Tag Archives: asia

Involving volunteers: a cop out for paying staff?

Nurses in the Philippines are angry. They are being forced to work for free, or for a stipend on which they cannot live, while the hospitals where they are working call them “volunteers.” Some hospitals are even charging nurses for their “volunteer” work experience. Thousands of graduate nurses are paying hospitals and working for months without salaries under the guise of “training,” so the nurses can gain work experience and have an improved chance of being employed as a regular staff eventually. As a result of this exploitation, nurses have filed cases against four hospitals through the Philippines Department of Labor and Employment – National Labor Relations Commission in February and March. Nurses have also sought the help of a Philippines political party, the Ang Nars Party, which has been using its Facebook page to highlight their campaign against what they are calling “false volunteerism”. (Thanks, oh-so-awesome DJ Cronin, for the heads up about this situation!)

You can read more about this situation at the Nursing News, March 2, 2017, but be warned: this is a click-bait site, packed with advertising banners and in-text advertising links.

I am, of course, outraged about this situation in the Philippines. It’s the same outrage that prompted me to call on the United Nations to defend its involvement of full-time, unpaid interns. It’s not only horrible that these nurses are being exploited; these kinds of actions create campaigns opposed to some or all volunteering (unpaid work). No doubt the hospitals in the Philippines have happily talked about the value of volunteering only in terms of money saved in not paying staff, just as ILO, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, UNV, and others have encouraged them to do.  The result of this exploitation will be a further backlash against all volunteering in hospitals in the Philippines – and beyond. The fight against unpaid internships hurts volunteering. And all of this is because so many organizations see volunteers only as a way to not pay staff, to save money.

If you do not have a  written statement that explains explicitly why your organization reserves certain tasks / assignments / roles for volunteers, including unpaid interns, and that statement has NOTHING to do with not having enough money to pay staff, then you have no business involving volunteers, or unpaid interns, or whatever it is you want to call people you aren’t paying for work.

Good luck to the nurses in the Philippines. And good luck to hospitals in justifying future engagement of volunteers after making so many enemies to the term.

Also see:

humanitarian stories & photos – use with caution

whitesaviorbarbieIf you are going abroad, particularly to developing countries, even just for vacation rather than a humanitarian mission, be really careful and respectful in what you write for the public about your travels, including your use of social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -, and what photos you take and post. Think about a post or photo carefully before you publish: is it accurate? Is it enlightening? Could it be seen as patronizing? What would the people I’m talking about say if they read what I said/saw my photos? Would it be acceptable for a stranger to talk about your community, and share photos of your children, on their blog in the way you are about to?

Earlier this month, National Public Radio did a story about how Zambians, other Africans and aid workers are using social media to show factual errors and condescending remarks in a memoir by British actress Louise Linton about her gap year. The hashtag being used is #LintonLies.

An excerpt from Linton’s book:

I still sometimes feel out of place. Whenever that happens, though, I try to remember a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink from a bottle of Coca-Cola.

Really? THAT moment was that child’s GREATEST JOY?! And that is the kind of circumstance that makes you feel not out of place? She also talks in her memoir about child soldiers in Zambia – something that is not actually an issue in Zambia. Throughout her book, she confuses Zambia with Congo and Rwanda. The Zambian embassy in London has even called her out.

And then there’s actress Debra Messing, who seems similarly confused about Africa being a country, and posted photos online recently that gave people the impression that her message was more about “look where I am!” than the people she was supposed to be there FOR on behalf of two NGOs, as dissected by a commentator at Jezebel.

It all looks like ‘White Savior Barbie’ come to life – White Savior Barbie is an Instagram account that hilariously parodies volunteer selfies in developing countries, as highlighted in this article on the Huffington Post. There’s also an article in the satirical magazine The Onion that mocks voluntourism , joking that a 6-day visit to a rural African village can “completely change a woman’s facebook profile picture.”

I actually have a little bit of sympathy for Messing. I know that they had good intentions. And we’ve all done things out of ignorance that we later, often quickly, regret. We all make cultural missteps. We all make communications missteps. And aid workers can get quite carried away in an ongoing and very smug game of more-in-tune-with-people-and-not-acting-privileged-than-thou when they mock volunteer humanitarians and others, and that can be just as bad as the missteps they mock. I’ve been called out a few times for things I’ve written my blogs from developing countries – sometimes I haven’t agreed with those criticisms, sometimes I have. But I hope I’ve never come from a place of “look at me going to save all these poor people!”

