Tag Archives: undp

Online volunteers link communities with donors, trainers & partners

From February 2001 to February 2005, I had the pleasure of directing the United Nations Online Volunteering service, based on Bonn, Germany at the UN Volunteers program, part of UNDP. Originally launched as a part of NetAid, the service is a platform for UN agencies, UN volunteers, independent NGOs, government community programs and other mission-based initiatives working in or for the developing world to recruit and involve online volunteers. I continue to read all updates about the service, on the lookout for emerging trends, new challenges and suggested practices.

Below are links to updates from UNV’s OV service blog in 2015, 2016 and 2017 that are great examples of how virtual volunteering is about so much more than just completing tasks, and how the value of volunteers – online or onsite – isn’t the amount of hours they give, or a monetary value for those hours.

I have to admit that the story about the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) engaging online volunteers was a pleasant surprise, given how reluctant they were to engage with online volunteers back in 2001 or so. And it’s also worth noting that most of the blogs are written by online volunteers:

Online volunteers link a community in Africa with donors, trainers and partners
17 July 2017
Lake Nokoué is on the southern coast of Benin in West Africa. It is a community threatened by pollution and deforestation, and is also affected by congestion from sediments and the traditional acadja fish farming practice. Online volunteers played a substantive role in mobilizing a grant of USD 40,000 from the GEF Small Grants Programme for the Benin NGO “Association des Propriétaires d’Acadja de la Commune de Sô Ava” (APACSO). They also helped identify an expert in aquaculture to deliver an onsite ten-day training in fish farming for youth, women and low income fishermen, funded by an NGO from Belgium. APACSO also received three partnership requests from local organizations.

Fostering food security in Brazil
28 October 2016
The Chamber of Agriculture of the São Paulo State government in Brazil tasked online volunteers with supporting a participatory agro-ecological project in urban and peri-urban areas of the municipality Álvaro de Carvalho. The project aims to engage around 300 beneficiary families in vegetable farming in public spaces to enhance rural development and food security.

Online volunteers lend their voice to the UNDP 2013 China National Development Report
06 October 2016
Two UN Online Volunteers collaborated with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China to record the audio version of the China National Human Development Report 2013,Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilization. The report explores the current urban transformation in China from the perspective of human development, and discusses the recent history of China’s cities, key challenges and projections for the future, including measures that could guide urbanisation towards the goal of liveable, sustainable cities. The audio-book adaptation is among the first signature UN publications made available in digital audio media. It serves audiences with different reading and learning preferences, and has helped publicize the report for a wider impact.

Online volunteers research new trends and global best practices in ICT innovation
14 August 2016
ITU is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICT). ITU promotes the collaboration of the public and private sectors to develop global ICT networks and services. From March until September 2015, ITU engaged a team of seven UN Online Volunteers to research new trends and global best practices in ICT innovation. In the conference’s planning phase, the UN Online Volunteers mapped over 700 relevant initiatives undertaken by governments, universities and the private sector to promote ICT innovation hubs, clusters and parks in 115 countries.

Online volunteers worked to strengthen critical databases
20 March 2016
13 online volunteers worked on strengthening the UN Evaluation Group’s (UNEG) database of evaluation reports to improve the quality and use of evaluation across the UN System. The volunteers helped prepare brief descriptions of reports gathered from all UNEG members including the specialized agencies, funds, programmes and affiliated organizations. Online volunteers also collected meta-information used to classify and tag each report to make it searchable. By helping strengthen the database to improve the quality and use of evaluations, volunteers will be ultimately improving the effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of the UN’s performance. Also, online volunteers assisted in the development of a database of training providers for the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP). The volunteers researched and listed training opportunities relevant to the humanitarian sector, and provided input to the development of new functionality in order to enhance the database.

Online Volunteers support the NGO Centre for Batwa Minorities
06 February 2016
Together with the Centre for Batwa Minorities (CBM), an NGO based in Kampala, Uganda, online volunteers from around the world helped advocate for the rights of the Batwa people and worked to empower communities and individuals of this ethnic minority in Uganda. More than 30 online volunteers worked on projects ranging from researching the human rights situation of ethnic minorities in Uganda, developing successful campaign concepts to protect the Batwa community, drafting proposals, managing and translating CBM’s website, to using social media to promote the objectives of the organization.

Volunteers worked together online and on the ground for a survey in Bangladesh
02 February 2016
The United Nations Volunteers programme in Bangladesh involved a team of more than 50 online volunteers to reach out to Bangladeshi people and add their voices to the MY World survey. Online volunteers translated the survey’s ballot card and other texts into Bangla. Volunteers on the ground disseminated the survey in many different regions of Bangladesh and talked to people about their development priorities to collect the data. The MY World survey assignment also brought together people of different backgrounds and geographical locations.

Volunteering online for climate change mitigation
14 January 2016
For more than two years, 13 UN Online Volunteers supported the Fundacion Desarollo y Ambiente (FUNDA) on a research project that analyzes, categorizes and maps types of vegetation and landscape to predict the effects of climate change. The volunteers’ created a database for types of vegetation and topography in the Caribbean, Orinoco and Páramo regions of Colombia, verifyied the species’ botanical names, georeferenced the information using Excel and ArcGIS, and mapped the correlation of vegetation, climate, and geomorphological processes. After training the volunteers on the research approach, FUNDA set up working groups as well as weekly Skype meetings for tracking the team’s progress and assigning new tasks.

vvbooklittleMy experience at the UN working with both online volunteers and NGOs around the world who were also working with such, or wanted to, greatly influenced the writing of The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. This book, co-written with Susan J. Ellis and myself, is our attempt to document all of the best practices of working with online volunteers, from the more than three decades that virtual volunteering has been happening. It’s available both in traditional print form and in digital version. If you read the book, I would so appreciate it if you could write and post a review of it on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites (you can write the same review on both sites).

Also see:

The Virtual Volunteering Wiki: a free resource featuring a curated list of news articles about virtual volunteering since 1996, an extensive list of examples of virtual volunteering activities, a list of myths about virtual volunteering, the history of virtual volunteering, a list of research and evaluations of virtual volunteering, a ist of online mentoring programs, and links to web sites and lists of offline publications related to virtual volunteering in languages in other than English.

