Man vs. Volunteering & Support: the practicalities

Sau Pang
Head of Digital Delivery
man looking at his mobile

We’re returning to our men vs support blog series with more insights into what our group of young male volunteers want from support and advice services.

During the second of three workshops, we moved on from discussions about how young men feel about their lives to focusing on practical ideas better services for them. Part of this involved thinking about how to get more young men involved in volunteering, as we’ve recognised that attracting men to our services will rely on having male volunteers better involved in delivering peer support.

What we learned about young men’s help seeking & volunteering behaviour this time:

  1. Trojan horse approach:  Seeking support online needs to be discreet and it was felt one way to do this was to wrap support into another, less threatening, activity to make men feel less vulnerable – a ‘trojan horse’ approach. One idea was an app that looks like a pub trivia game but has a secret link to a one-to-one chat service. This idea subscribes to the ‘all support in one place’ theory for young men.
  2.  Volunteering needs to be flexible and informal for young men: This is in line with trends across volunteering in general, but it was particularly clear that young men wanted relevant opportunities that can be done from home and on the computer.   However, men are still willing to travel and get involved in volunteering outside the home. There was a commitment to attend our workshops because we’d covered their travel expenses and accommodation in advance, making them feel they’re actively participating and engendering a sense of commitment to the project.
  3. Nurturing the existing skills of volunteers will boost confidence, leading to better retention: The group wanted to participate in a volunteering role where they felt genuinely useful and valid, preferably linked to their existing skill set. This also seems linked to confidence – roles not involving their current skills felt a bit beyond them. Therefore, we need to demonstrate our roles are easy to do and available to anyone regardless of skill level and experience, as well as highlighting those requiring specific skills.
  4. Motivations are often linked to career goals, even if they aren’t sure what those are yet: Volunteering for its own sake wasn’t terribly important to our group of volunteers, though they felt it was a good way of spending spare time. Opportunities linked to what they liked at school or their studies were favoured.
  5. They wanted sociable volunteering opportunities: Whether on or offline, they wanted their volunteering to be social. To be connected with other people, to improve social skills and widen social networks was of key importance.

 What we learned this week about running workshops just for young men:

  1.  App design and pitching helps focus ideas: We’ve seen this work in other workshops we’ve done – by asking the group to consider pitching their idea as an app, even if it isn’t going to be one, means they need to focus on the singularity and core purpose of the app and what they want to pitch. It can help distill the idea down into its most useful function.
  2.  Use an egg-timer for pitches: As well as keeping things moving, it adds pressure and excitement.
  3. Think about how to tailor to the individuals in the group: Everybody works in different ways – our tip is to work in some group activities alongside individual activities for those who don’t like the group environment. Get them to use post-it notes to jot down ideas so that everything is captured.
  4. Space is important – change it up – add some freshness: We used the same space as the first workshop. It didn’t work so well. Try and get partners or local organisations to lend you a space. It helps give each workshop a different flavour and freshness. Mix up a few other things as well: lunch, energisers, different things to fiddle with during breaks (Rubiks cubes etc).

 Next time…

In final session, we’ll be working with the group on content and campaigning. We’ll be looking at what sort of things they are more likely to digest, respond to and share – and why.




Published on 17-Apr-2015