I also hope these missteps don’t stop people from sharing their adventures online, including photos:

UNICEF recognizes the enormous power of visual imagery such as this to engage, inform and inspire audiences – and to advocate for children’s rights. Photographs or film footage that depict real life situations of children, and UNICEF programmes supporting supporting them, are one of the most effective ways to communicate these issues. — UNICEF Guidelines: Protecting children’s rights in corporate partner image use, viewed online in July 2016. More UNICEF photo guidelines here

I learn so much reading various posts on social media from people working in developing countries. It’s brave to put yourself and your thoughts and opinions out there, for public consumption. But be ready to revisit what you’ve said and thought online when it comes under public criticism.

And aid agencies, PLEASE train your workers, including volunteers and celebrity representatives, on how to use social media – and what not to do – before they start their work abroad or go on a field visit.

Check out this code of conduct resource from Child Rights International Network regarding taking photos of children in developing countries (really, anywhere).

Update October 21, 2016:  “a hot mess” of “neo-colonialism, racism, hypocrisy and privilege.” A Christian ministry feels the backlash of a very ill-thought video of their impressions of Uganda. Another story about the video from NPR’s Goats & Soda.

Update May 10, 2017: A photo of a young girl being raped, used by the magazine LensCulture to promote a for-profit competition by Magnum, a prestigious photo agency, violated UNICEF’s ethical guidelines on reporting on children by showing the victim’s face, which makes her identifiable, and lacked any explanation regarding the enslavement and abuse of the girl. The incident also brought attention to a broader issue in photojournalism: how the Western media depicts — and often demeans — young women and girls in poor countries. More about the incident here (the photo is NOT shown on this page).

Also see:

Consortium re: volunteers & SDGs, coordinated by Brookings Institution

BBCBANNER_optOn June 14, 2016, people from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based organizations, corporations, universities, the Peace Corps, and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) came together at the Brookings Institution to answer the question on how to achieve impacts on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through international service. This was also the 10th anniversary gathering of the Building Bridges Coalition, a multi-stakeholder consortium of development volunteers, coordinated by Brookings. The event included the announcement of a new Service Year Alliance partnership with the coalition to step up international volunteers and village-based volunteering capacity around the world.

(note: in this case, the word development has to with humanitarian aid that is focused on building the capacities of humans for improved health, improved education, improved income generation, improved life choices, etc., on community development, institutional development, environmental development, country development, etc.)

According to a summary article about the events by David L. Caprara, “Volunteerism remains a powerful tool for good around the world. Young people, in particular, are motivated by the prospect of creating real and lasting change, as well as gaining valuable learning experiences that come with volunteering.”

Brookings Senior Fellow Homi Kharas, who served as the lead author supporting the high-level panel advising the U.N. secretary-general on the post-2015 development agenda, noted the imperative of engaging community volunteers to scale up effective initiatives, build political awareness, and generate “partnerships with citizens at every level” to achieve the 2030 goals.

Kharas’ call was echoed in reports on effective grassroots initiatives, including Omnimed’s mobilization of 1,200 village health workers in Uganda’s Mukono district, a dramatic reduction of malaria through Peace Corps efforts with Senegal village volunteers, and Seed Global Health’s partnership to scale up medical doctors and nurses to address critical health professional shortages in the developing world.

Civic Enterprises President John Bridgeland and Brookings Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne, Jr. led a panel with Seed Global Health’s Vanessa Kerry and Atlas Corps’ Scott Beale on policy ideas for the next administration, including offering Global Service Fellowships in United States Agency for International Development (USAID) programs to grow health service corps, student service year loan forgiveness, and technical support through State Department volunteer exchanges. There were also representatives from Global Citizen Year, America Solidaria, and International Young Leaders Academy.

The multi-stakeholder volunteering model was showcased by Richard Dictus, executive coordinator of UNV; Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet; USAID Counselor Susan Reischle; and Diane Melley, IBM vice president for Global Citizenship. Melley highlighted IBM’s 280,000 skills-based employee volunteers who are building community capacity in 130 countries along with Impact 2030—a consortium of 60 companies collaborating with the U.N.—that is “integrating service into overall citizenship activities” while furthering the SDGs.

