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Valuing Volunteering

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Simon Lewis

on 7 March 2018

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Transcript of Valuing Volunteering

Ecosystem of volunteers
Dependency and sustainability
Individual agency and collective action
Organisational systems
Power and politics
Volunteers as experts
Impact on poverty, marginalisation and inequality
Motivation and well-being of the volunteer
Receptiveness, perception and visibility of the volunteer
Community needs and top-down programming
You can view them as a list...
1. Ecosystem of volunteers
2. Relationships
3. Dependency and sustainability
4. Gender
5. Individual agency and collective action
6. Motivation and well-being of the volunteer
7. Power and politics
8. Partners
9. Volunteers as experts
10. Community needs and top-down programming
11. Impact on poverty, marginalisation and inequality
12. Organisational systems
13. Receptiveness, perception and visibility of the volunteer
... but it's important to emphasize the relations between them

An international research project taking place in 5 countries - Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, the Philippines and Nepal
Led by a VSO volunteer in each country on a 2 year placement
Combined it represents 10 years of fieldwork on volunteerism
Supported by VSO and the UK's Institute of Development Studies
Trying to understand why, when and how volunteering actually works
What it
An M&E exercise
A quantitative exercise trying to survey as many responses as possible
Focused purely on volunteers

What it
Targeted toward developing understanding to inform theories of change
Focused on specific cases to produce in-depth findings
Engages all parties, particularly communities
Understanding Complexity

Stephen Hawking: the 21st century "will be the century of complexity"
The social world in which volunteering operates is
messy and inherently complex
Change is
not always linear

Interventions that are seen as straightforward can have
unexpected outcomes
don't always exist where the problem is most visible
What's happening in Kenya
3 in-depth community studies - Korogocho in Nairobi, Mombasa and ICS volunteers in Kilifi
Intensive 1-2 weeks studies including Laikipia and Migori
VSO internal work on improving volunteer support systems
Collection of individual case studies of volunteers and volunteer involving organisations
Korogocho Research Group
14 members
of local CBOs trained in participatory Systemic Action Research forming a local research group
Engage the community
to understand their experiences and views on volunteering
Systems map
the complex issues surrounding development and volunteering
Test and validate
emerging findings with community
Last week in Koch
Over 100 local people engaged in participatory focus groups
35 CHWs, 50 CBOs & SHGs, 17 religious leaders, 7 village elders, 18 'beneficiaries'
in-depth and rich information
on what does and doesn't work and why
Community radio show on volunteering to tackle mis-information
Participatory budgeting exercise to promote accountability in CBOs, increase local ownership and create organisational mentoring partnerships
Systemic thinking, learning and complexity

Systemic Action Research
Participation and learning throughout
Dependency and sustainability
“NGOs bring new shoes for the children but people do not want their children to be seen with new shoes because [then] the donors will not come”

“In Korogocho, you really need to know the people to work with” – local researcher

Motivation and well-being of the volunteer
In Koch, NGOs paying large stipends has made things worse
Receptiveness to volunteering
“People are really suspicious as to how someone can volunteer when they need to feed their families”

Community needs and
top-down programming
“Most of the big NGOs, they only identify one person in the community as a contact and it is usually a village elder” – local CBO

“Many times we would want to give out opinion on a project but if it differs from the chief then it may be your last project” – local CHW

Women volunteers face much greater risks in terms of insecurity

Identity of volunteer
characteristics such as age, ethnicity, nationality, gender,
personality traits and other factors such as motivations to volunteer

For example, Mary is a middle-aged woman who is motivated to give something back, has strong social skills but struggles learning new languages
Type of volunteer / volunteering
types of volunteer such as international (north to south, south to south), long-term, short-term, national, local, diaspora, online
form of volunteering such as formal or informal, full-time and part-time

For example, Mary is an international long-term volunteer from the Netherlands
Role / mechanism of influence
the many ways through which volunteering leads to change
officially recognised placement activities such as skill-sharing, service delivery, community mobilisation, advocacy and/or resource mobilisation
more informal and softer ways such as building relationships and inspiring others

For example, Mary teaches in a secondary school. But she influences others by developing good relationships with teachers, parents and pupils
Incorporates both the spaces in which volunteering takes place, such as schools, communities and national bodies, and the spaces where change happens.
For example, a volunteer might operate across one of more sites but they may also create linkages leading to a more networked concept of space.
Similarly, change may occur at scales and in places where the volunteer may not even be operating.

