The Lazy And Broke Guide To Social Action

Well in truth less lazy. More very very busy. While regular several hours a week volunteers are the life blood of many organisations (I never fail to be amazed at the commitment shown by my daughters’ guide leaders) not all of us have the time to give. For many this may be around life stage – exams, children, work commitments – for others it may just be that regular and long hours is just not their way of making a contribution.

I have been the 20 hour a week volunteer at various points in my life (part of what has been dubbed the ‘civic core’ the 9% of people who are responsible for over 50% of volunteer hours[1] ) – and loved it. But I have also been the person who felt demoralised when the organisations I worked for made little or no allowance for changes in my availability. On giving 3 months’ notice that I was going to be taking a 6 month sabbatical from the first organisation I volunteered for I was left in no uncertain terms how I was now much less valuable to them. No good luck wishes for my degree finals then ….

Now with 4 children and a full time plus job my time is again limited, but my passion for community action is unabated and my interest in how to engage the widest possible audience in ‘doing good’ grows daily. When portfolio working is the norm; when social networking redefines community and when global is now next door volunteering and community action will increasingly take on new forms – the principles may be the same but the practice will shift.

And as for broke – well increasingly people are looking at their expenditure and considering what and how they donate. While nearly 90% [2]still donate money NCVO[3] reports 20% drop in real term donations during 2011/12.


Volunteering, community action, big society, civil responsibility – labels change and  semantical arguments abound – but there is some big thinking around on how the age old principle of helping others – caritas – will evolve to rise to new challenges and opportunities. The soon to be launched Centre for Social Action – Cabinet Office in partnership with Nesta[4] – promises some interesting research into what next. But ahead of this here are the:

 notdeadfish top ten small actions to make a big difference.

  1. Learn first aid – first aid courses are ideal but for an easy start download the St John Ambulance App
  2. Give blood  – 96% of us rely on the 4% who give blood. Find your nearest donation point
  3. Help create a national wildlife reserve in your window box with the RSPB
  4. Sign a petition that will help affect positive change – or start your own
  5. Vote – still the ultimate in community action – remember to register
  6. Consider a micro loan – connect with your borrower and get your money back
  7. Build your ability to challenge crime or anti-social behaviour – or know who to call to address community concerns
  8. If given an option to round up your payment to donate to charities take it – and ask retailers if they use the scheme to encourage them to in future
  9. Write a letter (e-mail) for Amnesty International
  10. Check out the range of home based microvolunteering actions