The key role of colleges and universities in the coalition’s action plan—including  linking service year with student learning, impact research, and gap year service—was  outlined by Dean Alan Solomont of Tisch College at Tufts University; Marlboro College President Kevin Quigley; and U.N. Volunteers researcher Ben Lough of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

These panel discussion produced a resolution that highlighted five major priorities:

  1. Engage service abroad programs to more effectively address the 2030 SDGs by mobilizing 10,000 additional service year and short-term volunteers annually and partnerships that leverage local capacity and volunteers in host communities.
  2. Promote a new generation of global leaders through global service fellowships promoting service and study abroad.
  3. Expand cross-sectorial participation and partnerships.
  4. Engage more volunteers of all ages in service abroad.
  5. Study and foster best practices across international service programs, measure community impact, and ensure the highest quality of volunteer safety, well-being, and confidence.

Caprara noted in his article, “Participants agreed that it’s through these types of efforts that volunteer service could become a common strategy throughout the world for meeting pressing challenges. Moreover, the cooperation of individuals and organizations will be vital in laying a foundation on which governments and civil society can build a more prosperous, healthy, and peaceful world.”

In addition, the Building Bridges Coalition produced a webinar on the role of volunteers in achieving the SDGs.  Here is a slide show from the event, as well as the audio.

The Building Bridges Coalition is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The coalition encourages international volunteer organizations, large and small, to become members, as well as individuals interested in international volunteer service; there are fees associated with membership. As of the start of 2016, the BBC has seven working groups addressing the issues of greatest interest to coalition members.

Problems in countries far from home can seem easy to solve

globeProblems in countries far from home can somehow seem far easier to solve than problems in your own country. They aren’t. Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of ‘exotic problems.’ It’s yet another excellent piece from the Guardian Development Professionals Network. It’s a must-read for all those that want to volunteer abroad, are seeking a career in international humanitarian aid and development, or want to donate to such causes.

The aforementioned piece is a good companion to my earlier blog on vanity volunteering.

So I guess I’m vanity blogging… but then, aren’t we all?

Also see:

Reality Check: Volunteering Abroad / Internationally


transire benefaciendo: “to travel along while doing good”

UNV announces Online Volunteering Award 2015

UNLogoToday – 30 November 2015 – the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program announced winners of the UNV Online Volunteering Award 2015, celebrating both volunteers and volunteer hosting organizations on the UN’s Online Volunteering Service, and launched a global voting campaign for the public’s favorite, to be announced on December 5.

Profiles of the five organizations chosen for the award, and their online volunteers, are here (and this is where you vote as well). The organizations are Association des Agriculteurs Professionels du Cameroun (AGRIPO), Fundación de Comunidades Vulnerables de Colombia (FUNCOVULC), Hunger Reduction International, Seeds Performing Arts Theatre Group in Papua New Guinea, and a digital media campaign run by UN Women. Each effort also has a tag regarding which sustainable development goals it supports.

If you know me, then you know which one of the winners immediately jumped out at me and what I voted for: Seeds Performing Arts Theatre Group in Papua New Guinea. The group uses live theatre performance to raise awareness on issues affecting the local rural population, including violence against women, and to inspire and implement social change. Seeds teamed up with a group of online volunteers via the UN’s Online Volunteering service to develop a screenplay for a video about the specific gender-based violence associated with witch hunting. The traditional belief in sorcery is used to justify violence against women in Papua New Guinea, and inhumane treatment of innocent women accused of sorcery is common in rural parts of the island as sorcery is thought to account for unexplained deaths or misfortunes in a family or village.

After voting, you are encouraged to copy the following message to your profile on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or whatever social media channel you use:

Just voted for my favourite Online #VolunteeringAward winner. You can, too! https://goo.gl/CTGVfS #ActionCounts #GlobalGoals” and encourage others to recognize the true value and worth of online volunteers!

In 2014, according to UNV, more than 11,000 online volunteers undertook more than 17,000 online volunteering assignments through the service, and 60 percent of these online volunteers come from developing countries. I had the pleasure of directing the service at UNV for four years, from February 2001 to February 2014, successfully moving the platform from NetAid to UNV entirely, engaging in various activities that made the service the first link when searching the term online volunteering on Google (I also made it #1 when searching the term virtual volunteering, but that’s no longer true), vastly increasing the number of online opportunities available for organizations on the platform and authoring materials to support organizations engaging online volunteers that are still used by UNV. I still promote the site to any organizations working in or for regions in the developing world as the best way to recruit online volunteers.

Also see:

The Virtual Volunteering Wiki

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

My research on Theater as a Tool for Development/Theatre as a Tool for Development

Oregon global initiatives

When you think of USA-based initiatives focused on development and humanitarian work in other countries, you think of New York or Washington, D.C. You will find a fair number in San Francisco and Los Angeles as well.

