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How It All Happened

What happens when volunteers are empowered? 

Sometimes, symposiums happen.

The team was gathered when there was about 2 months left until the event, and we each had our own commitments — uni, work, friends, family etc. Moreover, most of us were fresh to the social and education sector — so what guaranteed our buy-in and commitment to seeing through this symposium?

From where I stand, Impart’s trust and support for volunteers to run the show made all the difference — why would an established IPC do that? 

Picture: This is me! Sarah, a long-time volunteer at Impart who recently planned and executed an Education Symposium with a group of dedicated volunteers

From exploratory chats to follow ups with partner organisations, organisation leaders guided volunteers on the ground to assume the role of task leaders. As leaders, you don’t know whether volunteers are aligned or will say anything questionable, yet the Impart team took a risk.

There was more value put on our learning and exposure than simply “saying the right thing.”

This event was unprecedented for Impart — launching a symposium at this scale to explore the intersection between social and education sectors. We were pulling multiple stakeholders together for publicity, keynote, panel discussion, exhibition and networking lunch. These are your overseas and local social good organisations acting in various capacities within the ecosystem.

We didn’t have the clearest idea how this gathering would look like, nor did we have a set of “sectoral best practices” to follow. How would volunteers who have limited exposure to this space embody the spirit of the symposium and convey this idea clearly?

Having willing adventurers was key. This team of volunteers went along with uncertainties and learnt on-the-go. They embodied the spirit of experimentation, questioning the event objectives each meeting and iterating it for understanding from the perspective of external stakeholders. This helped to clarify the purpose of the symposium.

The symposium was not for organisations to recruit more volunteers, but for knowledge sharing and networking between organisations and individuals in the space. It was for event attendees to learn of alternative ways we could do community education and spark inspiration and collaborations so that we can do good better as an ecosystem. Having this distinction in mind then helped us zoom in on the deliverables needed for the symposium.

Providing guidance to volunteers was also critical to activate their existing capabilities and help them flourish. Our volunteers already had a flair for communications, administrative sensitivities, and project management skills but they weren’t 100% transferable to the context of an education symposium. Some inspiration-building had to be in place. 

So our team of volunteers each did our homework — searching up organisations, understanding the landscape, identifying their reach to have a better sensing of different organisations’ strong suits.

One of us who was unfamiliar with the space, invested 10 hours to read up and populated our contacts list for outreach. I think this allowed us to empathise more with the need for the symposium, that is to gather the different stakeholders to kind of stock-take efforts and our progress in giving youths a fighting chance as an entire sector.

Furthermore, given the multiple moving parts of the symposium were rather daunting for the newly convened team, support from the Impart team was super helpful. Jay, Josh, and Narash did check-ins, backend liaising, and QC-ed our work, offloading some work from us and helping us pace ourselves. The belief they had in the team also spurred us to take ownership over the planning and execution of the symposium… and I guess a symposium that was fully volunteer-run happened!

My thanks go out to all of our partners who made this possible. But most of all to the team of volunteers who made this happen with me:Jackie C, Ryan Tan, Wenzhe Poon, Heng Xian Qin, Jade P, Ashbel for the adhoc support; Fok Zhi Jon, Nathanael Teo, Jermaine Ng, Agnes Jauw, Yap Xin Yue for your time and devotion to making this symposium a success.

If you could not join us at the event, we have attached below some resources that the volunteer team has curated from the symposium. Feel free to share these with your teams and networks!


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