For example, Mary mainly volunteers in the school but will link the school into wider networks and impacts are likely to be felt across the community
Specific Context
Incorporates all of those factors which characterise where the volunteering in question is taking place.
This could include things such as power relations and the impact of politics in organisations or communities, gender inequalities, perceptions of volunteers and/or outsiders, and social capital

In Mary's example the specific context reveals that many people do not see the value of education beyond a certain age and a number of different local languages are spoken
Wider Context
Closely linked to the specific context but also looks at more general factors that may explain the localised context.
For example, national attitudes towards women or people with disabilities, working procedures and cultural practices

In Mary's example teachers consider themselves to be underpaid, leading to low morale in the profession, and the education system is perceived to not adequately equip pupils with the necessary skills for entering the job market
1. Korogocho in Nairobi
Impact on marginalisation, poverty & inequality
Communities are clearly a target for volunteer support. Noticeable successes in areas of domestic violence, political representation and livelihoods
Diaspora volunteers so far have all been female which has facilitated relationship building with members of the women’s self-help group.
Modelling new gender relations in communities
Receptiveness to volunteering
Enthusiasm to work with ‘outside’ volunteers
Ecosystem of volunteers

Local women volunteers supported by series of diaspora from the USA on 3 month placements followed by 3 months online support
Systemic interventions including non-VSO partners. Evolution of support from basic OD to livelihoods projects
A genuine partner willing to work with and make the most of volunteer placed with them

2. Women's self-help
group in Dol Dol
Organisational Systems
Focus is on the personal development of ICS volunteers rather than the possible development impact of their placement. Is this a missed opportunity?

Perceptions of volunteering
Varies for Kenyan and UK volunteers. International volunteers are more often trusted immediately whereas Kenyan volunteers from outside of the community have to sometimes overcome initial questions of their motivations
Affects the placement of volunteers in host homes and relationship building between UK and Kenyan volunteers
Dependency and sustainability
Questions over the sustainability of projects with volunteers only on 3 month placements. Placement supervisors act as the glue to link the cycles together
Emerging evidence suggests that the model of staying in local host homes helps volunteers settle into the local community more quickly and builds trust between communities and the volunteers
Some are more positive than others. In which partners can volunteers with little professional experience help?
3. International Citizenship
Service in Kilifi
We know that volunteers are more effective when they can build strong relationships with communities and members of their partner organisation
Impact on marginalisation, poverty & inequality
In building relationships, volunteers often identify where marginalisation exists (particularly in partner organisations). They are then well-placed to subtly change behaviour through those relationships
Motivations and well-being of volunteers
Cases of volunteers being exhausted and leaving placements early due to the demands of supporting multiple partners

How many partners is it possible for a volunteer support?
Traditional model of 1 volunteer to 1 partner is changing
Some case of volunteers supporting up to 8 partners
Does this affect their ability to build relationships for change?
4. How far can a volunteer go?
Motivations of the volunteer
Many VSO volunteers often go far beyond the job description
Organisational systems
Is VSO too focused on measuring particularly outcomes to recognise wider developmental impacts?
What about all the other activities that volunteers do?

Volunteers build relationships and often act as networkers to link up work across partners
Volunteer relationships with each other help to build up a large pool of knowledge and expertise
5. Going beyond the job description
Volunteer map of placement activities
What is unique about volunteers?
1. They work through
building relationships
for change
2. They are (often)
rooted in communities
, can inspire (sustainable) action, and bridge the ‘outsider/insider’ divide
3. They can identify and
address marginalisation and inequality
in partner organisations and communities
4. They can use initiative to create
practical solutions
– they don’t make the simple sophisticated
5. They
and can link up knowledge, actions and learning
Implications for programming
1. Identify where
are key – and analyse what kind of relationship is needed

2. You’re only as strong as your
– they need to be receptive to volunteers

Systemic interventions
for system-wide change

4. Really know your
and empower them

5. Constantly
from what works
what doesn’t
13 Analytical Categories
Full transcript