But there are organizations and initiatives all over the USA, in every state, with a primary mission of undertaking development and humanitarian work in at least one country overseas. Even in Oregon.

I come from a state – Kentucky – that most people I mean outside the USA could not locate on a map, and many have no idea its a real place. And I now live in a state that, likewise, most people I meet outside the USA could not locate on a map – in fact, many have never heard of Oregon. Yet, in both states, there are for-profit, nonprofit and university-based initiatives that are focused on other countries.

I decided to make a list of nonprofit and university-based organizations and initiatives in Oregon that were undertaking aid, humanitarian and/or development work overseas. I also added organizations focused on educating people regarding other countries/global affairs. The first draft was 10 organizations. It’s now a list of 21 organizations.

I started this page because, as a consultant myself for organizations working in development and humanitarian activities overseas, I would like to know who my colleagues in my own “neighborhood” are, and because I would like for people in the USA to be much better educated about other countries – so I’d like to know who is doing that. Also, Washington State has a formal umbrella organization, Global Washington, for groups in that state that work overseas, though it’s not focused only on humanitarian issues. Oregon doesn’t have such, that I can find.

If you would like to add an organization to my last, please contact me. But note: your initiative has to be officially registered in some way, or already part of an officially-registered organization, and there needs to be names of real people on your web site (one web site I found for a 501 (c)(3) organization claiming to work overseas had NO names of people on it – no names of staff, no names of board members – so they aren’t on my list).


Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the South

A new book on volunteer activity is in the making for the ISTR Book Series: Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the South. The aim of this volume is to articulate and examine theories, and perspectives on volunteering in the “South”, meaning presenting various angles of volunteer activity in countries considered developing countries and countries in transition. Comparative issues of all countries are welcome as well as examples of volunteering in  North/South or South/South experiences.

There is a group authors already involved in this publication. “We are interested in would be authors that are working on these issues. To researchers with an interest in this topic, this is an open invitation  to attend a meeting at the ISTR conference in Muenster [Germany]. For those who cannot attend and are interested, please contact the editor.”

Place: University of Muenster (Germany). Room Vom Stein Haus  VS-17
Time : Friday, July 25.   12:30 PM.
parallel to the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) International Conference

Editor:  Jacqueline Butcher, Ph. D
RSVP: jacqueline.butcher@ciesc.org.mx

More info:

The chapters in this book approach volunteering through a series of essays and case studies that present recent academic research, thinking and practice on volunteering. Working from the premise that volunteering is “universal” this collection draws on experiences from Latin America, Africa including Egypt and selected parts of Asia. There is a focus on developing countries and countries in transition documents a fresh set of experiences and perspectives on volunteering. These accounts complement the conventional focus in the literature on ‘the developed’ world – largely northern or western experiences from Europe and North America. While developing countries and countries in transition are in the spotlight for this volume, the developed country experience is not ignored. Rather it is used in this anthology, as a critical reference point for comparisons, allowing points of convergence, disconnect and intersection to emerge.

The primary aim and contribution of this anthology will be to articulate and examine the opinions and perspectives on volunteering in the South. The second objective is to provide a counter point to the dominant conceptual and empirical account of volunteering. Consequently, in identifying chapters the proposed editor did not discount evidence from northern and western countries and rather included this where possible in survey and quantitative studies as a useful reference point and basis for comparison. Finally, the tertiary objective promotes the fuller complexity and texture on volunteering, highlighting its promotion through an appreciation of its potential and promise for expression and impact in different cultures and contexts.

Authors and suggested chapters to date:

Section 1: Volunteering: An introduction and theoretical framework

Chapter 1: Volunteering: a complex social phenomenon
Jacqueline BUTCHER

Section 2: Patterns of Volunteering

Chapter 2: The economic value of volunteering: Comparative estimates among developing, transitional, and developed countries.
Lester SALAMON and Megan HADDOCK

Chapter 3: The effects of volunteering on poverty and development in China, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal and the Philippines
Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO) and the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University.

Chapter 4: Youth, service and volunteering: A comparative perspective in developing nations.
National Youth Service (NYS)

Chapter 5: The global perspective in corporate volunteering: a focus on the South.

Section 3: Empirical approaches

Chapter 6: Organic/ indigenous practices of volunteering in Uruguay: The influence on Public Policy.
Analía BETTONI and Javier PEREIRA

Chapter 7: Solidarity and Volunteering: a Mexican Study.
Jacqueline BUTCHER and Gustavo VERDUZCO

Chapter 8: Individual volunteering and giving: How and why ordinary individuals give in the context of South Africa: a case study of Gauteng Province.

