We sat down with Steve Lanken from Voluntas about the new pilot service which aims to help to volunteers and volunteer managers with conflict resolution.
Voluntas is a group of like-minded people including mediation professionals and members of volunteer and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations. We believe that constructive, timely conversations with a neutral person guiding the discussion will make a difference in the volunteering sector to improve dignity, respect and fairness for anyone experiencing conflict.
The Voluntas program is a trial service which focuses on helping volunteers (those who willingly give their time for the common good and without financial gain) and volunteer managers to have constructive conversations. This help is provided by accredited mediators free of charge to the volunteer or organisation. The service is confidential.
Conflict is a part of everyday life. Most people and organisations resolve conflict themselves. Unresolved conflicts and badly managed disputes, however, give rise to risks and costs that damage volunteers and their organisations.
The Centre for Volunteering and other organisations have told us that volunteers and volunteer managers often don’t know where to get help if they are experiencing ongoing conflict in their organisation. Plus volunteers and NFPs generally have little or no budget for professional mediation services.
We believe that early assistance in transforming conflict through constructive conversations can prevent conflict from escalating and can resolve conflicts more quickly. This can help everyone get on with the task of contributing through their valuable volunteer work.
Our aim is to create an organisation through which mediation professionals offer their expertise for free to the volunteering sector. For mediators – it provides more opportunities for them to be mentored and supported whilst practising and developing their mediation skills.
The Centre for Volunteering is the first contact point for the pilot service. Volunteers and organisations are asked to contact The Centre if they are aware of, or are directly involved in, a dispute that could benefit from the assistance of an independent mediator. The Centre passes on basic details to Voluntas mediators, who assess whether the situation could be assisted a professional mediator. Voluntas will contact the individual requesting the service. Any inquiries or referrals are completely confidential.
There are 5 steps after the case is referred:
Step 1. If assessed to be suitable for the program Voluntas will refer the conflict to an appropriate nationally accredited mediator from its panel
Step 2. The mediator will contact the participants to confirm that they agree to receiving assistance in “Transforming Conflict through Constructive Conversations”, and then assess if the dispute is appropriate for the Pilot Scheme
Step 3. The mediator will arrange the process including any preliminary meetings
Step 4. Voluntas and the mediator will organise venues and make other arrangements
Step 5. Participants and organisations will be asked to evaluate the service and share their story in an unidentifiable way.
Some situations that could potentially benefit from this service:
If your situation is assessed as being unlikely to be assisted by the constructive conversations pilot, the mediator will explain why. For instance, it may be a highly complex legal or financial issue and therefore not suitable. The mediator may suggest other avenues for dispute resolution, including Community Justice Centres, which also provide free services in relation to disputes.
The Voluntas program is still in its trial period. The aim is to identify whether there is a need for this type of service and any common themes or issues that cause conflict for volunteers and volunteer organisations.
If you are experiencing conflict as outlined here and wish to access to the Voluntas pilot service, then please contact us to assist with the referral.
For more information and resources about this, the NSW Government has released the conflict resolution toolkit on the NSW Volunteering website.