Northbridge Volunteers is a not-for-profit project operating across the northern suburbs of Melbourne. The project provides a web-based administrative platform which supports a community volunteering network across that region. The project is operated and driven by volunteer administrators who work with participant partner groups and organisations, collaborating around shared community values.
Partners of the Northbridge Volunteers project must be not-for-profits and form a collaborative network across the northern suburb region. They must also be operating projects that reflect shared core values.
These values are:
- Creating a resilient and sustainable community
- Creating social equity
- Encouraging Community Participation
- Embracing Cultural Richness
Partners may have primary focus on one or more of the core values. The greater the overlap of the core values, the more suitable the partner organisation or group is to join Northbridge.
How is it a Bridge?
‘The bridge’ is a metaphor for the process of ‘bridge-building’. The bridge-building process is used to illustrate the meaningful co-creative relationships between organisations and groups in our network. The first phase of bridge-building is between any new partner and the administrative hub at Northbridge Volunteers. In this phase, what passes across the ‘bridge’ tends to be focused on volunteering. In time, however, collaborations may expand into other projects involving partnering for grants, etc.
In later stages, bridges can (and do) develop between the Northbridge partners, particularly in localised areas within the region. A good example of this is the current Moreland Volunteer Hub Pilot Project, which is supported by Northbridge Volunteers.
How Does Northbridge Work?
At Northbridge, our volunteers are recruited for administrative and project skills and experience (or aptitude) that are relevant to developing community projects and administering systems. Northbridge Volunteers assists people with time, skill, experience and interest to actively participate in community through volunteering in projects that support our core values. The volunteers are given clear roles and a space to work where they learn to use structured systems and procedures. Here they deliver administrative support to partner organisations, often in the form of assistance with position description writing; recruiting volunteers; volunteer registration; induction & training systems; locating grant opportunities, etc.
Individual Northbridge administration volunteers are given relationships to work with and often operate in pairs or small teams as needed. All team members learn to operate a cyber-office using easy-to-operate ‘cloud-based’ systems on the internet. Importantly, they travel to meet with a key contact person at a partner organisation as often as needed for the relationship to be maintained. The focus of these meetings is to understand how the partner organisation is delivering the shared core values and what support they might need from the Northbridge project. The whole project is reviewed fortnightly at a ‘whole team’ meeting at the home base for the project, Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House in Reynard Street, Coburg.
All administrative volunteers register as volunteers of Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House and while Northbridge is mostly operated by volunteer coordinators, the administrative platform that is Northbridge Volunteers is under the ultimate supervision of the Neighbourhood House Coordinator.
Continuous System Building and Monitoring.
Northbridge Volunteers continually build or review practical systems to aid new team volunteers in joining and taking on active roles as soon as possible. Our systems for induction and documentation of the movement of volunteers are built to improve ease-of-compliance according to the Australian Standard for Not-for-Profit organisations involving volunteers. All volunteers contribute to on-going evolution and continuous improvement of internal team systems. In this way we try to foster an inclusive environment where each person uses their expertise to improve our systems of induction; moving towards better application processes, improved security and all up improving our ability to work with not-for-profit organisations to discover their particular needs. This focus comes from recognition that each volunteer has specific skills that they bring to the Northbridge team, instead of merely giving them small jobs to do each week, a conversation is started to discern their personal focus – this combines face-to-face relationships with a productive and sustainable volunteer environment. The spirit of this system flows through all work by Northbridge Volunteers.
The Northbridge team works in small groups that are assigned one or more relationships within the network to support. Through this, certain members can hold relationships between certain organisations in order to ensure volunteers have a clear role and that the needs of both the organisation and the volunteer are provided for. This continuing dialogue means having meetings with organisations about their volunteer management process, following-up with volunteers about their placement and reviewing position descriptions as conditions change.