Daily Archives: 25 July 2014

Jayne in Kiev, Ukraine for all August & Sept.

For all of August and September, I will be the SURGE Communications Officer in Kiev, Ukraine, and assist UNDP Ukraine and other UN country teams with the development and day-to-day implementation of communications and publication strategies. I’ll also monitor progress of the UN country teams response to the crises in Ukraine “with a view to influence the development agenda,” by helping with public and media outreach, to help people to understand the work and accomplishments of  UNDP in Ukraine. I’ll be helping to build the capacities of the staff to continue these communications activities long after I’ve gone.

Supposedly, I’ll get to work with various communications managers, staff of other UN Agencies, government officials, international and local media, multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors and civil society. According to the job description, I’ll be:

  • Planning and designing internal and external strategies for communications and outreach
  • Supervising the design and maintenance of the UNDP web site and intranets (and I hope other online activities as well)
  • Facilitating knowledge building and knowledge sharing
  • Etc.

That’s a tall order in two months, but I’m ready! I love getting to work in my first love: communications in development programs. I love designing and carrying out communications plans, but I also love building the capacity of people to communicate, to deliver effective messages, to anticipate issues, to be responsive, etc. My favorite work in Afghanistan, the last time I worked for the UN, was building public sector staff communications capacities in Afghanistan, something I squeezed in amid my primary responsibilities of writing and editing reports for various institutions, and I continue to do that capacity-building work with Afghan colleagues to this day, as an online volunteer. I’m so looking forward to getting to do this kind of work again!

I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m thrilled, I’m scared – not of the political situation in Ukraine but of meeting the expectations of this job!

Of course, this has come at a cost: I was to present in Austin, Texas in September, to do a volunteer management training for AmeriCorps members in Portland, Oregon, to do a training back in my hometown of Henderson, Kentucky, and lots of personal plans. There were people I haven’t seen in many, many years, and people I was to meet onsite, face-to-face, that I’ve known only online, all lined up for August and September. That’s the cost of doing this type of short-term work overseas – it never happens at a convenient time. And, of course, I’m missing the very best time to be in Oregon – and will be missing my husband terribly.

The worst part, though, is Delta Airlines: I already have a roundtrip ticket booked with them for Germany, for a vacation with my husband. My Ukraine contract ends just three days before I was to arrive in Germany from the USA. You would think Delta would simply let me keep that ticket – already paid for – and then just not use the USA to Germany part, allowing me to simply buy a flight from Kiev to Frankfurt, and then using just the return ticket – again, it’s all already paid for. And you would be WRONG. Unless I fly out from the USA to Germany, I would pay almost $5000 for the flight back from Germany to the USA! If I don’t show up for the outbound flight, they will cancel my return ticket! So I have to fly all the way back to the USA from Ukraine, stay TWO days, and get right back on a plane for Europe. Can you believe it?!? There is no logic for this. None. None whatsoever.

Anyway, I’ll post updates about my work here and via my various online social network channels.

If you are or have been in Kiev, Ukraine, do drop me a line with any advice you have!

global survey on volunteer management software – revisited

In 2012, Rob Jackson (robjacksonconsulting.com) and Jayne Cravens (coyotecommunications.com) — ME — drafted and circulated a survey regarding software used to manage volunteer information. The purpose of the survey was to gather some basic data that might help organizations that involve volunteers to make better-informed decisions when choosing software, and to help software designers to understand the needs of those organizations. We also wanted to get a sense of what organizations were thinking about volunteer management software.

We promoted the survey every way we knew how – emailing our contacts directly, posting to various online discussion groups, posting repeatedly to our social networks, and asking others to share the survey with their readers and networks. Then we published the results of the survey here (in PDF); it includes an executive summary of our findings, as well as the complete responses to questions and our analysis of such.

It’s the two-year anniversary of this survey, and we think the results are still quite useful. Software companies and designers: you can learn a LOT from this report to improve your products and your communications with customers!

What we learned:

We learned how much managers of volunteers love spreadsheets, even those that have specialized software for managing volunteers.

We also learned a lot from this report that has nothing to do with software. In the survey, we asked a lot of questions that didn’t relate directly to software, like about how many volunteers these organizations managed, as well as what volunteers did. And the answers about what volunteers do at various organizations were surprising.

Rob and I did not have time to analyze all of the comments made in answer to some questions; for all questions, we listed the comments made, but we did not always offer any observations about such, or group the responses into categories. We welcome the efforts of other researchers to offer their own analysis of the data provided.

The thing I have learned since then: I’m not sure volunteer management software is what every organization needs to track and schedule volunteers. The more I talk to people working with volunteers, the more I think that seeking function-based software (scheduling, performance, etc.) rather than volunteer-management software is the answer for a lot of organizations. I’ll write more about that soon.