• Mark Topley

Give yourself and your team a different perspective – they’ll thank you for it

A few weeks ago, I was watching early evening TV with my kids. Unusually (and thankfully) it wasn’t some brain dead cartoon, but BBC’s ‘Show me what you’re made of’.

If you’ve not seen it before, it involves taking a group of UK kids aged 12-15 from a range of backgrounds overseas to see life through the eyes of the kids that live in developing countries, and often make the stuff the kids like to buy.

The episode in question was a trip to Ghana, where they spent the week being exposed to working the jobs that local people have to do. It involved sorting used shoes for resale, and trawling through a toxic waste dump to recover used computer parts from the west, which still have some value.

My kids have a pretty good idea what it’s like to grow up as a child in an African country. They were born in Tanzania, and lived there with us until we returned to the UK in 2015, when our oldest was 9 and our youngest 3. Although we lived in a good, safe house with running water and power, and the kids attended school, they lived alongside people living at the opposite end – not attending school, foraging for a living, fetching water from the lake and living a very vulnerable existence.

As you can imagine, the Impact on the children taking part in the programme was significant.

  1. A huge reality check for the ones from more privileged backgrounds or those who currently have everything done for them – seeing the resilience of the people they met.

  2. The chance to focus on helping others, and seeing how doing something for someone else has its own rewards.

  3. Seeing the way that the Ghanaians used what little opportunity they had to maximum effect, many of the kids returned with a new motivation to make the most of their lives

  4. Learning how working hard together with a shared purpose creates a strong and lasting connection with team mates

Volunteering is good for people. It connects us to a different vision for ourselves (and the business that releases us to volunteer) and achieving a higher purpose in doing something meaningful for others.

A core aspect of the work I do is to encourage clients to consider how exposing team members to volunteering, or helping others and learning about the work a good cause does, could be beneficial as part of their CSR strategy. It doesn’t have to be (but it can be) as extreme as a trip overseas. There are plenty of local causes to contribute to or get involved with, and it’s a smart move to do something that uses and develops your people’s core skills further. Like Oral Health Education in schools or with community groups, or schemes that require planning where team members can collaborate.

With International Volunteering week on the horizon in early June – what could you be doing to give your team the opportunity to experience the feel good factor that volunteering brings, and gain a different perspective?

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