Our LinkedIn Group for the discussion of virtual volunteering.

Safety in virtual volunteering

Virtual volunteering: it’s oh-so-personal

Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia? Insights into virtual volunteering

Even if all your volunteers are “traditional”, you need to explore virtual volunteering

EU Aid Volunteers on track to include virtual volunteering

The future of virtual volunteering? Deeper relationships, higher impact

My favorite virtual volunteering event originates in… Poland

Blogs & articles re: virtual volunteering NOT by me

Fans of celebrities & virtual volunteering

virtual volunteering is probably happening at your org!

Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program

Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU (virtual volunteering)

Research on USA volunteerism excludes virtual volunteering

History & Evaluation of UNV’s Early Years

Whilst trying to make a list of all of the Executive Coordinators of the United Nations Volunteers program since UNV began in 1970, to update UNV’s profile on Wikipedia, I found quite a delicious document from 1974, which provides the most detailed history of the origins of the UNV program that I have ever read – origins I don’t think most people are aware of, including most staff at UNV – as well as an evaluation of UNV’s first three years of operation.

Some things have changed quite a lot at UNV since this document was published – but some have stayed the same.

The article is The Platonic Acorn: A Case Study of the United Nations Volunteer. It’s by Robert A. Pastor who, at the time of this paper’s publication in 1974, was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Pastor was a former Peace Corps volunteer who went on to many high-profile international endeavors: he was a member of the National Security Council Staff during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, he was associated with various universities, and also served as a Senior Fellow at the Carter Center, where he established the programs on Latin America and the Caribbean, democracy and election-monitoring, and Chinese village elections. He died of colon cancer in 2014.

His paper about the first years of UNV was published in the journal International Organization, published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International Organization Foundation. This article appeared in Volume 28, Issue 3 July 1974, pp. 375-397, and it’s accessible online, for free, from JSTOR. The Abstract for his paper:

This article presents both a history and an administrative analysis of the United Nations Volunteers, an international organization established by a General Assembly resolution in December 1970. The hope that the new organization would presage a new era of multinational volunteerism has proven groundless. In seeking to explain the ineffectiveness of the UN Volunteers, I look inside the organization and find that it has little or no control over its six principal functions. This extreme decentralization of responsibility is then explained not by a static description of the institutional but by focusing on the dynamic process by which state and transnational actors exercised influence during the different stages of the organization’s establishment and development. Those actors whose autonomy was most jeopardized by a new volunteer organization were most active in defining and limiting the scope of its operations. The relative lobbying advantages of state and transnational actors meshed with bureaucratic and budgetary constraints to ensure an enfeebled organization.

Whew!

Pastor is very critical of UNV’s recruitment and placement processes in particular, as it slowed volunteer placement to a crawl. The problem was that, in the 1970s, each stage in the UNV selection process was managed by a different organization in a different location, resulting in 11 different stages between the volunteer-involving organization and the applicant. As a result, as of March 1973, UNV had filled just 93 posts from approximately 400 requests. In addition, 85 percent of volunteers were from least developed countries (LDCs). Then, it was seen as a problem, because the program was supposed to be “universal”, with a significant number of young volunteers from industrialized countries:

The organizational process also helps to explain why there is such a high percentage of volunteers from LDCs, and may help predict why this is likely to continue. Many applicants from LDCs view the UNV as a step into the UN civil service, and thus they are willing to tolerate longer delays than their counterparts in the developed world who generally view volunteer service as precisely that. The result, that LCD volunteers currently count for nearly half of all volunteers, is a bit ironic since one of the original purposes of volunteerism was to exploit the skill surplus of the developed countries.

I have no idea what the timeline is now between the creation of a UNV assignment and placement of a person into that assignment, but mentalities regarding people from developing countries as UNV has greatly changed: UNV now prides itself on a high percentage of volunteers from developed countries, the idea being that it is a reflection of south-to-south cooperation. The average age of UNVs has also increased, from people in their 20s when the program started to 38 now – a program originally designed to channel the energies of youth has become something quite different.

Another criticism by Pastor is that “Although volunteers are supposed to work directly with host country people, they find themselves working with and accountable only to foreign experts.” In the last few years, UNV has focused on its capacity to be a low-cost staffing solution for UN agencies, so this criticism could still be made – and may become a greater issue.

Pastor questions UNV’s ability at the time to fulfill specialized requests for volunteers, and suspects the level of specialization requested is much higher than what is actually necessary. He provides imaginary, outrageous examples of such requests, such as for a “French-speaking sand dune fixation expert.” He says, “Assuming that these specialists exist, the likelihood of finding one who would volunteer is negligible, while the price of the search is exorbitant.” Pastor’s paper was written more than two decades before the Internet became widely used in the USA, and then grew exponentially globally; recruitment of highly-specialized candidates for volunteering is now easy for most situations, and the number of applicants for these assignments shows an abundance of experts willing to take on such volunteering roles.

Another criticism in the document is if the UNV program was, in fact, a volunteer program because of the “high professional calibre” of volunteers – meaning the degree of expertise of the volunteers somehow makes them not really volunteers anymore. He notes that UNV “insists on selling its product as an inexpensive substitute for experts.” Since then, thankfully, the understanding of the word volunteer has changed, and it does not mean amateur, unskilled, or inexperienced. But for UNV now, in 2017, what does volunteer mean? In the USA, a person is a volunteer at a nonprofit or other mission-based organization if he or she is not paid by that agency for services rendered. In fact, the federal agency in charge of regulating labor has strict guidelines on who may be called a volunteer – and who may not. As UNVs, especially national UNVs from the same country where they are serving, receive excellent compensation, called a stipend rather than a salary, what makes them a volunteer? That I cannot answer.

Pastor’s review of UNV is a fascinating document which offers a lot of challenging questions about UNV – and some of these questions, IMO, need to be asked again.  I’m so sorry I can’t thank him for his paper, and talk with him about how UNV has evolved. I would have loved to hear what he thought of the Online Volunteering service in particular, which I think meets many of the goals originally set out for UNV but not realized.