Chapter 9: Promising practices from national programs across the African continent: Preparing youth for citizenship , employment and sustainable livelihoods.
Helene PEROLD and Karena CRONIN

Chapter 10: A typology of local and International volunteering experiences from Tanzania and Mozambique.

Chapter 11: Volunteering at the grassroots: Celebrating the Joy of Volunteering in India

Chapter 12: Beyond images and perceptions: How important is voluntary action in Buenos Aires?

Chapter 13: Employee volunteering in South Africa.
Fiona BUDD

Chapter 14: Models, developments and effects of trans-border youth volunteer exchange programmes in eastern and southern Africa.

Chapter 15 : Volunteerism and the state: understanding the development of volunteering in China
Ying XU and Ngai PUN

Chapter 16: NGO management of volunteers: the case of Egypt.

Section 4 Conclusions -Volunteer participation.

Chapter 17: Conclusions about experiences and perspectives that come from the South.
Jacqueline BUTCHER

More information about the editor:
Dra. Jacqueline Butcher García-Colín
Directora, Centro de Investigación y Estudios sobre Sociedad Civil, A.C.
conocimiento  para la acción social
Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Ciudad de México
Escuela de Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales

Questions for programs sending volunteers to developing countries

For a research project I’m working on with various EU-based NGOs through February 2014 or so, I’m gathering info on three related areas:

  • Volunteer-to-volunteer support online. How organizations that send volunteers to developing countries do, or do NOT, support these volunteers to interact with each other, or returned volunteers / alumni, online. I’m looking for strategies, procedures and policies, as well as assessments, formal or informal, about what’s working and what’s not.
  • Alumni networks. How these organizations set up and manage their alumni programs for returned volunteers – or if they don’t, why not, and if they don’t, would they be interested in such. Again, I’m looking for strategies, procedures and policies, as well as assessments, formal or informal, about what’s working and what’s not. For instance, there is a long-established alumni network for returned Peace Corps members, National Peace Corps Association, that is independently run from the actual Peace Corps program.
  • Online volunteering support. How these organizations support connections between volunteers currently serving in the field and online volunteers that have the expertise these volunteers to support them in their work – or if they don’t, if volunteers are engaging with such online volunteers on their own. For instance, Cuso International has a formal program, E-Connect, an e-volunteering pilot program that “welcomes new and returning volunteers to work with our in-country program partners remotely.” By contrast, the UNV program encourages currently-serving UN Volunteers to use its Online Volunteering service to recruit online volunteers to support them in their field work, but does not have a formal program to track or support this specific engagement.

It’s a challenging project because: 

  • So many organizations do not track these activities at their own organizations. For instance, when I worked at the United Nations Volunteers program from 2001-2005, I knew of program officers, each with a responsibility for a particular country or region, that had set up YahooGroups for the UN Volunteers they worked with in a specific region – yet, if you asked senior staff if online communities existed for currently-serving UN Volunteers, for peer-to-peer support, they would say no, because these activities weren’t well-communicated.
  • Language. If I say, “Do you have an online community that allows your volunteers to support each other?”, many staff will say no. But if I say, “Are you a part of any GoogleGroups or YahooGroups or Facebook Groups?” they will say yes, and if you ask “What are the groups”, you will find out that, indeed, such groups are for currently-serving volunteers and/or volunteer alumni.
  • No one person knows it all. There’s rarely one person at the organization that knows all of the online activities or alumni activities in which different staff is engaged. If you talk to one staff person at an organization, they may give you entirely different answers to your questions about online communities and alumni associations than another staff person.
  • A lot of online peer-to-peer support of volunteers in the field may not happen through an online community specifically for volunteers but, rather, through a subject-based online community for anyone, volunteer or paid, full-time employee / consultant, such as those engaged in evaluation activities using ALNAP’s Humanitarian Evaluation Community of Practice, or those engaged in water and sanitation programs.

That said, if you have info for me,  please email me at  jc@OINKMOOcoyotecommunications.com (remove OINKMOO from the email address).

Online volunteers, social media, disaster response & the Philippines

United Nations OCHA and the Digital Humanitarian Network are looking for online volunteers to help in geo-tagging twitter messages and images to support relief efforts in the Philippines. Find out more and sign up here, at the UN Volunteers Online Volunteering web site.

