Thursday, 29 November 2012

Olympic spirit

The latest issue of People Management quotes Mike Morrison (@RapidBI on Twitter) "at the Olympic Games, many, many people got a lot out of volunteering. This should be explored as a business strategy".

This will come as no surprise to many in the 'Big Society', from the public and third sectors, where volunteering as a means of delivering public services is increasingly a way of life. Indeed, in the third sector - charities, social enterprises and community groups - volunteering is often the main way, sometimes the only way, anything gets done, starting with the directors and 'owners' of the enterprises themselves.

But will it fly in the private sector? Is unpaid work an acceptable means of making profits and yielding dividends for shareholders? Judging by the recent highlighting of concerns about engaging interns (who, if upaid, are de facto a kind of volunteer), the answer to that question is no. But is this really just a different way of expressing the entrepreneurial spirit? Are those who start new businesses, and commit long hours unpaid to realising their dreams, really that different from those who dedicate their time to charities or other good causes?

It seems to me we need more debate about this, and there must be scope to embrace volunteering in the culture of enterprise.

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