In the course of my research, I also found the book The Role and Status of International Humanitarian Volunteers and Organization: The Rights and Duty to Humanitarian Assistance by Yves Beigbeder, ISBN 0-7923-1190-6. It was published in 1991, and from the pages available on Google, it seems to also have some scathing analysis of UNV’s performance up to that date. It’s hard to find information about the author; there’s scant information online about him, though he seems to be a prolific writer. Online, it says he served at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946 and had a “long career in UN organizations as a senior official.” Beigbeder’s book is hard to get hold of; it is offered online for about $100, well beyond the budgets for most folks interested in evaluating volunteer placement agencies (and beyond my own budget as well).

In the book, Beigbeder says that the UNDP Governing Council asked the UNV administrator to undertake a review of the UNV program in 1986 and in 1987. The report was a mixed bag on UNV performance at that time: it was noted that, in Yemen, “UNVs are quickly operational, less demanding in support services and more adaptive to difficult, harsh and isolated working conditions than other technical assistance staff.” But In Papua New Guinea, results were good and bad. “When UNVs have not done well, the cause was either poor project design, noninvolvement by supervisors in developing the job description, job duties imprecise or modified after the arrival of the UNV, wrong selection, or language deficiencies.” All of those can still be problems with UNV assignments – or for any international placement organization, for that matter. Addressing those problems is an ongoing issue.

Finally, my search also lead me to the self-published book Not Only a Refugee: An American UN Volunteer in the Philippines by Eleanor Grogg Stewart, about her time in the early 1980s, specifically in and around 1982, when she worked in a refugee camp. Several pages from her book are available on books.google.com. It’s detailed account of the early days of UNV, as well as trying to navigate UN bureaucracy.

It’s a shame that early accounts and evaluations of nonprofit organizations, international aid agencies, government programs and other mission-based entities are forgotten. It’s so interesting to read how much has changed, how much has improved – and how far we still have to go. How can we know if we’re making a difference if we aren’t looking at what our agencies promised in the past?

One final note: On 31 May, 2017, the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS convened in New York to discuss the findings of an independent evaluation of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and UNV’s new Strategic Framework goals and objectives for 2018-2021. Here is a press release about the meeting, which says Nina Retzlaff is the independent evaluator of the UNV Strategic Framework 2014-2017 and that she elaborated on key points and early findings from her evaluation at the New York meeting, noting that there was a high level of satisfaction from UN partners on the work of UN Volunteers and that “91% of UN partners confirm UNV responds to their needs, [and that] 92% of the UN Volunteers report a satisfactory experience.” She also said that “UNV’s programmatic niche is in Youth and Volunteer Infrastructure.” I would love to read the evaluation but, cannot find out if it’s even been finished, let alone published. It would be fascinating to read how it compares to these earlier aassessments.

Also see:

The legacy of early tech4good initiatives

UNLogoThe Internet changes so quickly. As does our offline world. It’s amazing not only how quickly web sites go away, but how often entire initiatives are scrubbed online as well – even major United Nations initiatives that were covered extensively once-upon-a-time in major media. That’s a big problem if much of your professional work has been for and with online initiatives.

I’ve been working with organizations online since the 1990s, and many of those organizations are long gone. The initiatives I worked with may have gotten coverage from major media outlets and had huge names behind them back in the day – David Bowie, Bill Clinton, Bono, Nelson Mandela and more – and done a lot of great work, but when those initiatives go away, so do their web sites, all their research and all the records of their work – sometimes from the Internet Wayback Machine as well.

You may think outdated information is no longer useful and should go away. The reality is that “old” information is often vitally important. If anything, it often offers baseline data you can use to compare with data now, and together, it shows you, for instance, if the situation has improved for women online, or if the challenges for women getting online are the same now as they were in the 1990s, or if the promises made now regarding technology are the same unrealized promises from 20 or 30 years ago, and on and on. Having access to old information can also help you avoid previous missteps – or rediscover something that never should have gone away that you can use now.

If you can remember a defunct initiative’s web site address, you can often find archived versions of the site at archive.org, a site I use at least a few times a month. But if you can’t remember a defunct initiative’s URL, you may never be able to find deleted information again. And, as has already been noted, archive.org may not have the web site; sometimes, new owners of an organization ask for old web sites to be taken down, and the site complies.

Early in 2016, I started spending a lot of time updating various pages on Wikipedia related to subjects of greatest interest to me, including several defunct tech4good initiatives. Many times, when I’m trying to find information about a now-defunct volunteering or tech initiative, a Google or Bing search leads me to a page on Wikipedia, but the information isn’t always up-to-date or complete. When I can improve an entry, I do. But a big problem with Wikipedia is that someone can come along at any time and rewrite and delete all of your hard work – or even delete an entire page you have relied on for reference for modern research projects and proposals. I’ll keep updating Wikipedia, but I’ve realized there’s a need to create a more permanent archive of some of the volunteering and tech initiatives with which I’ve been associated, as well as those that I know did great work in the past.

So I have created the following pages on my own web site, to more permanently capture this information. Some pages are just summaries, while other sections are comprehensive. Whenever possible, I’ve included the original URLs, so that you can use archive.org to see complete web sites of these initiatives yourself, if they are there at all. I hope this info is helpful to those who worked on such initiatives in the past and would like to reference this work, as well as helpful to those doing research on the impact of nonprofit/NGO tech use, tech4good, ICT4D, volunteering and other initiatives.

I also hope these pages will be a caution to those who launching so-called disruptive technologies, or a tech tool or management approach the designers believe is entirely new and innovative, or a tool or approach with some pie-in-the-sky promises: always look at what’s been done before. You might be surprised to find that what you were promising now, or think you invented, was talked about many years ago:

United Nations Tech4Good / ICT4D Initiatives, a list of the various UN initiatives that have been launched since 2000 to promote the use of computers, feature phones, smart phones and various networked devices in development and humanitarian activities, to promote digital literacy and equitable access to the “information society,” and to bridge the digital divide. My goal in creating this page is to help researchers, as well as to remind current UN initiatives that much work regarding ICT4D has been done by various UN employees, consultants and volunteers for more than 15 years (and perhaps longer?).

