Olympic and Paralympic Games 2000
|The Games present
a wonderful opportunity for volunteerism in Australia
Volunteerism is about doing something good and feeling something real (the Points of Light Foundation).
Volunteer management is about making volunteers feel good about what they have done
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and best wishes from the Organising team for next year's Games
There are many things of importance to the successful delivery of mega-events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games - one of the more important is the delivery of a memorable experience to the stakeholders.
It is through volunteers that at least some component of that experience will be achieved. Volunteers will the face of our Games - first person a volunteer and last person a volunteer. And the memories and perceptions of our Games will be strongly influenced by the hospitality and work performance of our volunteers.
Volunteerism in Australia has a long tradition and is quite strong. Sport in Australia has long been reliant on volunteer support and sports volunteering has also been quite strong.
This strength has been evident in our efforts to bring together a 50,000 strong volunteer workforce for next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sydney.
BUT there are threats and challenges to volunteerism. And we at SOCOG are facing those challenges.
Challenges face ALL voluntary organisations.
Volunteering in Australia and volunteering in sport are losing numbers and are being "challenged" by the same pressures which are reflective of our society and the world's society.
Included among these challenges are the ageing of our population, the ageing of our volunteer force, the professionalisation of sport, and the daily demands and stresses of life.
Whatever the challenges though, all organisations which rely on the support of volunteers, should remain mindful of the following points:
Firstly, the good news about Sydney's Volunteer Program for next year's Olympics and Paralympics:
Those who have volunteered for the 2000 Games are passionate in their support of the Games and for assisting as volunteers;None of this good news however is to suggest that the job to date has been easy - it hasn't.
For a country of Australia's relatively small population base, recruiting a 50,000 strong volunteer workforce was always a big ask.
As you know, making a Volunteer Program work is VERY demanding.
Recruiting, preparing, managing and retaining volunteers demands many things, but two are of fundamental importance:
Our progress to date has been positive ... and VERY INSPIRATIONAL to our paid staff.
Many of our paid staff have not previously worked with volunteers and therefore carry what I call "baggage" - there are many with preconceived views and attitudes on volunteers, and not all flattering - many of those perceptions are wrong and emanate from ignorance.Our Volunteers
Our FIRST GROUP of 500 volunteers have been on board with us for some years now and have already contributed considerable time to our preparations for the Games - in all sorts of roles
We call them our PIONEERS - the first - they have contributed 150,000 hours of time already to our preparations
The eyes of our paid staff have been opened wide by this connection with our volunteers - to their tremendous skills, to their amazing dedication, and to the significance of their contribution.
Many of our staff are building good working relationships with those volunteers and commenced the all important team building process.
That's exactly what is needed not only for the Games themselves but also for the longer-term health of sport and volunteerism beyond the Games
Our SECOND GROUP of 25,000 volunteers are our SPECIALISTS. I'm referring here to those people with particular skills to match the demands of the job. Examples include roles in Medical, Media, Technology, Sport and in Languages.
We began sourcing this group of volunteers in September 1997 primarily through professional associations, sponsors and tertiary institutions. A key source of this group has been 21 Australian universities. The universities have been wonderfully supportive in providing students to roles directly related to the practical component of their courses. One of these universities (UTS) has also worked with SOCOG to source 68 candidates from Greece to work full time with the Organizing Committee (Note: a separate paper on this is to be delivered at this Symposium).
Our THIRD GROUP of volunteers are those for more general roles - the many front and back of house positions.
This group of volunteers are from the general community - an official call for applications was made for these roles in October 1998Recruitment process
Our recruitment process has been:
Gender of our applicants
Age of our
So, 41% under age 35 and 59% under age 45Our training plans
Effective preparation of our 50,000 volunteers is quite a task.
We well understand the importance and magnitude of this task
Volunteers expect and deserve to be well trained and we have a responsability to give them the best possible opportunity to perform to their very best.
And we are committed to getting it as right as we possibly can.
Such a huge exercise could not be done without the support of a major training or educational institution - TAFE NSW is one of our Games sponsors and is doing a wonderful job in helping us develop our training program.
Our training of all our volunteers will cover:
Quite a lot of training has already been done - for the 17 Test Events already held and also for those volunteers assigned to roles demanding a lot of training.The Challenges
While our current status is quite positive, we HAVE faced some issues and we STILL have a few hurdles to get over.
The biggest early challenge was to the principle of recruiting non-paid staff for such a huge profile and budgeted event.
The current biggest challenge is to retain our volunteers during periods of controversy for the Olympic Movement and for our own organisation.
Let me just highlight a few of the more important issues and how we've had to work on:
SOLUTION: Board and Senior Management imprimatur: education; "selling" the skills of our volunteers; developing advocates; experience at events - the very best way.
SOLUTION/S: Decentralisation of responsibility to the respective sports; the Expression of Interest process; the pre-coding of application forms.
SOLUTION/S: place in an alternative role likely to provide them with the same level of satisfaction - eg: in the same venue
SOLUTION/S: Increase profiling of what sport in the Sydney media; some utilisation of the many volunteer applicants we have received from overseas; additional effort into promoting the opportunities to university students.
SOLUTION/S: Lots of training is planned; we're providing as many volunteers as possible with experience at our Test Events and also at other major community-run sporting or other events.
