The topic for our panel discussion was “Creating a better society through volunteerism”. The panel discussion revolved around some important issues that are related to volunteerism and civil society. I was the moderator of the panel discussion and there were 4 other panelists. The panel lasted for around 30 minutes.
Overview of the points discussed
Being the moderator of the panel discussion, my main role was to lead the conversation and guide the panelists to discuss the topic and explore different dimensions and directions of volunteerism. I started the panel discussion with a short introduction of the term volunteerism and civil society and how both of them were linked together as time passed. The term “volunteer” and “volunteering” was first used in a military context to describe those soldiers who joined the army in their own interest and without being conscripted into service. These volunteers were paid soldiers. However in the late 19th century the use of this term being to get associated with the community service and civil society.
The next point of discussion was the importance of civil society, and how the panelist had benefited from the process of volunteering in the civil society. During the discussion, the panelist discussed why we need volunteers in the community and the importance of their role and that they were filling an important gap in the society. They also discussed how they started volunteering and why are they continuing today and what have they gained through this process of volunteering.
The second set of points discussed during the discussion was the panelists experienced during their volunteering and the problems they faced during volunteering. During this discussion, the panelists elaborated on what types of problems they faced during volunteering and how they tried to solve it, they also touched on how they were feeling and some of the emotional moments they faced while volunteering.
Then we moved on to discuss why the panelists were volunteering themselves and what and how they were benefiting through volunteerism. The panelists listed a number of personal and general reasons for their volunteering and why everyone else should be volunteering. Next in line was how we could make volunteerism more effective. Like everything else, volunteering also need to be done in an effective and efficient way, otherwise the hard work, time and money of the volunteers are going being wasted. During the discussion we discussed how can the volunteer work be more organized and more productive, how we can make better use of the volunteers and the resources during volunteering and make the work done by volunteers more sustainable. The next point of discussion was how volunteerism has benefited the society; in discussing this point, the panelists discussed how they helped the society and how their volunteer work had benefited the society and helped the community. The last point of discussion was how what can be done to make volunteerism more attractive and in this section, they discussed about new methods to attract new volunteers and retain the existing volunteers.
In preparation for the panel discussion, we had three meetings; the first meeting was during the class immediately after we assembled the group. During the meeting we discussed on which topic to have the panel on, all the members proposed topics, we discussed on the topics within the group, and once we came to an agreement on the topic. We then discussed it with the lecture Mr. John Britto and once he gave his approval, we finalized the topic. During this meeting, the group members also selected me to be the moderator of the panel discussion.
In our second meeting, we discussed on the structure of the panel discussion and what role each person will be taking. During this meeting, two of the panelist proposed to do role-playing as specialist from different areas. However, when the panelists and I proposed to do the panel discussion as ourselves. When we told them that even Mr. John suggested us to do the same, everyone in the group agreed to do like that. The second point of discussion we had was on how to carry on the panel. One member proposed to carry the panel by asking each panelist just one question while others proposed to make it into two round with the one question to each panelist in each round. After the discussion, we came to a decision that we will have two rounds with the two questions in the first round and two panelists answering each question. The second round where each panelist will be asked a separate question. During this meeting also assigned the questions and points that each panelist would be handing and discussing. The contents for the panel discussion proposal were also discussed during this meeting.
The third meeting we had in preparation for the panel was on the day of the panel discussion one hour before the panel discussion to rehearse the panel discussion before we did the original panel discussion in front of the class.
I started the panel with the introduction of the topic and then introduced my self and the panelists. After that, I gave the audience a glimpse of how the panel would be run and that there will be two rounds and a Q & A session.
After that I moved on to the first panelist Ms. Azrina Johara Bibi by asking her the first two questions of the panel
1. Could you please elaborate us on the importance of volunteerism in civil society?
2. How have you benefited yourself while volunteering?
After she answered the question, I moved on with the second panelist Ms. Rianti Rozalina with the same two questions and she agreed to what the first panelist said and added more to the topic. Next panelist in line was Ms. Shahista Mahboob and I asked her the following two questions.
3. Could you please share with us some of the experience you had while volunteering?
4. In addition, some of the problems you faced while volunteering?
And then she answered the questions and I moved to the fourth and last panelist Ms. Raja Farah and asked her the same two questions and she also shared her experience and problems face she faced while volunteering.
With that, we ended the first round and I began the second round of questions by asking each panelist a separate question in the following order
To Ms. Azrina “How did you start volunteering and why do you continue volunteering?”
To Ms. Rianti “What can be done to make volunteerism more effective?”
To Ms. Sahista “How has your volunteering actions benefited the society?”
To Ms. Raja “What can be done to attract more people towards volunteerism?
After the panelist answered these questions, I announced that the discussion is now over and that the floor is open for questions. At first there were no questions, but after some time, One student from the audience gave a comment based on one of the panelists answers. The question was “I do not believe that SLA activities are volunteer work as we are forced to do it get punished if we don’t”. At first I myself being the moderator accepted the comment and told him that it just a matter of personal perspective. Then the panelist to whom the comment was targeted, Ms. Azrina indicate that she wants to reply to the comment and so passed it onto her and she clarified the audience about the difference between the SLA projects and Enactus project she gave example about. Ms. Rianti also added to the answer by sharing her point of view on the comment.
After this there were no further questions from the audience so I ended the panel discussion at this point by summarizing the points from all the panelists and by calling the audience for action on volunteerism.
Learning / reflection of the panel discussion
For us the whole panel discussion was a learning and reflective process from the beginning as we were talking, discussing, going back in time and reflecting thought the volunteer work he had done before. We were looking for our experiences, how we felt, what we did, what problems did we face, how we solved them? Why we faced the problems, what can we do to make sure we do not repeat these problems? The preparation for the panel discussion was in overall a learning and reflection experience for the whole group as we also shared each other’s experiences and learnings.
Apart from these this panel discussion also helped me a lot in improving my public speech skills as I am very week in this area and easily get nervous in front of the audience. However this time I had much more confidence and was able to do much better compared to last panel discussion which I took part in. during this panel discussion I have learnt a lot on how to improve my public speaking skills by the comments and suggestion from my fellow panelists during the rehearsal and preparation meetings.
To conclude this report, I would say that this was one of the best learning experiences I have had in this class. It has given me a lot of new knowledge and allowed me to reflect on some of the civil society work that I have done previously and how those have affected my life and the lives of those to whom those actions were targeted. During this panel, I also managed to work very well with my group mates despite the fact that I had never worked with two of them before, but still we were able to get along very well and I would like to thank my group mates for this experience. In addition to the panel discussion the proposal and the report associated with the panel has also helped me a lot in the how to make a better society though volunteerism
Is Volunteering Rewarding in Itself? (http://ftp.iza.org/dp1045.pdf)
Challenges for the Future (http://www.energizeinc.com/art/achal.html)
Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits (http://www.helpguide.org/life/volunteer_opportunities_benefits_volunteering.htm)