Entrepreneur + Volunteer = Volunteneur
There is no question that the World, the United States, your City has problems. Some are Big Problems; some are Small Problems.
So what are YOU doing about them … Today?
“Somebody should do something!” While being incensed about a problem may have been enough to get some action in the past, it’s just not an effective course of action today. Tax revenues down. Public services are being cut. Finding more than a sympathetic ear might be difficult to do.
Volunteer to Help
Now you’ve got the idea! “If the City is short on resources, then I could volunteer to help. But what’s the plan? Can I realistically work as an unpaid volunteer for the City … addressing the problem that is bothering me the most today?” It’s possible, but unlikely.
Strength in numbers! More hands make work light! Excellent!
There are numerous organizations that you could join. Perhaps one of them addresses your specific complaint/problem and you could get some muscle behind the solution.
But what if there isn’t someone or some organization that is addressing your particular issue? What if your problem is too small to be on someone else’s priority list but still too big for you to ignore?
Become a Volunteneur!
“A what?” We all have an idea of what an “entrepreneur” is … it’s someone who sees a problem (or an opportunity), collects various resources/processes and (with a lot of hard work) creates a solution or product. Sometimes the solutions or products are a little unconventional. Sometimes they don’t work as planned. But when they work, the entrepreneur is a huge success!
As a “volunteer”, you show up somewhere and someone hands you a shovel or a paint brush or a soup ladle and you get to work. You become one of the rowers on someone else’s galley. If the planning was good (the galley is pointed the right direction) and the resources adequate (there are enough rowers), the initiative is a success. There is nothing wrong with being a volunteer, but you rarely get to select the target problem or the solution.
Entrepreneur + Volunteer = Volunteneur
Part entrepreneur, part volunteer, a volunteneur looks at a problem from the perspective of a business owner who must solve it, given the available resources and constraints. No one else is going to step up and “fix” what’s broken, so YOU have to take charge.
Five Steps to Becoming a Successful Volunteneur
1. Identify / Define the Problem
This is also known as requirements definition. Document all of the problem components. (Write this down.) If you can’t define the problem, your success at solving it is greatly diminished.
2. Consider your Available Resources, Constraints and Problem Details
If you don’t know what you have available to you, you’re likely to overlook solution options or try to build something that can’t be completed. The “problem details” would include the “root causes” and any “triggering conditions”.
This is the brainstorming session. No solution is too wild or too impractical. Don’t worry about the completeness of any single solution option. Several solution options might work better when combined. This exercise often yields additional constraints or problem definition details.
Identify the resource “costs” of each solution. Consider the pro’s and con’s, along with their potentials for success. Consider solution option combinations that might enhance each other. Select optimal solution(s), build implementation plan. Establish success metrics.
Just because this is an unpaid effort, doesn’t mean that it will require less management. Use your business/project management skills to track work according to plan. Encourage your team along the way. Monitor success during and after implementation. Modify solution, as required, to improve the outcome.
Volunteneurism — It’s All About Getting It Done
In business, project structure is commonplace. In civic or volunteer environments, good ideas can become lost long before the problem is properly defined. It’s so much easier to complain than to do. As a volunteneur, bring your business (get it done) expertise with you and get folks moved off that first square.
Step up, define the problem, identify your resources/constraints/details and get solution options on the table for discussion. Solution discussions can build a sense of decision ownership for volunteers, but keep them moving. Combine and eliminate options to end up with that single direction that you can all pull toward together.
People willing to help with projects that look successful. They just need a leader to get them started and a manager to help them be successful.
Don’t leave your expertise at the office. Share your coordination and management skills. You may find that the rewards from your community work far exceed those from your paycheck.