ICU – or at least I do now!

So much attention is given to the importance of the 3Rs. Quite right too. But I’m all about the 3Cs – cooperation, collaboration and coordination.

There is a phrase in the African language, Ibantu, Sawu Bon, which means I see you – it doesn’t mean seeing as in visually seeing, but acknowledging, as in you are here and I value you being here.  Something not always the case in professional environments!

Very soon after starting as Director of JVN in 2008, I realised that I was working in a bit of a vacuum: where could I go to speak to other volunteering colleagues or to seek advice?

Fortunately I knew many people in the charity sector, as I had met them from my years working in communal organisations.  But I soon realised that for most of those working in the voluntary field, this was just not the case.  I suppose we all were working in splendid isolation!

I have always tried to work collaboratively and bring people together, as the sum of the parts is better than on its own.  So one of the very first things I did after I joined JVN was to organise our very first Volunteer Coordinators Forum in the winter of 2008.

I’ve listed here some of the programmes and ideas that were mentioned at the first event:

  • changes in CRB Legislation
  • training and induction of volunteers
  • how to get young people involved
  • professional development – a chance to go through the options available for volunteer managers
  • rewarding volunteers/saying thank you

And nearly three years on, these points are continuing to be discussed and are of relevance.  The one thing that also came across so very strongly – apart from these practical topics – was how volunteer coordinators wanted to collaborate, cooperate and coordinate to make volunteering better for all concerned.  This has resulted in coordinators across the sector sharing resources like examples of volunteer policies and role descriptions and phoning each other to ask questions about policy/good practice.  The three C’s in action.

Last week, 35 Volunteer Coordinators from over 25 Jewish and interfaith charities attended the 7th (!) Volunteer Coordinator Forum for a session focused on recruitment, coordinated by a committed committee of volunteer coordinators from AJR, Jewish Care, Jewish Women’s Aid, Norwood, Tzedek and an independent consultant formerly of WJR – a true mix from the Jewish charity sector.

The keynote speaker was Rachel Castle, Senior Public Affairs & Policy Officer from Volunteering England who looked at the wider demographic and economic trends putting pressure on volunteering, as well as law and Government policy.  Laura Marks of Mitzvah Day gave powerful session on how charities must build a focused brand in order to recruit volunteers and Nicky Goldman and Samantha Clifford of UJIA’s Leadership Development team took people through their recruitment process particularly referring to the Adam Science Leadership Programme, including how to scope a volunteer role and interviewing skills.  We also speednetworked, information shared and had a tasty kosher lunch to chat over some more.  

As with all our work, we did an evaluation and feedback sheet – and the results overwhelmingly acknowledged that that coming together in a group, as volunteer coordinators, regardless of the size or type of charity, was of huge value and made us a true force for community good.  And that we had become nearly three years a network built on the 3Cs.

Farewell splendid isolation.  ICU is here to stay.



Categories: Leonie's View


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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