIA Exchange and then as a generous invitation to write whatever I saw as important. Thank you, Sue and Steve, for your support and - often enough - your patience. Thanks to all of you who've honored my thoughts with careful attention even when they might have seemed a little crazy.

Please feel welcome to contact me for further information on any of the items mentioned below:

A. Finishing Business  -- These have begun but will be completed in the next year or two

  1. A think tank series entitled "Creative Re-Considerations of Volunteerism," designed to unearth and re-examine basic assumptions which have under-lain volunteerism/volunteer administration in the past half-century. Discussion will then freshly re-affirm these assumptions for further use, or explore alternative assumptions which offer increased opportunities for unblocking and advancement of our field. My previous articles in Grapevine have been an example of exploring alternatives to the assumption that volunteer administration career opportunities are (totally, mainly?) working with volunteers in staffer organizations.
  2. A "New Volunteerism" project which studies up to 60 of my "how to" methods and approaches sharing a "release" rather than "control" philosophy of working with volunteers. Some of the names may be somewhat familiar, e.g. "MiniMax," "Job Factoring," "Work Assignment Grids," but most of the methods are no longer available in print and many of them are virtually forgotten. The project will, where necessary, "unearth" the methods, polish them up, then facilitate a technology transfer to seriously interested trainers and consultants.

B. Unfinished Business -- I do understand and rejoice that some volunteer administrators have reached positions of great respect and influence in their organizations. But far too many have not and so the major interest of my career has been empowerment of our profession. This is unfinished business, to put it mildly, which is why I tend to put it angrily, sometimes. Hence phrases such as "the disposable profession" in my last Grapevine article. Please accept my apologies for that, with some compassion, if you can, for the frustration behind it.

  1. Since 1979, when Mary Ann Lawson and I did a report to AVA on the matter, I have strongly believed that a consortium of DOVIAs and other local/regional professional associations is the true and powerful voice of volunteerism in North America. Six hundred strong, with at least fifty thousand members all told, these organizations have for many years been the front line of organized volunteerism, supporting practitioners with relevant, accessible, affordable resources. They need first of all to be solidly connected with one another for information exchange on success practices, problems and solutions, joint project potential and dreams. I was never able to do this at much more than a token level with The DOVIA Exchange and The National DOVIA Network. The good news is that some people, who seem ready to take up this challenge today, do have the tools, resources and commitment to do the job thoroughly.

My dream is that this solid information exchange network will ultimately evolve into a coalition among autonomous local professional associations for identification and joint advocacy on national issues, for development of standards and programs, all of which will be solidly based on the consensus of the coalition. The role of AVA, or any other national/international body would only be to facilitate and respond to this coalition and this process.

2. I strongly believe that many if not most of today's coordinators of volunteers now in agency staff roles will be more empowered a) in a broader "community service' and/or "community resource development" role within an agency (which has begun to happen) and/or b) outside the agency in a consultant/expert role with volunteers in non-staffed and under-staffed groups. Since starvation is not empowering, the developmental effort here has been to show that this is a financially viable role. Indications are hopeful at this point.

C. New Business -- Stillpoint, where I live now, is a learning and retreat center built around holistic healing. It is housed in an eight-building compound in southern New Mexico. There are two main themes in our vision:

1. Healers often lack enough healing for themselves; caring people (that includes volunteer coordinators) often need more caring for themselves. Such people, professional or not, are therefore important clientele for Stillpoint.

2. Quality healing should be available to everyone as needed, including those who may not be able to afford full fees, or any fees at all. At the very least, we need to do all we can to impact the high cost of health care, through improved prevention and in other ways holistic healing can complement traditional health care.

Stillpoint does not accept fees or financial donations for our services, though many of our clients do choose to contribute in other ways with work or materials such as books for our library. We can do this because our staff is entirely volunteer, and we need little if any equipment. We are also teaching volunteers in the community basic holistic healing techniques for use with their family, friends, in their workplaces or networks.

 You're Not Getting Off Our Hook, Ivan!

As readers can see for themselves in Ivan Scheier's column, he has announced a "closing out of a career" that includes retreating from offering his regular musings on the pares of Grapevine as he has done for eight (is that possible??) years.

Well, guess what, Ivan? We're not letting you off the hook so easily, We still ask that you send in your mou6nts whenever you choose to do so; we'll bet that whatever they offer, it will cause all of us to really think.

Ivan is truly one of the anchors of volunteer leadership (he doesn't warm to the word 'management.') and his writings, think-tanks, trainings and research he has pushed us all toward greater exploration of creative ways to tackle and tame the challenges that surround us. Here in North America and as far away as Australia, his influence can be tracked as people he empowered with his wisdom, guidance and "Hey! ... how about..." thinking lead successful volunteer efforts.

Our minimalist friend seems to always be seeking maximal ways to make things better, simpler, more effective and innovative. By talking the University of Colorado into offering its now-famous Volunteer Management Program, which ran for 25 years until its closing in February, he expanded the circle of learning to thousands who came through its portals.

Through his we've-lost-track-of-how- many books on volunteer potential, leadership and exploration of volunteer space, he shared his insights with all of us, and through his think tanks and trainings he challenged us to stretch and look again at old ways. He has constantly urged us to draw in volunteer Volunteer Program leaders and acknowledge the importance of all-volunteer efforts. He has chided national groups to turn their attention and resources to serving the grass- roots needs and has been a special champion of local collaborative efforts of DOVIAs (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) and other like-minded support groups.

He seems to be drawn (he tells us) to lazy places of the tourist map which then get "discovered" just enough to cut into the quiet sites he has set up for reflection and contemplation.

Now in the beauty of New Mexico he is, as you can read for yourself in his column in this issue, still working to offer all of us a gentle rest from the demands of our work and life in general.

OK Ivan, you can "retire", but only in the pattern of every beloved Grandfather: still available for advising, soothing, reminiscing and occasional whittling. Or as you might put it: "Offering ‘Glad-Gives’ in ‘MiniMax’ exchanges." (Anyone who doesn’t understand that last statement has never attended one of Ivan’s sessions!)

  Sue Vineyard