ANALYSIS & RECOMMENDATIONS
A clear direction emerges from the opinions expressed during the consultations: the Awards Program is not a good idea for a large majority of participants. Key arguments against setting up an Awards Program were: the awards would be competitive, unfair, complex to manage and a duplication of effort. There are no proven benefits for such a program. As well, there is a long list of convincing arguments - and a lot of convergence in those arguments from one community to another - against an Awards Program.
Many alternatives to an Awards Program were proposed that would:
- Recognize organizations in a non-competitive way. For example, give a plaque to organizations that achieve a set of guidelines, or develop a recognition program for organizations based on years of service in the community.
- Increase professionalism and capacity building within the sector. For example, allocate funding to the most innovative sector organizations, share best practices of organizations that win other awards, or set up study scholarships for sector staff.
- Increase cross-sector understanding, networking and co-operation. For example, "mix and match" evenings, or a voluntary sector magazine.
- Increase promotion of the sector itself. For example, promote the sector as a good career choice, or use the fundraising thermometer approach to show the sector's progress towards a common goal.
We recommend that the individual notes be thoroughly reviewed for details on two alternatives to an Awards Program: the "mix and match" evenings and the voluntary sector magazine.
A Last Word About the Consultation Process
An issue that has been a challenge for the Awareness Table itself and will continue to be a challenge in any awareness campaign, is the ease with which we speak about volunteers and volunteering, and the general difficulty we have to consider the sector as a whole. Participants were often more concerned about how to get, work with and manage volunteers, rather than looking beyond their own organization to the sector. Some even used the term "volunteer sector" during the consultations (even after receiving material on the Voluntary Sector Initiative, listening to the overview and our introduction, etc.). Avoiding slipping into a discussion of volunteers became a common challenge in the consultations, often providing the humour and some of the bonding moments during the consultations.
Across the country, participants were very satisfied with the format, quality of discussion and opportunity for input. In addition, participants were mostly very pleased with the quality of workshop facilitation. However, in some communities, some or most participants did not receive the workshop information in advance. One other logistical concern is that the use of recorders in addition to facilitators did not work well; more work was required on the notes with little or no benefit in terms of content. In addition, there were inconsistencies in the range of groups represented at the individual consultations. It was unfortunate that more communities across Canada were not able to be involved in this round of consultations. These issues should be reconsidered when preparing for future consultations.
Despite concerns about consultation fatigue and cynicism, participants were generally very co-operative, truly engaged, and enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute to the dialogue and work of the Awareness Table. In addition, they enjoyed the exchange with peers and the opportunity to network, an unintended additional benefit of these consultations.