United Nations Technology Service (UNITeS), a global volunteer initiative created by Kofi Annan in 2000. UNITeS both supported volunteers applying information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) and promoted volunteerism as a fundamental element of successful ICT4D initiatives. It was administered by the UN Volunteers program, part of UNDP, and during the tenure of UNITeS, the UNV program helped place and/or support more than 300 volunteers applying ICT4D in more than 50 developing countries, including 28 Least Developed Countries (LDC), making it one of the largest volunteering in ICT4D initiatives. Part of the UNITeS mandate was to try to track all of the various tech volunteering initiatives and encourage them to share their best practices and challenges with each other. UNITeS was discontinued as an active program in 2005.

What Was NetAid?
A history of the NetAid initiative, part of which became the UN’s Online Volunteering service. This is what I was referring to specifically with all that name-dropping at the start of this blog.

Lessons from onlinevolunteering.org
Some key learnings from directing the UN’s Online Volunteering service from February 2001 to February 2005, when I directed the initiative, including support materials for those using the service to host online volunteers. This material, most of which I authored, was recently removed from the latest version of the OV service.

Tech Volunteer Groups / ICT4D Volunteers
A list of tech volunteering initiatives, some defunct, some still going strong, that recruit tech experts to volunteer their time support either local nonprofit organizations or NGOs in developing countries regarding computer hardware, software and Internet tech-related tasks.

The Virtual Volunteering Project
In 1995, a then-new nonprofit organization called Impact Online, based in Palo Alto, California, began promoting the idea of virtual volunteering, a phrase that was probably first used by one of Impact Online’s co-founders, Steve Glikbarg. In 1996, Impact Online received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to launch an initiative to research the practice of virtual volunteering and to promote the practice to nonprofit organizations in the United States. This new initiative was dubbed the Virtual Volunteering Project, and the Web site was launched in early 1997. After one year, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and Impact Online became VolunteerMatch. I directed the project from December 1996 through January 2001, when I left for the UN; the project was then discontinued. This is an archive of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site just before I left.

Early History of Nonprofits & the Internet
The Internet has always been about people and organizations networking with each other, sharing ideas and comments, and collaborating online. It has always been interactive and dynamic. And there were many nonprofit organizations who “got” it early — earlier than many for-profit companies. So I’ve attempted to set the record straight: I’ve prepared a web page that talks about the early history of nonprofits and the Internet. It focuses on 1995 and previous years. It talks a little about what nonprofits were using the cyberspace for as well at that time and lists the names of key people and organizations who helped get nonprofit organizations using the Internet in substantial numbers in 1995 and before. Edits and additions are welcomed.

Also see:

Incredibly Sad News re Gary Chapman Internet Pioneer

This article from the Nonprofit Quarterly about nonprofits losing critical archives as tech changes rapidly. In the article, the Atlantic is quoted:

Digital space is finite and expensive. Digitally stored data can become corrupted and decay as electrical charges used to encode information into binary bits leak out over time, altering the contents. And any enduring information could be lost if the software to access it becomes obsolete. Or a potent, well-timed coronal mass ejection could cause irreparable damage to electronic systems.

Tweeters re: Cuba development & ICT4D

A follow-up to my post yesterday, about my visit to Cuba last month and a review of Internet access / digital literacy in Havana. I’m compiling a list of Twitter accounts relating to Cuba, particularly regarding human, community and environmental development issues and ICT4D. So far:

  • @ONU_Cuba – Sistema de Naciones Unidas en Cuba (various United Nations agencies in Cuba)
  • @FAOCuba – Noticias e información sobre alimentación, agricultura y lucha contra el hambre compartidas por la Representación de la FAO en Cuba
  • @cubaperiodistas – La Unión de Periodistas de Cuba agrupa a los profesionales de la información y se creó el 15 de julio de 1963.
  • @AcnuUnacuba – ONG cubana sin fines de lucro. Defendemos y divulgamos principios y la Carta ONU. Tenemos Status consultivo ante ECOSOC.
  • @ETECSA_Cuba – Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. Fundada en 1994. Operador de servicios de telefonía Fija, Móvil y Datos.
  • @MINCOMCuba – Las Comunicaciones al servicio de la sociedad
  • @CubarteNews – Music, dance, painting, theater, the extraordinary, dynamic, intense Cuban cultural setting.
  • @CubanSP – Cuban Partnerships, Hosting #BroadcastCuba2015 in Havana for #broadcast #telecom #radio #TV professionals.
  • @economistacuba – El Economista de Cuba
  • @fossworkshopCub – Foss Workshop Cuba (hasn’t been updated since 2015)
  • @tinamodotti71 – Cubana, periodista y editora del portal www.cubasi.cu
  • @cimarron61 – Rafel Campoamor, ciberactivista por el empoderamiento ciudadano a través de las TICs en Cuba y el Tercer Mundo. Bridging the digital divide. Empowerrment through ICT.
  • @InformaticaHab – Evento internacional del sector TIC con mas de 20 ediciones celebradas, tiene lugar en La Habana, Cuba cada dos años. Also @InformaticaHav.
  • @ffxmania – Firefoxmanía, comunidad de Mozilla de Cuba
  • @BloghumanOS – humanOS surgió para contribuir al fomento del uso del software libre en Cuba.

Feel free to add to this list! You can add such in the comments, or tweet me at @jcravens42

UN, NGO efforts to counter hate

UNLogoOn December 2, 2015, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) held a Symposium on Hate Speech in the Media, with senior officials calling for a global mobilization of citizens to help counter messages that promote xenophobia, violent extremism and prejudice. The symposium was the first of a series that UNAOC will host, called Tracking Hatred,. The next symposium will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in April.

The UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) also organized two days of panel discussions later in December, a collaboration between the public and private sector, called “Preventing Terrorists from Exploiting the Internet and Social Media to Recruit Terrorists and Incite Terrorist Acts, While Respecting Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.”

@unaoc, @friendsunaoc, @UN-CTED and other agencies, UN and non-UN alike, are using #SpreadNoHate and #Reclaimingtheweb on Twitter to promote messages from these efforts. I’ll be using them as well, as appropriate, often.

Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications & Public Information, said during the UNAOC event, “Hate speech has been with us for a long time. We will never forget the slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during a brief three month period in Rwanda in 1994. We will never forget either the six million Jews plus five million others who perished because of one hateful vision… Today, however, more than ever, individuals are using hate speech to foment clashes between civilizations in the name of religion. Their goal is to radicalize young boys and girls, to get them to see the world in black and white, good versus evil, and get them to embrace a path of violence as the only way forward.” She wasn’t just referring to Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS), though they are the most high-profile right now and, therefore, they were the primary focus of this event.

