Solidarity through volunteering: the power of positive change

International Volunteer’s Day, which is on 5 December, is fast approaching. Its theme of solidarity through volunteering chimes with the vital role that volunteers play within STEP.

This day is the ideal occasion to thank our volunteers. We would be nothing without our members who volunteer their time and energy to make the organisation a success. STEP exists because of the energy and commitment of the volunteers who founded it.

International Volunteer’s Day also gives an opportunity to provide an update on how STEP values its volunteers and engages with them, as well as our work to harness their power in the future.

The world has changed fundamentally since the pandemic, including how our members get involved with STEP. As a result, our Board agreed to a project in December 2021 to better understand the challenges of engaging with members and establish new ways to empower them.

We have spoken to more than 100 members so far through a series of workshops in Asia, Canada, Europe, the US and the UK. We hope to hear from many more members as the project continues.

During the workshops, we asked members to:  

  1. Walk in the shoes of a prospective member and identify the challenges and opportunities over the next five years.
  2. Consider how STEP should respond to those challenges and opportunities.
  3. Create a Branch Charter that sets out its future purpose and activity.

The following points provide a summary of some of the themes that emerged during these discussions, grouped into three overall headings:

The challenges and opportunities over the next five years

  • Participants agreed there would be increased regulation, competition and economic uncertainty. There will be advancements in automation and artificial intelligence, which will effect education and ways of working.
  • To operate and compete in this market, professionals will need to be highly skilled and educated. They will have to self-promote and adapt quickly to keep up with an ever-changing market.

Suggestions for how STEP might respond to these challenges and opportunities

  • Continue to advocate for change, provide a relevant education programme and respond promptly to legislative changes.
  • Consider how to recruit young members from a wider range of professions. Participants noted the importance of maintaining high standards while increasing STEP membership.
  • Offer professional development in more languages.
  • Volunteers could focus on building relationships with students to expand STEP’s reach.

The role of a local branch in the future

  • Participants felt that the role of future branches should be to educate, provide networking opportunities, act as the anchor point for members, talent search, champion inclusivity and engage with their members.
  • It will provide a strong education and networking programme.
  • The branch will be well integrated in the wider/international STEP community.
  • Interestingly some are saying that a ‘branch’ could be a virtual one – many will prefer to engage this way.

What’s next?

STEP’s future success depends on the same spirit of co-operation and collaboration that created it. We thank each member that is active within our network for giving up their time and skills.

We are keen to hear from former, current and potential members to find out what would encourage them to get involved with STEP.

If you have any feedback, or would be interested in taking part in a workshop, please email [email protected]

Mark Walley is Chief Executive of STEP


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