Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Pro Bono OR February Spotlight - "I'm new to the third sector, what does it look like?"

If you have free time and some skills to share then the best place to utilise these would be in the third sector. We have a whole host of volunteers who can vouch for this. I’m often approached by professional analysts who have the skills but lack experience in the third sector. The first question is what’s it like to work in the third sector? How is it different from me using my skills in my every day job? Well the good news is, OR is one of the most adaptable disciplines out there, so the way in which you use your skills doesn’t change that much. It’s more about the context in which you utilise your skills. You’ll find that working in the third sector needs a personable approach. The approach is reciprocated, and as a result, taking on a Pro Bono OR project will certainly help you refine your interpersonal skills.

The sector, the organisation, the project, are all brought together because of an unprecedented amount of dedication which is something that’s not guaranteed anywhere else. Charity Founders put everything they have into the set-up, charity workers are endlessly creative and innovative, and volunteers (in any context) dedicate time that could be spent doing literally anything else, except they don’t, they choose to work for a good cause for free; so regardless of what role you play in the third sector, you’re likely to have something in common with the rest of the busy bees. The third sector can be bursting with mutual respect, something that isn’t guaranteed anywhere else.

Dedication is defined as the quality of being ‘devoted or committed to a task or purpose,’ and it is this commitment which is often praised, however, there’s often motivation behind the dedication to see results, and in the third sector this is frequently down to the mission and objectives. Most of our day-to-day projects are about getting the job done in order to cross it off the to-do list, this is still true of the third sector, nevertheless, the difference is that finishing a project means we are able to see what the effects of this project are (effect on service users, donors, clients, workers, the sector as a whole) and allows us to make plans to spread good news and successful results. In the third sector we have a habit of thinking if 20 people befitted from a project then how can we do it again to make 40 people benefit, and what are the restrictions preventing 100 or 1000 people reaping the benefits. If you’ve ever completed a Pro Bono OR project then this point is important, the work you do on a project, whether it be 6 months ago or 6 years ago, is still providing benefits today. Organisations use your insight to provide clarity and grow stronger, without the insight or the tools you provided, progress may not have been conceivable.

In the third sector, the motivation that encourages us to look past the finish line of a project is the mission and vision a charitable organisation. Whilst a mission statement informs us of what the organisation wants to do, the vision statement outlines where the organisation wants to get to. A good vision statement will tell us where the organisation is going, and it’s the thing to return to whenever clarity is needed at the time of defining objectives.

With motivation in mind, it is important to refer to an organisations mission, vision and objectives when you complete a Pro Bono OR application form. Regardless of whether your approach to the project will work or not, the organisation will be reluctant to work with someone who hasn’t used their values as motivation for your approach. Taking a tailored approach to cater for the needs of an organisation is what gets you hired. Although an organisation has requested help, that’s not to say that they don’t already have strong in-house skills. I suggest you find out what they are during your research and initial meeting with the organisation, then you can utilise them. Some charities may not have sustainable measuring and evaluation tools in place, but what they do have is plenty of experience at national and grassroots levels. You can identify what experience the charity has during research and your initial meeting. Maybe Julius Cesar was right when he said ‘experience is the teacher of all things.’ I’ll let you be the judge of that.  

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