From what I’ve read about the symposium, there were lots of comments by speakers about enforcing laws that prohibit incitement of hatred or violence, and about social media companies being compelled to quickly delete content. I’m wary of this kind of talk, as governments use cries of “hate speech” to arrest people that are critical of the government or a religion, such as this 14-year-old boy in Turkey, or these teens in Egypt, or Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. I much prefer strategies focused on communications activities that establish and promote a narrative that pushes back against hate and prejudice, and was glad to see that strategy as a focus of two of the CTED panels, one called “privacy and freedom of expression in the digital age” and another that I am very interested in, called “Use of Internet and communications technology for counter-messaging purposes” – the link goes to webcast of the panel, moderated by Steven Siqueira, Acting Deputy Director, CTITF Office- UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) – so wish there was a transcription from this panel! If you want to listen to just a bit, here’s my absolute favorite: go to around the 14:00 point and listen to Humera Khan, Executive Director of Muflehun – she gives realistic, practical advice on mobilizing youth to counter online messages of hate. And then listen to Jonathan Birdwell of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, right afterward, talking about teaching young people to critically engage with what they read online, and the importance of digital literacy. And then jump to around 36:00 and listen to Abdul-Rehman Malik, who has a provocative, assertive, right-on challenge to governments on this subject. The questions and answers after these three present is worth your time as well. The entire session lasts about 90 minutes, and is really worth your time to listen to (please, UN, release it as a podcast!).

I hope the people involved in these UN and civil society efforts know that, in the last 24 hours, Muslims on Twitter have hilariously trolled a Daesh leader’s call to violence – humor is a powerful tool in fighting against prejudice, and these tech-savvy Muslims are doing it brilliantly. I hope they know about online groups like Quranalyzeit and Sisters in Islam, tiny organizations doing a brilliant job online of countering extremist messages regarding Islam, and doing it as Muslims and from an Islamic perspective. Or about Mohamed Ahmed, a middle-aged father and gas station manager, and one of many Muslims in Minneapolis, Minnesota frustrated by Daesh’s stealthy social media campaigns, and countering it with a social media campaign of his own, AverageMohamed.com.

AND I HOPE EVERYONE KEEPS TALKING. Because I think they are talking about activities and messages that will really work in stopping the violence, and will make all aid and development efforts – about water, about reproductive health, about agricultural, WHATEVER – actually work, actually be sustainable. I so wish all of these efforts were getting more attention online, in traditional media, among all United Nations agencies, among NGOs, and among politicians.

Also see:

Propaganda for good (blog)

Recommendations for UN & UNDP in Ukraine to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and Other Social Media to Promote Reconciliation, Social Inclusion, & Peace-Building in Ukraine (PDF)

Reconciliation (a blog of frustration I wrote while working in Ukraine in 2014)

Get to know the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

2015-07-21-SDGsGoodbye, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), hello, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are the 17 goals towards which all United Nations efforts will now work, and the UN will encourage all NGOs and governments to work towards them as well, to make our world a better place. Like the MDGs before, the SDGs will help UN initiatives better focus its work across various agencies, various partnerships, and various regions.

I congratulate my United Nations colleagues, especially those at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) , who have been working on drafting these. I encourage you, if you work in addressing any of the areas mentioned by the SDGs, or you want to work in international development, to become familiar with these, and to start referencing them in your work.

The MDGs were introduced in 2000. I began at the UN in February 2001, and I found the MDGs incredibly helpful in approaching my work, in making it more focused. In my opinion, the MDGs did an excellent job of focusing the work of the UN, various NGOs and governments, providing a framework for all of our initiatives. The MDGs are simple, with goals with which no one would disagree, for the most part. The MDGs are “an explicit recognition of the reality that a large proportion of people in the world were deprived and poor.” The MDGs sought a time-bound reduction in poverty to improve the living conditions of those deprived and excluded, and it was an attempt to place this persistent problem, until then a largely national concern, on the development agenda for international cooperation.1 The MDGs specified a destination but, purposely, did not chart the journey, so that each country – indeed, each community – could develop its own way of reaching the goals.

But, as we all knew it would, the world has changed significantly since the MDGs were created in 2000. Notions of developed and developing have continued to evolve. Now, international development is less about the transfer of aid from rich to poor countries and more about progressive change from within, and empowering those local agents of change. The world has always been interconnected, but challenges and opportunities seem to happen so much more quickly now, across borders, requiring incredibly rapid responses. The MDGs were always meant to be replaced as the world evolved, and now they have. No, we didn’t reach the MDGs by 2015, but we did better target our work towards the world’s most poor.

The MDGs made no mention of human rights and did not specifically address economic development; the SDGs correct this. The SDGs apply to all countries, rich and poor alike, and the UN conducted the largest consultation in its history to gauge opinion on what the SDGs should include. I’ve read several comments that say the SDG framework brings together the different aspects of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – in a much more integrated way than the MDGs, but I haven’t read any specific examples of that, or seen any illustrations of this yet.

The deadline for the SDGS is 2030. Will we reach the goals by then? Probably not. But we will make progress towards them, if we have the will to do so. Are the SDGs perfect? No. But there better than what we had, and better than nothing. I often think the arguments against the SDGs, like the MDGs, keep us from activities that the world desperately needs.

Footnotes

1. “The MDGs after 2015: Some reflections on the possibilities,” by Deepak Nayyar, for the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda, April 2012

I’m thrilled with UNV’s 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report – Transforming Governance

state of volunteerism 2015I’m thrilled with the United Nations Volunteers program’s recently published 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report – Transforming Governance.

Oh, yes, you read that right. THRILLED. And , as you know, I am a tough audience.

Why am I thrilled? Because, instead of doing the usual – talking about the value of volunteers only, or mostly, in terms of money saved because they aren’t paid a salary – this report talks about the value of volunteers in the terms that are much more powerful and important, value that goes far beyond money. Excerpts from the reports introduction explain better than I can:

For the post-2015 sustainable development agenda to succeed, improving governance, tackling inequalities, and expanding voice and participation need to be addressed simultaneously. Volunteerism can help by giving voice to stakeholders and by mobilizing people and civil society organizations to contribute to solutions.

