A couple of weeks ago MCFly advertised a “please come volunteer” shout-out from Cooler Projects, a small social enterprise that’s doing “Carbon Literacy” work. Then it occurred to us that we really ought to be every bit as tough on the people we go drinking as we are with those we don’t. So we came up with the curliest questions we could. Maybe not curly enough? If any readers think there’s more to ask, then send us questions and we will get the thumbscrews out again, wipe off the blood and go to work once more. In the meantime, here are the answers that one of the directors of Cooler, Phil Korbel, sent us…
1) Why should people work for free?
People shouldn’t normally work for free but this is a significant project run by a small social enterprise which has suddenly encountered much more demand than anticipated. Let’s unwrap that a bit – the Manchester Carbon Literacy (MCL) is a unique project that aims to enable everyone that lives, works or studies in the city access to a days worth of Carbon Literacy Training by the end of 2014. Year 1 was meant to be relatively sedate but organisations have kept on saying ‘yes’ to working on the project so we have ended up with more work on our hands than we ever expected, or than we budgeted for. Thus the need for temporary voluntary help.
2) What is in it for them?
Experience and the knowledge of being a part of a unique and worthwhile project. The work any volunteer on the project will be real work with a substantial level of responsibility and Cooler projects would be happy to document this fact for any volunteer’s c.v. It is worthwhile because we believe that the wide scale up-take of Carbon Literacy is vital to the creation of a low carbon culture in the city and beyond. It’s also never been tried before – which is meant as an encouragement.
The other benefit for MCL volunteers would be to put themselves in an advantageous position for paid work when new funds are procured – and that is being worked on as a high priority at the moment. If a volunteer has been working well with us and knows the project already they are bound to perform better in any selection process.
3) Who gets the financial profit from their labour in this instance?
Cooler is a Community Interest Company so no one earns profit per se from what we do. Two people are being paid to run the MCL project and this request for volunteers applies to currently un-funded work. In other words, volunteer time will not increase the revenue coming to the project. We hope that MCL will ‘profit’ from volunteer input in that it may lay the ground for more funding in the future – see paragraph above.
4) What experience do you (either or both) have of developing unpaid interns/volunteer management?
Cooler Director Phil Korbel has been running a charity that focuses on volunteering since 1999 and is well versed in volunteer management. We also place great value in nurturing the skills of our team – be they paid or unpaid. Our existing volunteers seem happy with how they are being treated – and keep coming back.
5) Anything else you’d like to say?
Just to re-iterate – needing to ask for unpaid work is an unsatisfactory position and one that we’d seek to redress soon. This call-out is an un-intended consequence of the success of the MCL project and we hope that anyone responding to it will gain by involvement with us.
Phil Korbel, Co-Director, Cooler C.I.C.
For more info, see MCFly’s February 2012 interview with Dave Coleman