This is my last blog post for the year, so I thought I’d share my top three highlights from 2021 and muse on three volunteer engagement things to look out for in 2022. Ready?


2021 Highlight one — working with other consultants

I’ve been running Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd for over a decade now and have mainly worked solo. Despite occasional projects with other consultants, most of what I have done has been just me, working directly with clients to engage and inspire people to bring about change.

During the last year, however, I have had the pleasure of collaborating more with others. This has happened largely because a group of us working for ourselves connected during 2020 to support each other through those dark days of the first lockdowns.

Working with others this year has been great, providing new opportunities for me, as well as having a group of people who understand running a business that I can turn to when things get tough. After another year of not travelling or seeing people, another year of sitting at home every day, having regular connection with peers has helped my business and, more importantly, benefited my wellbeing and mental health.

You know who you are — thank you! It’s been a blast and I hope we get to do it again soon.

2021 Highlight two — conference connections

My second highlight is the two major UK conferences I attended this year, not as a speaker but as a delegate. Inevitably these were online and not in-person, but they both provided connection, inspiration, learning and laughs, despite the virtual distance between participants on Zoom.

Before the pandemic, so much of my life was spent with other people, at events and in workshops across the UK and around the world. I miss that connection and interaction with other people, making new connections and strengthening existing friendships. In different times this drove me in my work, but has been noticeable in its inevitable absence as the world has struggled with Covid-19.

So, a big thank you to the Heritage Volunteering Group (HVG) and the Association for Volunteer Managers (AVM) for your two conferences. You provided me with something I have missed so much, and I am truly grateful.

2021 Highlight three — number three

My third and final highlight is also about people, it is the wonderful team of volunteers at Engage.

I have been Editor-In-Chief at Engage for a little over two years now, and it’s one of the great pleasures of the role to work with people around the globe who generously give of their time to support and develop the profession of volunteer engagement through their work for Engage.

The volunteers on the editorial and social media teams are the beating heart of what we do, the engine through which great content is produced and shared with leaders of volunteer engagement around the world. Their generosity of spirit and dedication to the field inspire me every day, and I want to say a huge thank you to all of them. I can’t wait to see what we achieve together in the future.

Oh, and if you aren’t currently an Engage member, please consider it, maybe as a new year’s resolution or a Christmas present to yourself (or someone else, as we now have gift memberships available).

Find out more about becoming an Engage member on our website.


2022 Issue to watch one — A new vision for volunteering

The Vision For Volunteering initiative is due to report in the early spring of next year, and I am fascinated to see what will result from this work. Not just the positions it will take, but the resulting action that follows.

Announced back in June, Vision For Volunteering recently announced their first series of workshops, with more to come soon. This came soon after news of the welcome addition of Sport England to the existing partnership of NAVCA, NCVO, Volunteering Matters and the Association of Volunteer Managers.

“The purpose of the Vision for Volunteering is to set out the ambition for volunteering in England, over the next decade, with a clear and optimistic plan for the future.”

I was involved in a not dissimilar exercise back in 2008 when the Commission On The Future of Volunteering published its “Manifesto for Change” and associated documents. Sad to say, that little actually changed for the better as a result of that project, so I hope that Vision For Volunteering doesn’t suffer a similar fate.

I, for one, will be keeping a keen eye out for their final report and recommendations and, more importantly, what actually happens as a result.

2022 Issue to watch two — Warm words or actual action?

Alongside — but not directly related to — Vision for Volunteering, there is the Shaping The Future Of Volunteering chief executives group. Another initiative designed to capitalise on the attention volunteer received during the earl days of the global pandemic, this group brings together two dozen CEOs of charities to position volunteering to “play a transformative role in creating the kind of society we all want to live in”.

Clearly, a group of influential CEOs taking an interest in advocating for volunteering is a good thing. However, little has been heard about what is actually happening — what do they want, what role do we all have to play, how does it connect with other initiatives etc.? This worries me and brings to mind a phrase Joe Saxton of nfpSynergy used at the 2021 AVM conference:

“Beware of strangers carrying a basket of promises”

I hope 2022 results in some tangible recommendations, actions, and benefits from the Shaping The Future Of Volunteering initiative. We should all be keeping our eyes and ears wide open and asking questions about their progress, especially if you work in one of the member organisations.

2022 Issue to watch three — the return of in-person?

I’m writing this at a time when Covid-19 infection rates are high and causing concern across most of the UK. Big questions are being asked about the Westminster government’s plans and whether we are sleepwalking into another Christmas of lockdowns and disruption.

Like all of you, I hope we aren’t. I hope the end of 2021 will be a pandemic turning point for the UK, a moment we can mark a turnaround to something more like regular life returning on a sustainable basis as next year progresses. And with that comes my final issue to watch for 2022 — a return to in-person.

It is my sincere hope that as the next twelve months progress we can safely resume more in-person events, trainings, meetings, conferences and gatherings, giving us all a chance to re-connect.

Don’t get me wrong, technology has its place, and we should continue with the likes of Zoom where necessary, not least to minimise the harm we inflict on the environment. But humans are social creatures, not designed to sit alone connecting on screens, so I hope that, when it is safe to do so, we can regain the benefits of gathering in-person.

I already have some in-person event bookings for early 2022, and I hope that more will follow. I guess we’ll wait and see.


So, there are my highlights of the year and predictions for the next twelve months. What are yours? Leave a comment below or on the social media platform where you saw this blog post promoted. I’m interested to read your thoughts.


Before we go

Please note: Because of the fortnightly posting schedule and when my time off for Christmas is taking place, the next post on this blog will be on 21 January. See you then!


Find out more about Rob and Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd on the website.

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