The report suggests that the ability of volunteers to support development progress depends on the willingness of national governments to ensure that the space and supportive environments which encourage their participation and initiatives are available. The Report finds that volunteerism can help to generate social trust, advance social inclusion, improve basic services, and boost human development. Volunteers and volunteerism bring the greatest benefits where enabling conditions like freedom of speech and association and an atmosphere of vigorous political debate are already in place. At the local level, the Report suggests that volunteerism can increasingly be a vehicle for people in excluded and/or marginalized communities to be heard, and to access the services, resources, and opportunities they need to improve their lives.

Examples of formal and informal volunteering attest to the fact that those who are marginalized, such as women, indigenous populations and disempowered young people, can create spaces where their voices can be heard and where they can affect governance at local levels. This report addresses the issue of women’s engagement, providing interesting examples of how women have been able to engage in spaces outside the traditional norms, hold authorities accountable and ensure responsiveness to their needs and those of their communities.

Further research and innovative strategic partnerships are needed for better understanding, documenting and measuring volunteerism and its contribution to peace and development. This report starts a conversation that can and needs to be deepened.

And this, from the executive summary:

This report shows, using a body of knowledge collected through case studies, that volunteerism provides a key channel for this engagement from the local through to the national and global contexts.

This report has identified key strategies, challenges and opportunities for volunteerism, focused on three pillars of governance – voice and participation, accountability and responsiveness – where volunteers have shown impact. Specific volunteer actions and strategies illustrate the diverse ways in which volunteers engage in invited spaces, open up closed spaces or claim new spaces.

Volunteerism spans a vast array of activities at the individual, community, national and global levels. Those activities include traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help, as well as formal service delivery. They also include enabling and promoting participation and engaging through advocacy, campaigning and/or activism. The definition of volunteerism used in this report refers to “activities … undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor.”

Volunteering in this report is also understood as overlapping and converging with social activism; while it is recognized that not all activists are volunteers, many activists are volunteers and many volunteers are activists. The terms volunteerism and social activism are not mutually exclusive. The idea that volunteers only serve to support service delivery or are only involved in charitable activities is one that is limited and provides a superficial line of difference between volunteerism and activism.

The report recognizes that volunteering is highly context specific and is often not on a level playing field. Women and marginalized groups are frequently affected by this unevenness; not all volunteers can participate equally or on equal terms in each context. Volunteerism is harder in contexts where people are excluded, their voices curtailed, their autonomy undermined and the risks of raising issues high. An enabling environment that respects the rights of all enhances the ability of volunteerism to contribute to positive development and peace. The report shows that creating a more enabling environment that allows positive civic engagement in sustainable development is critical for success.

If you do nothing else, PLEASE read the report’s executive summary.

Every program or project manager in every local, regional or government office needs to read at least the executive summary: government workers that are focused on police, fire and emergency response, parks and recreation, environmental issues, agriculture, the justice system, education, public health, arts, library, historical sites, economical development – they all need to read this report, look at how they currently involve the community, and ask themselves lots of questions:

  • Could you do a better job involving volunteers in decision-making?
  • Could you do a better job involving a greater diversity of volunteers – women, minority groups, children, the people that are the target of government services, etc.?
  • Are there tasks that volunteers actually might be better at doing than paid staff, because they wouldn’t have any worries regarding job security or loss of pay?
  • Are – or could – volunteers help your organization be more transparent to the general public and improve services?
  • Could volunteers help you build bridges with hostile communities?
  • Have you handled critical comments from volunteers appropriately?

This report can help you start answering those questions.

For more on the subject of the value of volunteer or community engagement

UN Agencies: Defend your “internships”

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersI love the United Nations, especially UNDP. I’ve been proud of my association with such in Germany, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and online. I hope to be associated with them again.

I am also a big advocate for internships, paid and unpaid, at the UN and other mission-based organizations.

But I’m bothered by many of the calls by UN agencies for unpaid interns to work 40 hours a week. And how many people are undertaking full-time unpaid internships at UN offices and have NOTHING about their terms of reference in writing at all.

Currently, formal recruitment messages from United Nations agencies for full-time unpaid interns talk about all of the tasks these volunteers – yes, volunteers, because they are UNPAID – will be responsible for, but rarely say what kinds of skills-development/career-development support an intern can expect. They also never say why these tasks have been deemed as most appropriate for an unpaid intern, as opposed to a paid consultant. I asked someone at a UN agency in an office where I was working why a particular role was designated for a full-time unpaid intern instead of a short-term, paid consultant or as a paid internship, and he said, “We don’t have the budget to pay someone.” Yes, I fumed. Involving volunteers – even if you call them unpaid interns – to save money is never the primary reason to involve such! NEVERUnpaid interns are volunteers, and if you are involving them because you don’t have to pay them, you are, in fact, being exploitative.

If this keeps up, UN interns may use the dollar/Euro value of volunteer hours that UN Volunteers, IFRC, ILO & others are promoting to sue UN agencies for back pay – and there is growing legal precedent for them to do so (see the links at the end of this blog).

Also, think about how your full-time unpaid internships are limited to only certain economic classes, excluding some people because they can’t afford to give you that many unpaid service hours. Are you thinking about how to ensure a variety of qualified people can undertake unpaid internships with your organization, not just those that can afford to? One way to address this: make the internships only one or two days a week.

