Specifying and describing the goals
Why are we doing what we do? A lot of people that hear first from our activities will raise exactly this question. Civil involvement is not everywhere recognized as something positive, sometimes it is even seen as an activity with the aim to cover the real (materialistic or political) interests of activists. How to deal with this atitude? The only way is to explain your goals offensively and honestly.
What are usually the personal goals of activists? Across cultures we experienced in our trainings that a lot of them mention enjoyment an important motivation. This is understood as the enjoyment of actively influencing what is going on, or the enjoyment of helping other people. Another very important aspect is freedom or self-realization. Volunteers are free to act as they wish and to try new things.
Start with: painting a picture, a joint collecting of motivational aspects relevant in your team, performing a song or play, or whatever to find an answer for the question: What makes you become active?
Finding a honest answer on this question is essential for you and your team and important condition for your later motivation and dedication to the initiative you plan. However, clarifying personal motivations is the one important aspect. The other is to explain for what we are working. Therefore we need to explain the societal change, our activity wants to initiate.
This article explains, how to describe these goals to your stakeholders. In contrast to other project managers in the professional field, your or your teams' personal motivations play as well a key role for a good project description. Briefly, in professional project management mainly the output or impact is the A&O, but the success of volunteer activism depends as well from the motivations and the concrete group of people that initiate change: authenticity + societal goals = your impact in the society. The article helps you to explain both aspects in a balanced and comprehensible way.
Planning always begins with an analysis of the situation and a definition of the goals. Often the types of projects volunteers take on often do not last a very long time. Project work differs from long-term involvement in clubs or parties in that projects have precisely defined goals that should be achieved within a given time frame. Therefore we give as well attention to our limits by raising the resources question:
* Where do we start? Where is the problem we would like to solve? * What do we want to change? What is the goal? * What are possible ways to achieve it – choose the project type * What are our existing resources?
 Defining goals
Well-defined goals are necessary in order to plan and realize an event. They act as means of orientation and allow one to measure success at the end of the project. Therefore, a well-defined goal includes statements about the future and the effects the finished project will have. It answers the question: What is the project supposed to change?
 Example: Waste and environmental protection event
* Activists and passersby became aware of a waste problem in their environment. * Because they understand how important it is to be dedicated to protecting the environment, they participated in a cleaning action. * This public site is now clean. * Inhabitants took responsibility for the public space in their neighborhood * People were motivated to become active
 Setting goals in terms of time and content
It should be clear that a “project” as an organizational form is not suited for solving the structural problems in its environment.
For example, a project team will not succeed in improving the education system at a university. In order to change the education system, one would need a lot of staying power and a great deal of time would be required in order to see positive results. One can, however, take a concrete step in this direction, such as initiating a one-time evaluation of the relevant faculty.
 Example: Evaluation of language teaching
* Initiating the evaluation process in the department of language science * Developing the evaluation concept jointly with a team of students and junior teachers * Publishing the results on the project’s website
 Societal impact
Volunteer projects have a societal impact. Who will be affected by your project and to what extent? How can your actions improve your environment? Don’t forget to take the project’s sustainability into account: What lasting effects will your project have? Very relevant for defining your societal impact are
- Goals and criteria of evaluation that need to be reflected in advance
- Planning as well the dissemination and exploitation of your results, because these aspects request a lot of resources (like for handbooks, meetings, conferences).
 Example: Playground in the neighborhood
* The neighbors use the playground as a meeting place * The children have a place to play and to express their creativity * The neighborhood once again has a strong community spirit. * People get to know each other and develop other initiatives. * The city uses the methodological approach for other districts.
 Stakeholders and target groups
Who is the project aimed at? Who is directly affected? Who is involved? Elaborate on your goals by recognizing the Stakeholders and target groups. This includes you as well as your personal skill development, your team, and your collective growth and learning.
 Example: Foreign Students' Club
* Foreign Students: find a place where they can meet and talk with local students * Local students: have an opportunity to improve their English skills * Local and international students: learn from each other about their countries and their cultures * University: people from other countries will think more highly of the university.
 Inscribing personality
You will be more successful in presenting your volunteer project to others if the issue itself is compelling to you as a participant. Thus, the specification of personal goals should be emphasized: What do I want to change with this project?
You are more powerful speaker when you use language that feels comfortable to you. Don't use over-used phrases or catchphrases like "stand up," "mutual understanding," "united in diversity." Try using simple but precise language. Write simply and use your own words. Avoid exaggerations and using words that you wouldn’t normally use.