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So what does a Director of Engagement do?

Firstly a quick hello to those I am yet to meet, or who may not even know that the Association has appointed a director of engagement. Also a heartfelt thank you to those groups and branches, AVs, trustees and staff who have provided me such a warm welcome and have been patient with my barrage of questions.

I have been asked one recurring but important question on my travels. What is a director of engagement?

The role replaces the role of director of people development, so is not an additional director post. Why the change? Well, Sally Light and the trustees believe that we need the role to focus much more heavily on how we can support volunteers to be even more successful, and how we can improve collaboration between volunteers and employees in the organisation, to the greater benefit of people affected by MND. So I am responsible for volunteering, HR and learning.

I come from a strong volunteer management background, having worked with volunteers for 15 years including roles such as head of volunteering at Victim Support, trustee at Volunteering England and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and as an advisor to the Institute of Volunteering Research.

I have been truly impressed by most of what I have witnessed of volunteering at the Association. It is the creativity and sense of purpose of the volunteers I have met that has had the greatest impact on me. It is important that whatever changes arise from my role, that we do not endanger this sense of what I like to call ‘local people changing the world’ (almost certainly a title for a future blog?).

But there will of course be change, as all organisations have to continually adapt to the world they operate in, and organisations like ours strive to forever improve our services for people with MND.

I don’t want to bombard you in week six with my vision for the future, but we do have a shared route-map for the next few years as set out in our Association strategy. I was delighted to hear how much time was spend consulting with volunteers and staff in the formulation of this strategy, and I can promise you that this inclusivity will be a feature of my team’s work in the coming months and years.

One of the very first tasks will be for us to develop and adopt some shared principles of volunteering that volunteers, employees, directors and trustees can all agree to and abide by. These principles will then form the foundation stones for all our future development where volunteers are involved.

Sounds like rather a nebulous concept? So let me demonstrate by way of some questions.

• How do we decide which tasks need to be done in a consistent manner, and which should be left to volunteers’ decisions and innovation?
• What should be decided locally and what needs national input?
• How do we communicate as an organisation so that we make the most of volunteers’ valuable skills, experience and time?
• How do we engage volunteers in ways that are suitable to your needs, desires, lifestyles, and available time?
• What should be the roles of employees with regards to supporting volunteers?
• What role should local volunteers play in shaping the national organisation?
• How do we capture, learn from and share volunteer creativity throughout the organisation?

My hope is that by developing shared and agreed principles in answer to these and other questions we will have a blueprint or foundation stone for future developments impacting on volunteers.

I will be kicking this programme off very soon, and am convinced that to succeed it will require discussion with all or most of our volunteers. If you have a particular interest to be involved in the project team I would be delighted to hear from you.

Until the next blog…

Chris Wade
Director of Engagement
Email: chris.wade@mndassociation.org
Twitter: @chriswademnda

February 2014

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