Tag Archives: sustainable

More than helping: wanting to make a difference

One of the most common questions on Quora and the Community Service section of Yahoo is regarding what kind of volunteering is “best.” Given the number of these type of questions from teens and 20-somethings on these platforms, I don’t buy the line about millennials not caring about society, not caring about others, etc. They wouldn’t keep asking questions about volunteering if they didn’t care about something more than themselves. But the number of questions, always about what kind of volunteering they should do, which one is “best”, etc., also shows that a lot of people are lost when it comes to knowing what is a meaningful volunteering opportunity and what would be most worthwhile to them.

Too many initiatives have focused on promoting volunteering without giving realistic guidance on how to find volunteering opportunities – not just how to use a database that lists volunteering opportunities, but how to choose which task or role would be best for someone.

I put assistance to people and communities into two categories:

  1. relief/aid/comfort/charity, such as giving food, providing emergency shelter, providing emergency medical aid, chopping wood for people that heat their homes with such in winter, singing for sick kids to cheer them up, making blankets for children in cancer wards, collecting food for a food bank, etc.
  2. development, such as educating people about HIV/AIDS, educating people about organic farming, providing preventative medical care, educating people about the importance of spaying and neutering pets, creating a community garden that provides food, educates about food production and builds community, etc..

Activities in category number one usually don’t change anything long-term. They usually don’t create a widespread or sustainable change — it helps just in an immediate moment. Not that that’s bad – sometimes, often, that’s exactly what’s needed, such as providing a cold weather shelter on a freezing night, or food for an area decimated by a natural disaster.

Activities under the second category are focused on changing things long-term. The activities are meant to change people’s behavior or how people think about something or to help people to not need emergency aid anymore. These are the activities that, I admit, I am MUCH more interested in personally and professionally.

One kind of assistance isn’t necessarily better than the other. Some situations call for approach #1, and some call for approach #2. Also, activities that seem to be short-term charity can actually contribute to longer-term development and transformations. For instance, say you have a program that helps youth explore leadership activities, better understand their community, work together better, reduce conflict with other young people, etc. So you organize charitable activities for the youth, like participating in a Habitat for Humanity build, or cleaning up a beach, or serving food at a homeless shelter. All of those activities are charitable activities that provide immediate, but not lasting, aid – yet, those activities can contribute to long-term changes / transformations for the youth involved.

Several years ago, because of these frequently asked questions from young people about volunteering, particularly Girl Scouts looking for Gold Award ideas, I made a list of Ideas for Leadership Volunteering. It grows regularly as I come across articles about young people making a difference through their own, self-initiated volunteering activities. It’s focused mostly on that second category of community assistance. If you are a young person looking to make a long-lasting impact on your community through volunteering, this is a good place to start. In fact, I have used this list with women in developing countries who are looking for avenues to cultivate their own community leadership skills.

I also have a list of ways for young people to find community service and volunteering.

Other resources I have for people who want to volunteer:

Adventure tourism as a tool for economic & community development

I’m passionate about travel – not just as something for myself, positive effects of tourism on economies and travelers (especially women) alike. The positive effects of tourism, or tourism for development, is something that has been of interest to me for several years, and something I continually research on my own, when I can find the time to do so.

Personally, I’m most fond of adventure travel: going to a location that offers basic accommodations (camping, hostels, in-home stays), food and cultural events unique to that area, and some activity or location that can best be enjoyed by hiking, kayaking, white-water rafting, bicycling, touring by motorcycle or horseback, etc.

The 2012 Adventure Travel World Summit was held in Switzerland in October (2013’s will be in Namibia). I would so love to go to one of these! (alas, no funds). When leaders of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), WWF International and Google addressed more than 600 tourism industry professionals during this year’s summit, a common refrain emerged: adventure travel as an economic driver, as a force of sustainable development and one that delivers to travelers transformative experiences in nature, culture and active travel. More about the summit here.

UNWTO and the Adventure Travel Trade Association, a global organization dedicated to responsibly growing the adventure travel market, have even announced a new partnership concerning global sustainable tourism development.

