Technology offering new wave of options

The times they are a-changin, are well-known lyrics sung by Bob Dylan more than 50 years ago, and despite being penned in the 1960s they are words that could have easily been written today.  

That’s because times are changing, and faster than ever before with the impact being felt across many industries and sectors, including those that rely on volunteers.

As we grapple to keep pace with the current rate of change, it’s important to turn our minds to what may be in store for us over the next 20 to 40 years. Because changes in how we live our lives will have considerable impact on how we volunteer. 

With four in five Tasmanians volunteering and contributing almost $5 billion in social and economic value to our state, any impact will have a significant flow-on effect to every aspect of our island life. 

Factors such as an ageing population, struggling regional economies and changes in community expectations are all having an impact on both supply of, and demand for, volunteers, particularly in our regional communities. Therefore it would be easy to speculate that any future changes will not bode well for volunteering. Yet the future of volunteering shouldn’t be all brimstone and ashes.

Whil some traditional volunteering roles will struggle to find their place in amongst a world filled with digital natives, advancements in technology are likely to fill the gap for this new generation of volunteers. Technology will continue to break down local, and global boundaries, providing access to hundreds, if not thousands of new volunteering opportunities that were never previously available. 

These changes will likely bring new compliance requirements, with organisations investing in creating cyber-safe environments to provide identity safety and security for their volunteers.  

Changes in technology will also open up opportunities for those who previously couldn’t volunteer due to transport or other isolation barriers.

There will likely be impacts for organisations involving volunteers in ‘hands-on’ roles, such as befriending, retail sales, tutoring or community transport. As many aspects of these roles can’t be automated, these organisations will need to consider how they adapt and use technology to provide solutions for engaging volunteers in their services. A positive outcome for these organisations could be the growing trend of corporate organisations to deliver corporate volunteering as part of their community social responsibility strategies.  As a result, we would see an increase in policies and programs releasing employees during working hours to provide much-needed volunteer support. 

It’s also likely that over the next few decades we will see changes to the number of services delivered by volunteers in smaller and regional communities, with some unable to continue.  And while it’s likely that these changes will be due to a decline in volunteering participation, this would be aligned to a decline in regional population levels, rather than a decline in the desire of Tasmanians to volunteer.

Regardless of what changes occur over the next 40 years and the impact on how we volunteer, what will remain the same is the generosity of Tasmanians who, regardless will continue to give their time willingly for the benefit of others. 

  • Alison Lai is Volunteering Tasmania chief executive an alumni of the University of Tasmania and a Tasmanian Leaders Program graduate.