The virtue of volunteering

Posted on 1st May 2019

Written by Rosalind Stuart, Director of Partnerships UK, Founders4Schools

I have been working for Founders4Schools since August 2017, initially as a volunteer, then as a Community Engagement lead in Scotland, and now as the Director of Partnerships. I am extremely proud to work for Founders4Schools. Our mission is to inspire students and prepare them for the rapidly changing world of work. We do this by enabling educators to invite business leaders for encounters with their students in just 4 minutes. Our online platform is a free service, connecting educators with leaders of successful growing businesses in their community. Do please explore our website to find out more.

There are two key reasons why I feel that what we do is crucially important within the TechForGood movement, and more specifically within EdTech. The first reason is easy to explain, we are providing a tangible methodology by which educators and business leaders are able to easily connect, helping our young people to learn more about the World of Work. The second reason is less obvious but, in my view, just as important and that’s to do with the virtue of volunteering.

Our volunteers have supported over 282,000 young people up and down the UK over the last few years,  from Aberdeen to Abingdon, Stirling to Stafford. They’ve given almost 14,000 hours of their time to improve the life chances of young people in their community. We don’t offer expenses of any kind and all of our volunteers are very busy people fitting this in around their working lives. So, why are they doing it? To improve their talent pipeline? Yes. As part of a CSR initiative within their company? Sometimes. As a professional development opportunity to improve their communication skills? Yes, that too. But, in the vast majority of cases they are doing it because volunteering their time makes them feel happy and fulfilled. It roots them back into the purpose of their own working lives, reminds them of the wider purpose of their own vocations and reminds them of the what they ‘wish they had been told’ when they were the ones sitting on the plastic moulded chairs dreaming of their future.

To veer off into normative ethics for a moment it’s a motivation rooted in the ideas of Aristotelian Virtue Ethics. Virtue ethics is person rather than action based: it looks at the virtue or moral character of the person carrying out an action, rather than at ethical duties and rules, or the consequences of particular actions. The rules and restrictions of ‘what is right’ to one side for a moment, Aristotle argues that when people behave ‘virtuously’ they feel better about themselves, indeed they experience Eudaemonia; flourishing. I think we should talk about this aspect of volunteering much more. Happiness is not a simple thing and finding something so connected to our working is important. In my view it’s this intangible little gem which motivates the fantastic people who give of their time through Founders4Schools. Here’s what some of our volunteers thought of their experiences:

  • Dana Denis-Smith CEO; Founder @First100Years; TEDx speaker; Legal Personality of the Year 2018-19. “Thanks Founders4School for the opportunity to speak to the girls at St Albans Girls school. Amazing to see 100 girls so curious and smart and confident about their career. Must keep them believing the world of work will welcome them on equal footing to men”
  • Cat Burton, Fine Art Photographer, Photography Workshop Leader and Business Advisor. “So I just did my first presentation at a Primary School (volunteering with Founders4School) & I was genuinely blown away by the reception from the students (50 children around 11yo). They asked more questions than at ANY presentation I’ve given to adults, I’ve had an amazing time inspiring these kids today, who seem super excited at the prospect of creative careers. Thanks to Founders4Schools for the opportunity, and if anyone else wants to help inspire school kids, contact them. It’s a really rewarding thing to do.”
  • Simon Hunt, Director of Finance and Corporate Affairs at Scottish Autism “Thank you to P6 for making me feel welcome and enthusiastically answering all of my questions!”

I believe that volunteering has a particularly special power to change not just the lives of those who benefit directly from it, but also those who deliver it; give it a go.  

We are collaborating with our fantastic partners Teens in AI and CogX to deliver an event at London Tech Week in June, and we are looking for volunteers to help deliver this and for people to share the event within their own networks to get the word out to educators and young people alike. To celebrate London Tech Week,  Founders4Schools, Teens in AI and CogX are running a Teens in AI Hackathon supported by the biggest brains in AI such as Deepmind & The Alan Turing Institute.

We are on a mission to inspire underrepresented young people across London to explore AI and use it to help the UN achieve its Sustainable Development Goals. Check out this video for inspiration and to see the amazing work young people are able to deliver.

We are looking for Tech Mentors, Design Thinkers, Ethicists and Entrepreneurs to support us in this endeavour. See below for more information, if you feel you can contribute in anyway it would be amazing. See below all the information you will need and please get in touch if you have any questions.


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