As both an adventure traveler and someone with experience in UN and other development initiatives, I would so love to be involved in this partnership somehow. Perhaps this blog might get someone’s attention?

Also see these resources I’ve developed that relate to tourism development:

Also see these organizations and individuals that tweet regarding tourism for good / for economic development.

Tourism as a tool for economic & community development

I’m an aid and development worker.

I’m also an avid traveler.

And in engaging in both of those activities, I’ve seen firsthand how tourism is a major driver of economic growth and sustainable development.

Tourism as a tool for economic and community development has been of interest to me for several years, and something I’ve researched on my own, as my time and resources allow. I’m particularly interested in

  • how local people and small businesses learn to attract both domestic and international tourists,
  • how they learn to attract and cater to non-luxury travelers: budget travelers, backpackers, motorcycle tourists, etc., and
  • how they learn to attract and cater to women.

I’ve compiled a web page of both my own resources related to tourism for development and links to some of my favorite resources. Have a look and, if you would like to contribute info, by all means, do!

Also, I use social media as a traveler:

Jayne A Broad Facebook page
This Facebook fan page is where I follow USA state parks, national parks, national forests, and organizations focused on sustainable tourism, getting children, women and under-represented groups outdoors, and related international organizations and sites. My travel-related tweets from the my jayne_a_broad twitter feed (see below) get posted here automatically. It’s about learning and sharing regarding tourism as a tool for economic and community development – and the importance of travel for our personal and educational growth.

@jayne_a_broad Twitter feed
This Twitter feed is focused on my own experiences traveling, camping, riding my motorcycle or my bicycle, taking mass transit (buses and trains), commuting by walking or bicycling, and various other mostly-personal interests, including politics. If you are a woman motorcyclist, a non-spandex-wearing bicycle commuter or slow girlie-bike rider, an international adventure or budget traveler, a motorcycle traveler, a mass transit advocate, a writer or researcher regarding any of these subjects – or someone that wants to cater to such travelers – you might enjoy following this Twitter feed. Note that it’s completely separate from my professional Twitter feed.

Your org can benefit from “2012 International Year of…”

Each year has various theme designations from the United Nations General Assembly. So far, 2012 is:

International Year of Cooperatives. Organizations focused on microfinance, rural business development, small farmers and all organizations that support co-ops / cooperative enterprises should already be planning what they are going to do to leverage this year’s designation to promote their work and the needs of those they serve. Credit unions and even REI need to be thinking about leveraging the International Year of Cooperatives as well!

International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Organizations focused on food production, health, climate change, jobs, the environment and, ofcourse, sustainable or alternative energy should already be planning what they are going to do to leverage this year’s designation to promote their work and the needs of those they serve. 

More designations may come.

Your nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO), charity, grassroots organization or even government agencies doesn’t have to have a mission specifically-focused on these themes to leverage them for your own organization’s use:

  • Girl Scouts / Girl Guides, or a class or club at a school, could engage in various activities to highlight cooperatives or sustainable energy or for their membership to learn about such.
  • A local business association could highlight area cooperatives or local companies focused on alternative energy on its web site, or create a media guide for the press on such, so that there is a local angle in the media regarding these international designations.
  • A utility cooperative could issue a media guide or create a section on its web site to highlight either International Year theme (or both!).
  • Any environmentally-focused organization could leverage the themes of either day to talk about their work or their concerns in an event, a press conference or a dedicated page on their web site.

You can use these designations to tie in your organization’s events and programs, through issuing press releases, writing op-ed pieces for local media, blogging on a related topic, offering yourself for interviews to radio and TV, or even holding a special event. By doing so, you increase the chance of your organization coming to the attention of anyone doing a search online for information about these international year designations.

Also, look for Twitter tags that are trending on these topics, so can have your Tweets reach an even wider audience.

For a list of these UN days, weeks, years and decades, see either this part of the UNESCO web site or this page by the UN Association of Canada.

Basic Fund-Raising for Small NGOs/Civil Society in the Developing World

Some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) to online forums for community-based organizations (CBOs) in developing countries, whatever the subject, are regarding funding.

