Optimise the Learning Opportunity in Skills-Based Volunteering

By Amanda Bowman   |   24 August 2023

Welcome back to Part 4 of our exploration of the five themes that drive Corporate Skills-Based Volunteering. We’ve already explored the importance of identifying the right partners and scoping the most effective projects, the need to focus support on where it matters as well as the magic of making it human, nurturing strong partner relationships, and fostering social connections. This week, we’ll dive into what it takes to optimise learning and the transformative power of stretching comfort zones within your programmes.

Skills-based volunteering is a two-way street where significant learning results are achieved when programmes are designed with learning in mind. There are two aspects that we found made the biggest difference here. When participants take intentional steps to set clear learning objectives for participants before embarking on projects, the rewards are clear.  The act of planning leads to tangible results. The second thing here to consider is how skills-based volunteering places participants in new and challenging situations, asking them to apply their skills in an unfamiliar context. Faced with diverse perspectives and tackling unfamiliar tasks often leads to experiences that feel visceral and urgent. More challenging experiences lead to greater impact.

Setting Intentional Learning Objectives

Unlocking transformative learning experiences requires intentionality. Encouraging participants to consider their learning goals before diving into their experiences can result in significant payoffs, particularly in terms of Breadth of Learning, Responsible Leadership and Connection to Purpose. This can be done independently but is perhaps most effective when done with someone else: a fellow participant or alum, a coach or line manager.  Being deliberate about this process supports participants to adopt a learning mindset that opens them to the possibilities of what the experience has to offer.

Stretching Comfort Zones for Profound Growth

Stretching comfort zones is recognised as a factor that drives learning in leadership development. In in-person skills-based volunteering experiences, travel to unfamiliar locations or engagement with new communities or organisations will provide a level of disruption and stretch that will heighten the learning curve. But this also holds true in virtual programmes, where our research showed that although crafting such stretches demands conscious effort, it does yield results. Check out the report for some examples of how this type of stretch has been designed into programmes.

The Ripple Effect: Learning and Connection to Purpose

The stretch outside comfort zones has a ripple effect, reaching far beyond learning outcomes. This comfort zone stretch often reshapes how participants perceive their company’s purpose. Encountering and overcoming challenges can bring a renewed understanding of the company’s mission, aligning personal growth with organisational goals.

Embracing the Challenge

Getting comfortable with discomfort, whether in-person or virtually, provides fertile ground for growth. By setting learning objectives and providing environments that stretch comfort zones, you can unlock the potential for enriched learning experiences and a redefined sense of purpose.

Catch up with earlier installments of the series or read the full Best of Both Worlds report here.