June 1st to 7th marks National Volunteers’ Week. To help celebrate the wonderful contributions that Make Votes Matter volunteers make, here’s a spotlight on three key supporters.
We know there are are thousands upon thousands of you out there and so from everyone in the team at MVM, thank you for everything you are doing. Whether you run or help run one of our local groups to volunteering your time to design promotional materials or a spot of admin - YOU are the beating heart of the organisation and we couldn’t do this without you!
My name is Ian Wicks. I’m in my mid-40s with two daughters at primary school. I started my career in community theatre, moved to the National Lottery and that was a stepping-stone to a long stretch working on anti-corruption programmes for big corporate businesses. We’ve lived in Singapore for most of the last decade. When my wife was offered a job in Switzerland, I took the opportunity to sign-up to help on a few projects I’ve always been interested in - all on a volunteering basis. Happily, MVM is one of those.
I discovered MVM via social media two or three years ago. We were still in Singapore and watching the news coming from the UK felt like watching a crash. MVM appeared to be offering solutions and I’ve been interested in electoral reform since my A-Level Politics. I briefly met Klina at a conference last year and started talking with Joe in February.
Because we are in Switzerland, it is harder for me to work ‘on-the-ground’ in the UK. My work so far has been focused on contacting unions to encourage them to hear from MVM speakers and persuade their colleagues to support PR motions. I can do that from my laptop and on the phone. At the moment I can usually spend a couple of hours a week for MVM but I hope to increase that when some other projects complete.
Obviously, I like the mission of MVM and it feels like I can help a little with an important cause (I didn’t always feel this in my previous work). MVM also feels like a very ‘human’ organisation - I hope to get to know the team better over time.
I’m fairly new to this kind of volunteering but I’ve learnt a few things, including:
1. Flexibility of time is a benefit but can also be an obstacle…I can usually shuffle things around in a week which is great but, if something happens on another project, my best-laid-plans can suffer. I’m thinking of choosing a dedicated time for volunteering - e.g. “Wednesday afternoons for MVM.”
2. You have to be adaptable… in some of my volunteering I’m doing some really basic admin and in other work I’m doing things for the first time which is stretching and takes a lot of concentration.
3. I think, as a volunteer, it is important to support and understand the objective of the organisation and your role in that…that knowledge is where a lot of the motivation will come from.
4. Human interaction is important and one of the reasons we go to work…ideally, your voluntary activities will give you some of that.
The advice I would give to those thinking about volunteering is to just start. You can start in a contained way on a specific project or with a small commitment - either will help you understand how much more you can do or what specific skills you may have that the organisation is short of.
I’m Janet, from Bristol. I’m semi-retired and have worked in many different fields: social research for government departments; supporting people with mental health issues in the voluntary sector and professional gardening.
I got involved with MVM about 18 months ago. I have always thought our electoral system was out-of-date and unfair (no matter which party you may support). I learned that a dynamic campaign calling for electoral reform was working from Bristol. I had also decided I should do more to “give back” to society in my retirement than growing vegetables for my own consumption. I thought I could offer them some back up office support.
I help in the Bristol MVM office about half a day a week, entering data into spreadsheets and other campaign admin. Often there are team or event days where a larger group of us get together to prepare mail outs and organise events. I have helped behind the scenes at these events – including a mass lobby of MPs in parliament last December.
I have been part of campaign groups before, usually on environmental issues – usually more long-term in scope.
I enjoy working for MVM as the aims of the organisation are very focused and everyone is committed and energetic. I don’t want a prominent role in an organisation, but I want to make a difference, so helping behind the scenes – which allows committed lobbyists to work effectively, really suits me. I am very happy making the tea, if that’s what will help a meeting go well!
To volunteer with MVM I think it’s good to be flexible and not mind what tasks come your way on any given day. I think it’s good to share the aims of the organisation – this enables you to see the point in what you are doing; and I think it’s useful to be tech savvy – which I unfortunately am not!! (though the campaigners are patient with me!).
It’s a little scary volunteering to begin with – particularly if you are ending your working life where you have gotten so used to your role. Starting again, learning a new role can seem more difficult than you would think, but it’s worth persevering. My digital skills were rusty when I began volunteering with MVM. But it’s the challenge of learning new skills, gaining new life experiences, meeting new people in different settings, which is the great delight of volunteering.
I am currently helping to establish a Bristol MVM group and we hope to spread our message about proportional representation at events such as the summer’s ‘Demand Democracy Day’.
I’m Cath Willoughby and I’m the Local Group leader of MVM Cornwall.
I first got involved in MVM Cornwall in September 2017. It was after the skewed General Election results of 2015, and 2017! I thought, I can’t sit around and do nothing anymore. I could have joined a political party but had second thoughts because until we change the voting system there doesn’t seem to be much point. That’s when I became aware of Make Votes Matter and started campaigning for Proportional Representation (PR) locally, so that my vote would count.
The group meets up every two months, in Truro. There are over 50 people signed up but we usually get up to 10 people coming along to the meetings.
The group’s recent successes include Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for St Ives speaking passionately in favour of PR in the debate at Westminster Hall in April. He said: ‘I agree that votes should matter. Since I have been elected, an organisation called Make Votes Matter has sent representatives. As they have spoken to me, I have recognised that they do not feel represented or that their voices are being heard.” Derek is due to host an MVM event for Conservative MPs next month so I’m hopeful we will have some more pro-PR Conservatives on board soon. Three constituents had met with him previously to lobby him about PR and I’ve met with my MP Sarah Newton. She even came along to a meeting MVM Cornwall organised last September where we got to ask her about PR. She’s not in favour, but I was encouraged by her recent response to the PR debate when she said she’d keep an open mind on electoral reform. All of this effort just goes to show that lobbying your local MP really works.
My advice to others campaigning for PR is that for every change I want to see happen - from reforming the education system to starting to tackle climate change - you need to be able to elect people who represent your views, and until we have a proportional system this won't happen. For me it is the single most important change we can campaign for as it underpins everything else.
We’ve got our next group meeting coming up on Wednesday 26th June and we’re busy planning what creative action to do alongside our street stall for the summer action day.
Inspired by our volunteers and want to get more involved in the campaign for fair votes?
Here’s what you can do today to help us win PR in years, not decades:
Sign up to our mailing list and get the latest updates about the campaign.
Got some time to spare and some skills to offer? Volunteer for Make Votes Matter.
Take part in our summer action day. Sign up to run/help run a street stall today!