SOLUTION/S: We have to be very open and honest with people - telling them how things really are - providing an honest assessment of the demands and requirements
SOLUTION/S: Make sure the workload is understood and that the necessary resources are available; most importantly ensure that the best people are available to manage the "people issues" (more often than not, the best managers of volunteers are other volunteers, not paid staff); good training and volunteer management - Event Leadership Training; and demand documentation on plans for the management of volunteers.
SOLUTION/S: Various forms of communication will occur during 2000 - some will be centralised and some decentralised. Opportunities to keep in touch will occur at Test Events, at volunteer training, and at the time of uniforming and accrediting our volunteers
The Games obviously present opportunities for the wider community to benefit long term.
As you know 2001 is the designated International Year of Volunteering.
The Olympics and Paralympics is a perfect springboard for the volunteering movement in our country to leap into this important year.
A constant dilemma for any Organising Committee is and always will be to find the right "balance" between running a great Games and also fulfilling broader community responsibilities in this case to volunteering beyond the Games.
we have always taken the view that our Games-specific responsibilities must be our prime driver and I know that everyone has supported us in this.
We have also always maintained that the biggest and best legacy we can provide for volunteerism will come from how successful our Volunteer Program is.
And this is
both before and during the games.
Let me share just FIVE EXAMPLES of what we see as important legacies resulting from our Volunteer Program - some of these points are relevant messages for the future direction of volunteerism.
In lots of ways, the Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For volunteerism, this is certainly so. The Games has lifted the profile of volunteering - in both the media and in the community generally.
Also has been good for enhancing the image of volunteering and volunteers in the events business.
A new NUMBERS BASE
a NEW BASE of skilled volunteers
a new "breed" of volunteer - 41% of our applicants are under the age of 35 and 59% under the age of 45.
Many of our Games volunteers are "first-timers" to volunteering; some of course are driven uniquely by their passion for the Games; if they value their volunteer experience, they will continue volunteering beyond the Games
We have an extremely positive relationship with a community-based Volunteers Advisory Committee - comprises the leaders of community and volunteering organisations - representatives of Lions, Rotary, Volunteering NSW and Australia, the AOC, the State Emergency Service, the Rural Fire Service, the multicultural community, the indigenous community. The YMCA, the YWCA, Surf Lifesaving, and the Sports Council for the Disabled - these groups review and input to our plans and have given much valuable advice.
They are tremendously supportive of our work and we are confident our work is helpful will be helpful to their ongoing work
Our recruitment partnerships with universities is a win for all - their students assist in the selection of our volunteers - this results in a 3-way win - SOCOG wins because we get well skilled volunteers; the students win because they embrace Olympic experience and gain a valuable insight into this thing called citizenship; and the universities win because it enhances their profile and gives their students valuable work experience.
Our training partnership will almost certaintly provide an impetus for volunteering and also assist in establishing a model for the training of a mass number of volunteers
Winning the minds of corporate leaders is vital to the success and growth of volunteerism beyond the games.
Our partnerships with our sponsors has great potential for volunteerism.
Some sponsors have been quite active in recognising the support provided by their staff to various community organisations. For the Games, a number have generously offered to provide some time off to their staff to assist in voluntary roles.
And part of the selection criteria they themselves have insisted on for their Games volunteers is previous volunteering experience.
At least some part of the future direction and success of volunteering rests with this type of involvement from the corporate world.
As I move towards
concluding my address, I want to highlight a few challenges for volunteerism
But civil society hasn't always been easy to apply to sport.
Why ? Let me suggest just 3 reasons:
They often see volunteers as being more closely linked to the welfare sector and therefore working in more menial and less meaningful roles.
BEING A VOLUNTEER DOES NOT MEAN BEING AN AMATEUR
I don't offer this comment as a criticism of sports especially.
But it does highlight a challenge for volunteerism generally and sports volunteerism in particular
TAKING PRIDE IN BEING A VOLUNTEER IS IMPORTANT TO ANY REPOSITIONING - it's actually OK to say "I'm a volunteers" - It is not OK to say "I'm ONLY a volunteer". - and my blood boils whenever I hear a volunteers say it.
BUT it does cause some conflict with one of the PRIMARY motivators for people to offer their support as volunteers - and that motivation lies in that somewhat esoteric term called CITIZENSHIP.
Business interests quite reasonably think firstly of the value of their corporate sponsorship - then they MAY think of the citizenship value.
There's not a NATURAL fit between business interests and civil society interests.
Again, NOT a criticism - corporate support is needed and many corporations ARE committed to good corporate citizenship - but again it is a challenge for sport - sports leaders must know how to play the game to ensure that all parties are winners.
Of course that's good for sport. But it would be wrong to believe, as I think may sometimes be the belief, that the extra paid workers are a REPLACEMENT for volunteers. What does happen though is the development of some antipathy from the volunteers - the "why should I do it for nothing" mentality when others are being paid to do it - it's only human nature of course - not easy to overcome but necessary that it be overcome.
That is precisely
the reason for us developing strong connections with the respective sports
federations, with professional associations, with corporations and with
the volunteering bodies.
legacy for volunteerism in sport in Australia will be strongly influenced
by how well we now implement our plans.
We are pleased
with the current status of our Volunteer Program and are confident of delivering
an effective Program at the Games.We have made mistakes and are sure to
make more - but as long as they are minimal.