Week 1: Getting started – working in a voluntary organisation
Welcome to the first week of Working in the voluntary sector. This course explores the roles and activities that people carry out within voluntary organisations, either as paid staff or as volunteers. The term ‘working’ in the course title refers to both paid and unpaid work, which, after all, can be equally classed as ‘work’.
What is your role? If you work in an organisation, what is your role within that? If you don’t, what is your role in your family, your community or society? What are the roles of different types of organisation within the voluntary sector? The concept of role is key to understanding organisations.
Many of the topics covered in this course are issues or activities that are relevant to other areas of life beyond a job or formal volunteering. You may have attended a public meeting and asked a question, or had an opinion afterwards about how the meeting was run. If you are a patient or a carer, you may have experienced different support groups, or been asked your opinion on local voluntary organisations offering services. So, you may find you have a wealth of experience you can draw on. You’ll begin by looking at the idea of a ‘role’.
If you are not currently working or volunteering, we suggest you start thinking about an organisation you are interested in so that you can use it as an example for the activities throughout the course.
Start by watching this video, in which the course author Julie Charlesworth introduces you to Week 1.
By the end of this week, you should be able to:
- describe the different ways of understanding what is meant by ‘role’
- understand what roles you play
- explain influences on roles
- describe the roles and functions of voluntary organisations and locate your organisation within this description.
Another free course on OpenLearn,, provides an overview of the sector. If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to study this first if you feel that your knowledge of the voluntary sector is limited.
The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey. Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.