Passion and competence

Last week I ran a session for NCVO’s Certificate in Campaigning. I have been doing such a session since the certificate first started in 2007. If you don’t know about this course it is well worth a look – I wish it had been around when I first started campaigning.

The most critical element of this course is not the session leaders, but rather the peer group of campaigners. I know that that some of the early groups are still meeting up many years on. I do think that the best way to learn about campaigning is by listening to other campaigners talking about their success and failure. And NCVO is always successful in attracting campaigners from both large and small charities, which gives the group real perspective from the wider voluntary sector.

What I always enjoy about this session are the questions. I spend the first half of the session taking the group through a campaign case study on tackling the use of vouchers and a payment card to support asylum seekers instead of using cash. I have developed his case study from my time at Oxfam in 2000 through my time at the Refugee Council to my more recent work at the Red Cross.

In the midst of some challenging questions, was one on how I thought campaigning had changed over the past two decades. Undoubtedly things have improved with far better training for campaigners such as from NCVO or Sheila McKechnie Foundation. We have become more professional in our approach with much greater opportunities for professional development. Yet I do wonder if this has come at some cost. Becoming ever more professional is great, but not at the cost of our passion.

I have recently been reading a book – How finding your passion and changes everything – admittedly I am just past the first few chapters, but I just loved the opening argument. As humans we are at our best when our aptitude or competence aligns with our passion. Basically we get something, we love something, we then want that something and we then search it out.

My hope for campaigners in the charity sector is that while we become more professional and competent in our roles, we don’t lose our passion – after all that is what got us into all of this in the first place. Where I see people excel is where their competence aligns with their passion. I’d love to see leaders in the voluntary sector really cherishing people who are aligning their competence with their passion. It is not either but both we need in our sector!

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