How we understand social issues
Issues such as poverty, inequality, unemployment and homelessness are the result of cultural decline which has usually come out of social or political failure. They are invariably the result of someone making a conscious decision or choice towards another person. This is not to discount of course the possibility of someone making a conscious decision or choice towards themselves, but generally people don't choose to experience poverty or hardship but experience it because of other people or circumstances beyond their control.
Why Qultura is not a charity
Currently it is socially acceptable to regard human misfortune as a business opportunity from which someone can make a profit. Not all charities are socially progressive. Many are but there are also a growing number of profit making corporations which are seeking charitable status, and getting status as registered charities, and earning an income and making a profit out of the exploitation not only of their workers but also the people they claim to support. This is a trend which can be found not only in the social care sector, but also healthcare, social security, the criminal justice system, social work, community support and even education.
Qultura rejects all standardized 'one size fits all' solutions to social issues such as poverty and hardship because the reasons why someone is struggling or experiencing difficulties in life is usually highly individual and most often has nothing to do with the choices or decisions that person has made in their lives.
This has transformed the charitable sector from how it once was in the 20th century. Charitable and social causes are becoming much more competitive and far less cooperative, fundraising has become much more aggressive and 'in your face' and in many cases morality has all but disappeared. Moral principles are no longer enforced but are a matter of personal choice. Politicians no longer care about the poor or people experiencing hardship or inequality which is why they have worked to transform the social security system into a system which is insecure and generally unhelpful and obstructive to anyone trying to overcome difficult circumstances.
Qultura steadfastly refuses to be a part of that culture.
Understanding Qultura Connect
Qultura is a cultural development organization. It's mission is to develop culture through the promotion of human creativity and human individuality. This cannot take place without creating possibilities and opportunities for individual people. Culture is developed by human need and human creativity, and quite often new culture is created out of the necessity brought about by hardship and struggle. Therefore Qultura has created Qultura Connect to develop community support and work to support people who are experiencing struggle, hardship, poverty and inequality. Qultura Connect is a very important part of Qultura's work.
How Qultura Connect delivers its support.
Qultura Connect delivers its support through various community support initiatives and through reverse volunteering. This can be done either on an individual one to one basis or as part of a group. Unlike almost every other charity or support organization there is no clear division between service user and service provider because creating such a division is generally unhelpful and counterproductive. One reason is that it makes the issues that someone is experiencing the focus of the relationship.
We regard people as individual human beings and it doesn't matter what your personal circumstances are, or what issues you are facing, you are still very much a part of your local community and a part of society, no different to anyone else. When someone signs up to become a reverse volunteer they are still very much part of the Qultura community, the only difference is that being a reverse volunteer means that they have needs which are unfulfilled and take priority because those needs prevent them from effectively functioning as individuals.
But isn't this the same as other support organizations and charities?
No it's not. Usually a charity or support organization uses someone's personal circumstances to raise money and provide them with some form of material or financial support, or undertakes to cover some of their financial or material needs so they don't have to pay for something. Money is the entire basis of the relationship, for example, between someone and the Department of Work and Pensions. Someone has to meet certain criteria, and do certain things, in order to continue receiving money. The DWP and their associated companies don't do anything to help someone change their circumstances or find work.
The emphasis of Qultura and Qultura Connect is completely different. Understanding that changes in personal circumstances usually require a change in energy and how energy is used, our focus is on primary social interaction and giving someone opportunities for exploring and developing their inner creativity. Material and financial needs are also important, because they help to remove and break down barriers and create further opportunities. This cannot happen without being part of a wider community.
What's involved in being a reverse volunteer?
People who become reverse volunteers are generally understood to be people who have various barriers -practical, financial, material, social, emotional, psychological or who are experiencing barriers as a result of an illness, a disability, social stigma (discrimination from other people) which prevent them from effectively functioning and who don't have access to support from others to help them deal with or overcome those barriers.
Two things are extremely important - the unique and individual life experience of whoever becomes a reverse volunteer and receives support from others through Qultura Connect and their life objectives. This means that all the solutions come from inside the person who becomes the reverse volunteer. They don't come from Qultura Connect or our community support volunteers.
This is where the emphasis on primary social interaction and creativity becomes important. We do not believe in self-reliance or holding people personally responsible for their circumstances, which is a form of victim blaming. Additionally some people can be very narrow-minded and judgmental of people who have issues, people who are experiencing issues get labelled, and judged as a result, which can create so many different issues.
It's often this social stigma which prevents people from being able to deal with or overcome these various barriers either because they don't have the resources, the energy, social support, or in many cases the awareness, understanding or previous experience to know how to come up with a solution themselves. Human beings are social animals and form social bonds far quicker than any other sort of attachment. But this goes beyond just being compassionate or showing empathy. Primary social interaction can often become a major energy source, and has a certain value when it comes to empowerment.
People can also face more than one barrier or issue in their personal circumstances. Some people face numerous barriers and it can be quite exhausting and draining to have to address different issues or even keep on top of them for any length of time. Currently there isn't a single organization which can support someone across different issues. Qultura is developing Qultura Connect to be the first community support organization which can provide effective support to people with multiple or different issues.
How does reverse volunteering work in practice?
At its most basic level being a reverse volunteer involves nothing more than social interaction and interacting both online and in real time with community support volunteers and others. Talk about yourself, talk about your life, share your experiences, share your needs, and get people to give you the support and help you feel you need.
How you do this is down to you. We understand that some people are affected by anxiety and depression, so meeting new people for the first time can be a scary and daunting prospect. We give you control over the way you are supported, you set the conditions, we work with you, at your level, according to your pace and time frames. Tell us what you want and need and we will do whatever we can to provide you with it.
When you become a reverse volunteer you will be invited to join our Community Support discussion group on Groupbox. It's a moderated group populated by community support volunteers and is a place where you can interact with others online,become involved in events and meetings, and share your needs, experiences and stories.
The emphasis of reverse volunteering is to get support and find effective ways of breaking down the barriers which are holding you back in life.
As perfection doesn't exist, people make mistakes and not everything works out support is given on a cyclical 'trial and error' basis. Failure is seen as something to learn from, something which gives opportunities to increase awareness and understanding, something which can create an experience to share or a story to tell, and it can often be an opportunity to bring people together.
This is the more important aspects of the reverse volunteering experience. It is the understanding that negative energy or a negative experience if given the opportunity can be transformed into something positive.
We're also working to develop a new Protected Status to replace the existing DBS 'vulnerable person's' status rendered so meaningless by conditionality in the charitable and social care sectors. Unlike the current system Protected Status will have flexible levels and be designed to prevent 'spikes' in personal circumstances which threaten or undermine someone's recovery process.
We also give our reverse volunteers the opportunity of being able to independently gather resources for essential needs and items such as food, fuel, essential clothing, travel expenses, essential household appliances and furniture, and social care. This is in place of the Social Fund and crisis payments which has either all but disappeared or made harder to get. Instead of having to search for and apply for hardship grants our reverse volunteers can simply locate one of our volunteer administrators, write their own appeals and gather their own resources.
What do I need to apply?
You need to be aged 18 or over and be experiencing hardship, a struggle and have barriers or issues which you cannot independently deal with. Currently we are setting up Qultura Connect in South London but we plan to develop a community support network further afield. There is no upper age limit.