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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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1.1 What’s in a role?

The idea of role is probably already familiar to you – the phrase ‘wearing my other hat’ is a cliché after all, but it is important to understand the two main ways in which the term ‘role’ is used in the context of voluntary organisations. As you have already seen, it may refer to a particular organisational position: for example, a fundraiser, volunteer coordinator, care support worker, museum guide or trustee. It also refers to the part we play in a given situation (as in the saying ‘playing devil’s advocate’). In practice, these two meanings of ‘role’ tend to run together, simply because many positions need to be improvised in different situations; they are often not set out in detail and fixed.

The term ‘role-set’ is the formal way of describing how your work, volunteering or other activities involve different roles. Some of the roles you may be called upon to undertake are shown in Figure 1.

There is a large circle representing the worker’s or volunteer’s role-set or ‘overall’ role.
Figure 1 Roles within roles