FIIVE Chicago was a collaborative intergenerational volunteer project developed by six human services organizations and supported by a seventh partner with expertise in program evaluation. The organizations behind FIIVE Chicago recognized that individuals with disabilities were often excluded from opportunities to contribute to community goals and collective action, to include volunteering. From the onset, the vision of the project was multi-faceted: to develop curriculum; to implement volunteer opportunities; to evaluate the effectiveness of the project; and to disseminate training/curriculum materials to other human service agencies in Illinois.
A Disability Training Module for older adults and university students was developed to provide an understanding of the goals of the project as well as insights on abilities and disabilities; the role of the volunteer as a support; and successful mentoring. A Volunteer Management Training Module was developed to provide a basic overview of the concept of intergenerational volunteerism between older adults and young people with disabilities. Human services agency participants developed community-specific service activities for their team of older volunteers and participants. Based on these activities, a series of Volunteer Training Modules were documented, addressing volunteer domains of many types (e.g. homelessness, animal care, environment, hospice) and outlining various activities (including session goals, objectives, activities, materials and cost).
- 81 young persons with disabilities and 69 older adults over the age of 50 participated in multiple volunteer projects
- While evaluation reported no statistically significant changes in program participants (e.g. self-efficacy, personal growth, psychological well-being), qualitative analysis suggested positive outcomes related to program participation. Download Evaluation
- Project coordinators reported the project helped to build organizational capacity within their own agencies as well as develop new professional relationships with colleagues from other organizations
- The FIIVE Chicago Toolkit: A manual for leading inclusive and intergenerational volunteer efforts was created which documents for the purpose of replication the training and activity components of the initiative. Download FIIVEToolkit
Key Lesson Learned: It’s important to connect volunteers to beneficiaries
Successful projects do not occur in a vacuum. It is critical that volunteers know what is most meaningful to the subject or beneficiaryof the volunteer project. In FIIVE Chicago, the end beneficiary is not the older adult or the young person with disabilities who volunteer. It is the recipient of the efforts of these individuals. The most successful projects had the most clarity as to who the end beneficiary of the volunteer activity was. This information was gathered prior to the activity and was incorporated into the activity itself.
Key Lesson Learned: Recruiting seniors can be a challengeThe recruitment of older adults to participate in the projects was more difficult than expected. Adults in their 50s and 60s are still quite active with many remaining in the workforce. Recruiting through a senior activity center/living facility yielded good results as center activity directors can manage logistics and connect to multiple candidate volunteers. Refrain from requiring volunteers to commit to a lengthy period of services.