Also, other online volunteers across the world are building the digital infrastructure for the organization’s Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts: since Saturday, more than 400 volunteers have made nearly three quarters of a million additions to OpenStreetMap (OSM), regarding areas in and around the Philippines. Those additions reflect the land before the storm, but they will help Red Cross workers and volunteers make critical decisions after it about where to send food, water, and supplies (OSM aims to be a complete map of the world, free to use and editable by all. Created in 2004, it now has over a million users). The Red Cross is using the data. More at this article from the Atlantic.

And, hurrah, the first shipment of Facebook “likes” have arrived in the Philippines (article in German – and is a better criticism of slacktivism or slackavism than anything else).

What do NGOs understand that USA nonprofits don’t?

Last week, I got to be a part of the program for a group visiting Portland through the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). It was the fourth time I’ve gotten to be a part of the program over the years – the first time was in Austin, Texas, back in the 1990s. This time, visitors were from Egypt, Afghanistan, Liberia, Tunisia, Latvia, Greece, Mexico, El Salvador, Morocco, South Africa, Cameroon, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and more.

Talking with leaders of NGOs from all over the world is incredibly energizing – for me, it feels like coming home. Many are stunned that I’ve been to their countries – or that I even know where their countries are, what language they speak there, etc., in contrast to so many people in the USA. I’m sorry to sound the snob, but my fellow citizens are notorious worldwide for our ignorance about the rest of the planet, and not even having a passport, and I’m proud to be in contrast to that stereotype.

(just last week, I had to explain to a very close friend what the European Union was – she’s a very intelligent person, but if none of the news outlets ever mention the EU, how would she know what it is?).

This time with the IVLP, I was part of a small group of members from the Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association (NOVAA); instead of a traditional workshop, we divided up and each spent time with three people, for 20 minutes, talking about volunteer engagement, and would switch to a new group every 20 minutes. It allowed me to get one-on-one time with more than half the NGO representatives, and that’s always delightful. Many of the problems they face regarding volunteer engagement are the same as anywhere: trouble mainitaining volunteer motivation, volunteers not finishing assignments, too many volunteers one day and not enough another, etc. I hope they found my references helpful – hard to address everything in just 20 minutes!

One moment for me that I particularly loved: how integral social media is for many of these NGOs in working with volunteers. I loved hearing about all the ways they recruit, interact with and support volunteers using various social media tools, reaching volunteers via their phones as much, if not more, than via their computers – all said that, for the most part, email is dead for their young volunteers (people under 40) altogether. These NGOs haven’t needed workshops or conferences to convince them these tools are valuable; they’ve seen their value immediately. When I told them just how many nonprofits here in the USA refuse to use Facebook, Twitter, or other social media tools to work with volunteers, about how, if nonprofits here do decide to use such, they often give social media responsibilities to interns and senior management stays away from such, and how often I’ve had hostile reactions to the tech practices that these NGOs, by contrast, have fully embraced, they were floored. And they laughed. A lot. And when I told them that, in Oregon, in the supposedly oh-so-tech-savvy Portland area, I have had women younger than me say, “Oh, I don’t have email, so send that to my husband’s/daughter’s address, and he/she will print it out for me to read,” their jaws dropped.

True, many of these NGOs aren’t recruiting ethnic minorities, religious minorities and other marginalized groups as volunteers in their countries – and don’t see why they should have to make volunteering more accessible to such. They don’t see who they might be leaving out as volunteers by totally abandoning offline recruitment and support methods. In short, their volunteer engagement is not perfect and needs to further modernized, especially in terms of being inclusive – but what they are doing in terms of leveraging networked technologies in recruiting, involving and supporting volunteers is far, far ahead of what most nonprofits are doing in the USA. And all I can say is: WELL DONE. And keep teaching me!

Another big emphasis for these NGOs in particular is involving young people as volunteers – young people who are unemployed or under-employed, people under 40 with some education but who cannot find jobs. These NGOs see volunteer engagement with young people as a way not only to build the skills of those young people so that they can get jobs – or even start their own businesses – but also to give these young people a sense of civic responsibility and community connection beyond protesting in the streets. I was happy to help address some of these ideas in my very limited conversations, and welcomed their online inquiries so I can send them to further resources.

And, finally, I apologize to the guys from West Africa who were offended I hadn’t been to any of their countries yet (I’m trying!), and if the guy from the Philippines does not send me the photo he took of myself and the guy from Afghanistan wearing the cowboy that he bought in Texas, with both of us making the “hook ’em horns” sign, I will be DEVASTATED.

POSTSCRIPT: Not devastated.

For more information about my training.

Also see: