From a Volunteer's Perspective

April 16-22 marks National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to celebrate the vibrancy and impact of volunteerism in our communities. In honour of this week and our committed volunteers, we had a conversation with Shane Yu to learn more about his experience volunteering with The Social Impact Lab. Shane has supported us on a slough of projects, ranging from podcast transcription to helping us improve the accessibility of our Natural Supports Simulation. He also participated in a 3-day Design Sprint, aimed at helping us outline a new service." Shane is adaptable, thoughtful, always seeking improvement, and an excellent communicator. Read his story below and please join us in celebrating the contributions of this dedicated volunteer!"

Tell us about your time volunteering with The Social Impact Lab Alberta. How did you get involved? What have you worked on?

I have been volunteering at The Lab for a year now. After graduating from a bachelor’s program in social work, I found myself unsure about my career path, so I decided to volunteer at various organizations to explore different avenues. What attracted me to this initiative was the team’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of the social services field through the development of innovative processes and ideas such as Open Market. I've noticed a stagnation in the social service sector and believed it was in dire need of fresh innovation and ideas. Although uncertain about how I could contribute, I was eager to explore any potential opportunities to make a difference.

My primary contribution has been transcribing podcast episodes for Responsible Disruption. Additionally, I participated in a 3-day Design Sprint to help develop Systems Inspire. Currently, I'm assisting in updating content for the Natural Supports Simulation to enhance its accessibility. I'm always eager to jump into anew project; it never gets boring, and I thrive on the opportunity to continuously learn and contribute.

What has volunteering at The Social Impact Lab Alberta taught you? What have you gained?

Just by transcribing the podcasts, I've been introduced to a plethora of new information, including tech innovations like augmented reality, strategies for gathering meaningful data, and approaches to supporting Truth and Reconciliation throughout the year. During the Design Sprint, I experienced the ideation stage of design, a concept I had previously learned about in the Individual Inspire course, but it was incredibly rewarding to finally put it into action. Lastly, I've gained proficiency in navigating various content management systems, which is undoubtedly a valuable technical skill.

The primary reward I've discovered through volunteering is expanding my network and meeting new people whom I wouldn't have encountered otherwise. I've always found it challenging to introduce myself to strangers, but the experience becomes incredibly rewarding when I push myself out of my comfort zone to engage with new organizations. I'm grateful to have connected with individuals from United Way of Calgary and Area and J5 Design. Their warm welcome and support have provided me with a sense of belonging and encouragement.

"Volunteering at The Lab offers me a break from my social work-related job and helps maintain a healthy balance in my life."

What are some of your volunteer goals?

Looking ahead, as I continue to gain experience in my role as a social worker, I'm eager to find opportunities to share my knowledge and insights with The Lab team. I believe that engaging in more cross-sector collaboration will be crucial for our collective growth and impact. On a personal level, I remain committed to pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Overcoming anxiety and awkwardness is an ongoing goal of mine, and I'm dedicated to continually challenging myself in this regard.

What are some of the skills or qualities that you think are essential for a volunteer at The Social Impact Lab Alberta?
As cliché as it may sound, I believe adaptability is key. However, before being able to adapt to new tasks or projects, one must be reflective. In the context of social work, reflexivity is valuable for examining how our own assumptions and biases influence our work. In a broader sense, reflection is important for understanding our approach to a project. In the design world, not every idea will pan out, but it's essential not to fear making mistakes. It's part of the ideation stage to jot down everything that comes to mind, even if it's just on sticky notes.

What are some of the tips or advice that you would give to someone interested in volunteering for us in the future?

Before deciding to volunteer at any organization, it's helpful to find out about their previous projects or initiatives. This way, you can assess whether your values align and if you have any ideas to improve something. Additionally, prioritizing accessibility is crucial. Look for ways to increase accessibility or improve the reach of the organization's programs, products, or services. Finding ways to add value without deviating from its mission or beliefs is a good start.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I want to give a shout-out to Kelsey for onboarding me. I understand that volunteering intakes require a lot of effort, so I truly appreciate her for welcoming me as a volunteer. Also, a big shout-out to Lynn for providing me with a steady flow of tasks. And thank you to everyone else I've met, including Erika, Pam, Veronica, Sydney, Monique, James, Wendy, and everyone else I might have missed here. Keep up the great work, and I'm thrilled to continue volunteering at The Social Impact Lab Alberta!

Article Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash