Husky Volunteers for Social Care
George Clark, March 2000 - SRDS
|This short article maps out those mechanisms which are evolving to
harness volunteers4 to the task of building a
more vibrant and democratic civil society. This includes, but is not delimited by, those
well resourced initiatives which are designed to effectively channel the enormous
potential for compassionate volunteering in the social care sector.
||George Clark lives and works in rural NE Scotland where he is
involved as a volunteer with several community-led, economic development initiatives1. He recently attended three national conferences concerned
with partnership working, active communities and volunteering2.
It became apparent that the concept of the Third or Voluntary Sector needs unpacking in
that those organisations that speak for The Voluntary Sector in Scotland3 do so from a less than comprehensive point of view. As such
their representative validity, and thus the democratic significance of national
consultation processes, is suspect.
Disease, old-age and death cannot be removed by legislation. The suffering they cause
can, however, be made more bearable through compassionate social care.
These are increasingly the times of nuclear and single-parent families. Traditional
patterns of community based care are fast disappearing and there is need of alternative
systems. Given the extent of human suffering the mechanisms for providing adequate levels
of care will have to be staffed by local volunteers if it is to be affordable. To be
maximally efficient and effective such volunteering needs to be well managed.
Management options range from internally-led (bottom up) to externally-driven (top
down) with partnership (middle in) at the counterpoint. The different options have
implications concerning levels of participation and thus for
empowerment and commitment and thus, crucially, for
Across the range of options it is useful to think in terms of agency (those who
feel the need and take the lead), agenda (the aims, objectives and implementation
plan) and organisational structure. If we are in search of excellence5 there is presumably a preference for lean, flat hierarchies with
power, responsibility and control of budget located as close as possible to the points of
The following analogy provides food for thought in terms of the options: note that
options include the possibilities of Eskimos being nought but tinsel clad Huskies and, at
a deeper level, of the sledges being our time-limited, corporeal frames (whether
political, phenomenal or physiological).
||Eskimos move around their snow filled world on sledges drawn by Huskies.
Huskies are biddable and willing but have no part in deciding how the sledge is built,
what it carries, or where it goes.
Huskies are the passive instruments driving the
Eskimo agenda. Without Huskies the Eskimo world would collapse. Huskies are rewarded by
the joy and satisfaction gained from their selfless participation in tasks well done.
In the more enlightened Eskimo cultures expertise is required before
individuals are allowed to manage teams of huskies. The task is too important to be left
in the hands of well intentioned amateurs and obviously the Huskies could not
be left to organise themselves.
Were it not for Huskies Eskimos would have to find other ways to move their sledges. If
Eskimos had to pull their own sledges the work would not get done. Huskies might be
replaced with robots but they would be mechanical and what role would there then be for
In earlier times care in the community was part of what community meant. That
spontaneous pattern has been shattered by the modern tendency towards selfish
individualism. But this is a recent and reversible social phenomenon intimately linked to
capitalist consumerism and the culture of self-centered independency which it creates.
We are conditioned into being selfish. Selfishness is not built into our genes. People
are designed to be happy and to avoid suffering. The capacity for compassion is within us
all6. The task is to revamp the conditioning process such
that, at the community level, people are willing and able to move beyond childish
dependency and selfish independency to a mature, compassionate and pro-active interdependency.
Interdependency demonstrates itself in the ability and willingness of people from
different backgrounds and with different interests and priorities to work together in
harmony for the common good. This road can be made only by walking it7.
To whom or to what are volunteers to be harnessed?
How is the Voluntary Sector to be defined and validly represented?
Is there an emergent fourth sector which is community-led?
2. (A) Local Rural Development: Effective mechanisms for a
new century Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department 17 February 2000
Battleby, Perthshire. (B) Supporting Active Communities in
Scotland 02 March 2000 - Edinburgh. (C) Realising Your Potential
encouraging lifelong learning in voluntary organisations - SCVO
8-9 March 2000 - Edinburgh
3. Mainly SCVO and VDS according to The Scottish
Executives, Voluntary Issues Units The Scottish Compact Good
Practice Guides Consultation Document (Para 6.6.5)
4. a phrase used by Donald Dewar at the Supporting Active
Communities in Scotland event
5. see Peters TJ & RH Waterman In Search of Excellence;
Harper & Row 1982
6. So at least says that remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winner
the Dalai Lama. See in particular his (1999) Ancient Wisdom, Modern World ethics
for a new millenium; Little Brown and Company.
7. See Korten DC (1990) Getting to the 21st Century
voluntary action and the global agenda; Bookmark