In addition, the first impulse of many small non-governmental organizations (NGOs) seeking funding is to request the contact information for possible funders, and once they find the name of any company they think gives grants to NGOs, these NGOs often write immediately to the company with a desperate please for funds. This approach often harms the NGO, rather than garnering any support at all. Not only do these please rarely attract funding, they can turn funding sources against the NGO altogether.

After seeing these questions and messages again and again over several years (I’ve been on the Internet since about 1994) I drafted a list of basic tips for fund-raising for small NGOs – it was 15 pages long. Now, years later, it has evolved into 31 pages. It is a PDF file.

The document is meant to provide very basic guidelines for small NGOs in the developing world regarding fund-raising and adhering to the basic principles of good governance, and to point to other resources. By small NGOs, I mean organizations that may have only one paid staff member, or are run entirely by volunteers; and may or may not have official recognition by the government. These organizations are extremely limited in their resources, and are often in unstable environments and/or serving profoundly poor populations. Certainly medium-sized NGOs could use it as well – organizations that may have two or three paid staff members.

Please note that this document is NOT written for nonprofits serving the “developed” world — organizations serving communities in North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand or Japan would probably not find this document particularly helpful, as it has been prepared to make recommendations relevant for nonprofits serving in a developing country.

This document is also not for organizations that send volunteers into developing countries to work. This document will not help you fund the trips of such volunteers. If you are such a volunteer-sending organization, see funding your volunteering trip abroad and fund raising for a cause or organization for more helpful information.

THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT A LIST OF FUNDERS/DONORS.

Let me repeat that: THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT A LIST OF FUNDERS/DONORS.

It is, instead, a set of guidelines on how to prepare an organization in a developing country to be attractive to donors, how to search for potential donors and how to approach such potential donors.

The document includes:

  • A list of activities an NGO should NEVER do regarding fund-raising
    (& how I know if an NGO has actually read this document!)
  • How to network among various sectors in your country and establish credibility to insure fund-raising success
  • The absolute essential preparations to solicit donations, both locally and from international NGOs working in your geographic area
  • Establishing credibility and a reputation of integrity, transparency and accountability
  • How to find donors that would be interested in your NGO and how to make contact with them
  • A warning about fund-raising scams
  • Online resources for detailed tips on writing funding proposals
  • Suggestions regarding volunteers in other countries fund-raising on your NGO’s behalf (new chapter added October 2011)
  • Online resources for further information

Once you have received this document, please do NOT distribute the document via a web site or on an online discussion group without my written permission. I frequently update the document, and want to ensure people are getting the most recent version.

Here is the web page for more regarding: Basic Fund-Raising for Small NGOs/Civil Societ in the Developing World, including how to access the document.

*Another* Afghanistan Handicraft program? Really?

Recently, I got an email from yet another organization that is teaching Afghan women how to make handicrafts and textiles to sell in the West.

And I sighed. Heavily.

I’m not saying that these are bad programs. In fact, I have supported many of them, as a consumer: My husband and I each have a lovely Shalwar Kameez from a shop run by Afghans for Civil Society in Kandahar (here’s him in his; I’m in the burqa), I have a custom-made jacket from AWWSOM Boutique in Kabul that I wore at my wedding reception, I have a custom-made purse from Gundara, and I have lots of items from Ganjini Showroom and various other stores in Kabul. These items are beautiful, they are well-made, and I love showing them off (for more info, see my guide to shopping in Kabul).

HOWEVER, teaching more and more Afghan women how to make purses, shawls, table cloths and other lovely items is not going to lift women out of poverty, nor move them into their proper place in society, because there is not enough of a market for all those products.

Capacity-building programs have to be focused on what is actually needed in a particular community, that are more guaranteed to provide income regularly, long-term. That means programs that teach Afghan women how to:

These are things that local people need, and/or that they want – they are not just that are nice to have.

If you know of a program – local or international, government-run or foreign run or civil society run, whatever – that is teaching Afghan women to engage in income-generation activities that are practical and sustainable, feel free to post names and links in the comments section of this blog.