I established my own policy when I worked for the UN Volunteers programme in Germany that all staff in our department had to adhere to regarding involving unpaid interns. This was NOT an agency-wide policy, just the one I established for our department:

  • An internship had to have a primary focus on giving the intern a learning experience, not  getting tasks done. Therefore:
    • There had to be a written job description that reflected this primary purpose of the internship.
    • The intern was invited to all agency-wide staff meetings, all staff meetings for just our department, and encouraged to ask to attend staff meetings for other departments, to learn about work across the agency. Staff were encouraged to take interns with them to meetings or events whenever possible, as appropriate.
    • The intern also had one project that was uniquely his or hers, that he or she was responsible for and could put on his or her résumé (for instance, conducting a survey and writing up the results, or evaluating some process and making recommendations for improvement).
    • The intern received job coaching and job search help from other staff members.
  • Those considered for the internship had to be able to say why they wanted to enter into a profession related to our agency’s work, and say what they had done up to that point, in terms of education, volunteer work and paid work, to pursue that career choice.
  • A person could hold an internship only for up to six months. They absolutely could not hold it beyond six months, no exceptions. An intern could NOT return to our department as an intern again, ever. That reduced the chance of a person being exploited as free labor; it forced rotation in what was supposed to be a role reserved for people learning about our work, not the opportunity for someone to have an unpaid assistant indefinitely. Interns were, however, welcomed to apply for paid positions, and we did, indeed, hire former interns for short-term consultancies sometimes – but we never guaranteed that this would happen.
  • Ideally, the intern that was leaving would overlap with the intern that was coming in by one week, so that the departing intern could get experience training someone, documenting his or her responsibilities, etc. – experience which looks great on a CV.
  • When the intern left, he or she was interviewed about his or her experience as an intern from the point of view of getting the learning and professional development he or she was looking for, and this was used to continually improve internship involvement and to show if interns were getting what our internship promised: a learning experience.

The primary task our department at UNV reserved for interns was answering the many, many emails that came in regarding the Online Volunteering Service. We found that interns really were the best people for this task: in contrast to giving this task to employees, interns brought freshness and enthusiasm to responses that really shown through. They quickly saw patterns in questions or comments that a jaded staff person might not see, leading to adjustments to web site information and other communications. Also, in my opinion, because the interns were volunteers, they assumed a much stronger customer-advocate point-of-view regarding the people emailing with questions or comments than employees did; the agency could have a real siege-mentality outlook when dealing with anyone outside the organization, while the interns had a mentality of being advocates for those outside the organization.

As I mentioned, I also came up with tasks specifically for an intern to own. It might be an internal staff survey, a customer/client survey, a research project, an evaluation/analysis project, production of a report or online resource, etc. Every intern walked away something that was his or hers, a project that he or her directed or managed or lead, and that employees and other interns contributed to. That gave interns the management experience so many were desperate for.

One more piece of advice: create a mission statement for your office’s volunteer (unpaid staff) involvement and live it: state explicitly why your organization reserves certain tasks / assignments / roles for volunteers (including unpaid interns), to guide employees and volunteers in how they think about volunteers, to guide current volunteers in thinking about their role and value at the organization, and to show potential volunteers the kind of culture they can expect at your organization regarding volunteers. A commitment by UN offices to involve volunteers would be a wonderful thing – allowing people, particularly local citizens, to take on tasks and see first hand how an agency works that is meant to serve them, creating a sense of both ownership by citizens as well as a sense of transparency about the agency.

My other blogs on this GROWING internship controversy worldwide:

Note that the links within the aforementioned blogs may not work, as I moved all of my blogs from Posterous to WordPress a year or so ago, and it broke all of the internal links. Also, some web pages on other organization’s sites have moved since I linked to such, and I either don’t know or haven’t been able to find a new location for the material.

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UNDP Technology for Citizen Engagement Challenge

undp tech challengeA key focus of the the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Strategic plan 2014-17 is inclusive and effective democratic governance. “We are committed to supporting citizen participation and engagement in policymaking and governance, to foster more peaceful and inclusive societies.” That’s why UNDP is launching the “Technology for Citizen Engagement Challenge”.

“UNDP invites you to come up with technology-enabled solutions that can help to better engage citizens in addressing some of the challenges faced in our daily lives. UNDP offers both funding of up to $10,000 and mentoring support to help turn the best ideas into reality.” Winning teams will also be invited to attend the 2nd Annual Build Peace through technology conference in Nicosia, Cyprus on 25th & 26th April 2015.

Examples of the use of networked technologies and tech innovations to help narrow the gap between citizens and decision makers that UNDP has supported:

  • In Georgia,  ELVA uses mobile phones to facilitate rapid responses to incidences has led to a restoration of community safety and security in often volatile circumstances.
  • In CyprusHands on Famagusta brings together Greek and Turkish Cypriot architects who use new technology to create a future vision for the divided city of Famagusta.
  • In conflict-torn East Ukraine, UNDP is using a mobile app to crowdsource reports of structural damage, which will in turn, help UNDP help the government plan how to best rebuild.

So what are we looking for?

Do you have an idea for a technology enabled solution that can help to better engage citizens in addressing the following issues?

Common Vision for the Future – How can we use technology to bring together different groups to imagine a common vision for the future? Submit your ideas for how to embrace differing views to find common ground by sharing a vision for the future.

Inclusion through Diversity – How can technology help to diversify the voices that inform policy by embracing more inclusive decision-making processes? Submit your ideas for how to increase dialogue between citizens and decision makers so that a multitude of voices are represented in public policy, including those of women and youth.

Improve access to public services and data – How can we utilize technology to improve access to public services and/or data? Submit your ideas for how better access to services and data can strengthen trust in institutions and encourage greater public participation in decision-making.

Deadline for the submission of ideas is Thursday 5th March – Apply here

Guidelines for applicants

FOLLOW: @UNDPEurasia@UNDPArabStates  and @mahallae on Twitter for updates.

 

What I Did in Ukraine

Ukraine booby dollMore than a week has gone by since I left Kyiv. The photo at right sums up how I felt most of the time whilst there.

Now, I’m in Germany, fighting a cold, and wondering if I dreamed that whole nine-week Ukrainian adventure.

