Collaboration – Organising volunteers for Africa Oye 2019

Posted on: 19 May 2020 by Ben, MA Classics & Ancient History student at the University of Liverpool in Student experiences

Student profile

Looking at the fantastic response to this crisis to many charities across the UK, I noted that many were working collaboratively with local partners and the community. I was reminded of the collaborative experience I had gained when I was hired I was hired to recruit, manage and co-ordinate the volunteers programme for Africa Oye 2019.

What is Africe Oye?

Africa Oye is the biggest and most successful celebration of African culture including that of the African diaspora (Caribbean and South American) in Britain. It takes place in Sefton Park, Liverpool and brings thousands of people to the city each summer, and most importantly it is free to enter. For locals it is a family festival with a variety of activities for young and old including African craft and dance workshops.  

Africa Oye is a charity and therefore relies on government funding from organisations much like the Arts Council and the Lottery Fund. Much of this funding has been reduced in the past five years and therefore Africa Oye had to think of new collaborative and creative ways to fill the void. That is where my role came in.  

My role

I had worked at the festival in previous years in various roles. This year I was asked if I felt confident enough to manage the programme. I jumped at the chance to put my leadership skills to the test and to meet people from across the world. We had to raise £5,000 in donations, complete600 surveys and handout thousands of brochures in order to meet our goals.  

The programme manager, Rich, oversaw all of the activities I undertook and had final say on the decision-making process. It was imperative that I communicated effectively with him. I made sure that he was informed of every detail from the start as I learned that sometimes small details are the difference between success and failure.  

My first task was recruitment. I decided to begin by contacting all the volunteers who had worked the previous year as they all put maximum effort in and were brilliant to work with. This was somewhat laborious because I decided it was best to compose an email that was more personal as I had gotten to know them all over the course of the last festivalI then collaborated organisations such as the Liverpool Charity and Volunteers service (LCVS) and to get an advertisement on their forums. I had some experience collaborating with these organisations in the past and they were super helpful. We decided to put an advertisement on Indeed as well, which with paid dividends. 

I then planned a campaign to promote the volunteering opportunity. We created A3 posters and put them in key locations in the areas surrounding Sefton Park. Mainly at independent businesses and community centres but also in newsagents, takeaways, and bars. Sometimes it was necessary to convince business owners to allow me to put a poster up as they did not usually allow promotional material to be displayed in their establishments. I reassured them that the festival would bring thousands of people to the city and they would be passing their businesses which meant more custom for them. 

Monitoring the email account and making sure potential volunteers queries were answered in a timely fashion was essential. Paying attention to detail and finding solutions to problems that arose such as logistics and time management took up most of my time day-to-day. I also had to ensure that volunteers filled out all the correct paperwork and attended briefing sessions. Again, this meant compromising and finding ways that worked for everyone.   

I had a partner who would be working with me over the weekend. She had a lot of experience managing volunteers but had never worked at Africa Oye before, so it was important that I made sure she was up to date with all the standard procedures. I also made sure she knew who everyone was in terms of Oye staff. The collaboration of her experience and my local knowledge was essential. 

On the day 

When the weekend finally arrived, we had recruited 50+ volunteers. Many of whom had volunteered previously and were aware of what to expect.  I found that these people were essential to the smooth running of activities. We decided to send groups of two or three with at one of the experienced volunteers accompanying the new volunteers. I made sure that everyone was hydrated and had sun lotion because it was a scorcher. As the weekend unfolded me and my partner developed a team dynamic that worked well, I was the easy-going amicable manager where my partner was more assertive. We joked that it was a good cop bad cop routine. It ensured we maintained our goals but also made the volunteers feel like they were part of the Africa Oye family. We also had security guards from SHOWSEC that watched over the entrance to our compound. They changed periodically so we had to make sure that they were happy to ensure proper communication and teamwork was maintained. We gave them cold beverages and snacks and a chair as they were usually stood up for hours on end. They proved to be a key component in supporting our activities and by the end we were friends with all of them.  

The result

The result of all this collaborative effort and hard work was that we reached all of our quotas. Everyone had a great weekend, and everyone got home safely. By managing the details and treating people with respect and as individuals the burden was spread and shouldered with vigour. The funds we raised will go towards Africa Oye 2021 and the volunteer programme will be even bigger and better because of lesson learned.  

Keywords: Case studies.