Points Make Prizes

Posted: 10 November 2010, in Blog

Windsor and Maidenhead Councils are investigating how to reward local people who contribute to Cameron’s Big Society initiative. Apparently there will be no more of the old style municipal gong and trinket ceremonies for community activists “linked” to local politicians. This time the reward will be Nectar Points. They’re working on the admin.

I quite like this idea and I’m intrigued to see if social enterprises buy into it. Initially I scoffed but the more I think about it, it establishes an additional and valuable relationship between effort, reward and motivation for volunteering. I’ve met loads of volunteers who were underutilised or just plain bored and the idea that folk can plan their activities to gain something personal strikes me as useful.

Sure, there will be negative comment from those who interpret these rewards as undermining the intrinsic motivation to be a volunteer but for the life of me I can’t see the harm in this – and it will boost the profile (and efficacy ?) of volunteering a lot. Nectar will make sure of that.

Anyway, if you were to place a value on volunteering or social entrepreneuring, what would your points scale look like? I’d give zero points for going to meetings but huge numbers of points for environmental clean up and maintenance. In my world, working on literacy, numeracy, anti-social behaviour and sex education would be “big points earners”. I’d particularly support the Gaels and the Teuchters to maintain rural communities – even if they want to fish and shoot thereby upsetting townies. I’d award allotment holders massive points.

Other “big points earners” would be for volunteering to work with young girls and boys in any sporting or cultural context. I’d particularly support the Cubs, Brownies, Scouts, Guides and the Woodcraft Folk. I’d give nothing for religious attendance/practice or political party and campaigning work. Volunteers aged 16 or less or over 65 would automatically get double or triple points depending on the task.

I’d means test this scheme just to be consistent with ConDEm philosophy. Any adult middle class volunteering within the realms of subsidised “High Culture” would receive nil points. However, volunteering with community arts groups would get massive amounts of points. In addition, anyone earning over £50k a year would get nothing but the intrinsic rewards so beloved by many.

All in all, (remember its Nectar Points we’re talking about here) this might give a hard working volunteer a “free” meal, some shopping, clothes or music, a family day out or a helping hand with the costs of Xmas/Eid/Chanukah – now who can complain about any of that? A million points would get you a Life Peerage.