What did I do in August and September 2014 for the United Nations in Ukraine? I tried to remember everything:

  • Drafted (and re-drafted and re-drafted) the revised strategy for the UN’s work in Ukraine, per the drastic change in circumstances in the country earlier in 2014 (this took up probably 25% of my entire work time in Kyiv).
  • Edited and rewrote more document proposals, press releases, web pages, meeting reports and field reports than I care to try to list (this took up probably 25% of my entire work time in Kyiv).
  • Drafted a marketing plan for a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project focused on getting people to care about and take action regarding climate change.
  • Drafted a strategy to leverage most of the UN days in some way via social media and, in some cases, traditional means (onsite events, press tours, etc.).
  • Live-tweeted UNDP Ukraine Social Good #inno4dev / #2030now summit, highlighting the many excellent tech-for-good initiatives happening all over Ukraine, and blogged about how future events might be more interactive and produce something by the end of the day (more than knowledge-sharing). I also blogged about how I was part of a group at UN Volunteers HQ back at the start of the century that tried to do many of the things now, at last, being embraced by UNDP, and got quite a bit of attention thrown UN Ukraine’s way as a result. 
  • Invented the #uatech4good tag, which I’m hoping will catch on as a social media tag for any tech4good initiative in Ukraine, including those with no UN-affiliation.
  • Mapped all of the various UN agencies and programs in Ukraine with regard to their Web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Flickr accounts and any other social media profiles they had, and created a page on the UN web site where anyone could find such (it also includes suggestions on where to find further info regarding the UN’s work in Ukraine using various UN HQ accounts).
  • Did research and then drafted recommendations for how various UN agencies, particularly UNDP, could use social media to promote respect, tolerance and perhaps even reconciliation in areas of Ukraine currently in conflict.
  • Live-tweeted UNDP Ukraine’s Social Good #inno4dev / #2030now summit, highlighting the many excellent tech-for-good initiatives happening all over Ukraine.
  • Helped to develop some simple ways to leverage the Humans of New York focus on Ukraine.
  • Advised on how to deal with some specific negative activities on both social and traditional media targeted at the UN.
  • Did trainings on using Twitter for all UN communications staff, and another for just UNDP staff and another just for UNICEF staff, tailoring those last two trainings to those different agencies specifically.
  • Prepared a guide for the UN Volunteers office in Ukraine on how to use Twitter and Facebook to better publicize their activities to not only external audiences, but also to those they are working with and their colleagues within various UN agencies in Ukraine (never forget that social media sometimes reaches someone in the office next door with news they don’t know about your initiative).
  • Wished for a better word for reconciliation
  • Wished for more web sites like this Ukrainian journalism student project, Stopfake.org
  • Lamented with my Crimean Tatar co-worker the lack of sustainability and evaluations of hacksforgood/appsforgood and any other projects launched during a hackathon, and our lamentations inspired this blog (I mention his ethnicity only because other references to such all seem to be only about how they are internally-displaced people and frequently oppressed – which is true, but many also happen to be very knowledgable, experienced professionals – just like anyone).
  • Advised on an app to help citizens report infrastructure issues to the government.
  • Researched whether or not our offices might need a policy re: editing Wikipedia (such editing is easily monitored by citizen activists and even some hostile “bodies”, and conflict of interest editing can turn into a PR nightmare; I doubt anyone is editing Wikipedia from the office, but this is a VERY tech savvy country – I was trying to think preventatively).
  • Had various ideas bounced off of me by various staff for events, announcements, activities, speeches, using Twitter, etc.
  • Participated in department meetings (though, believe it or not, I would have liked to have been a part of even more).
  • Created new text for the UN Volunteers in Ukraine page regarding online volunteering and volunteering NOT as a UN Volunteer.
  • Asked a lot of questions, listened, took a lot of notes, read lots and lots of information so I could write about various topics when called upon, read and responded to a lot of emails…
  • Tried to kill my boss with roses.
  • Took care of our field security guy’s puppy for a few days.
  • Bothered my co-workers regarding my overwhelming desire for mashed potatoes.

I bring up the mashed potatoes because, while very few people liked or commented on Facebook regarding my “I want mashed potatoes” status update, several co-workers did in-person; it’s how I realized just how much people were reading what I posted online, and what a poor judge of readership the number of “likes” is.

Did anything change as a result of my time in Ukraine? I’m not sure. I think a couple of people now realize the power of social media and it seems that the changes in their use of such while I was there is continuing after I’m gone. I think I helped to raise the profile, to a certain degree, of what various UN agencies are doing in Ukraine, and helped to reinforce that those agency reps are essential to have at the table when talking about addressing the critical needs of the country. But I wish I could have had more time to get more cross-fertilization happening regarding communications and to get more people pro-active instead of being so reactive and passive when it comes to communications, so that when one initiative launches something major, all of the UN communications staff at different initiatives see it and share it with their networks, and that no one waits to hear about news – they go out online and look for it. I wish I could have done a workshop on writing in plain English. I wish I could have worked with a few people one-on-one more. I wish I could have gotten everyone better using Flickr. I wish I could have done an analysis of current press relations.

I also really wish I could have done a workshop on the UN’s Online Volunteering service. I’m sorry to say that no one in the UN Volunteers office in Ukraine really knew what it was or why to use it. It wasn’t a part of my mandate to talk about it to anyone – but I tried anyway, specifically with UNV folks, squeezed in among several other topics. I would not only like to see UN Volunteers in Ukraine using the OV service, I would not only like to see all of the UN programs in Ukraine looking for ways to use the service to engage with online volunteers regarding their work, I would also love to see UNDP Ukraine launch, or help to launch, a Ukrainian and Russian-language version of the online volunteering site focused exclusively on Ukraine. Ukraine is still afire with civic engagement desires – so many civil society initiatives there are using the Internet to engage and support volunteers, without ever having heard the term virtual volunteering. Imagine what more could be done with Ukraine’s own online volunteering service for both Ukraine-based and Ukraine-focused civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Oh well, I did what I did, and I think I did what most needed to be done.

What did I learn? Oh, that’s a whole ‘nother blog, thrice as long. I learned SO much, and re-learned so much. I think that’s what I’ll reflect on these next two weeks.

So, that was my work time in Ukraine, and my latest adventure with the United Nations, an organization that frustrates me greatly often times but, even so, I still believe is humanity’s best hope for getting every person equal access to education, safety, care for basic needs, a healthy environment, economic choices, and life choices, and for keeping us from killing each other and destroying everything. I’m proud to be a part of the United Nations, and while I hope this isn’t my last gig with the UN, if it is, wow, what a high note to end on!

Also see:

My photos from Ukraine (Kyiv and Korosten)

My photos from in and around Chornobyl (Chernobyl)

How to Pursue a Career with the United Nations or Other International Humanitarian or Development Organizations, Including Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Reality Check: Volunteering Abroad / Internationally