The most inspiring part of working in international volunteering is hearing the stories of individuals who have dedicated their time, talent, and energy to making a difference.
On December 5th, representatives of national and international service organizations and government supporters of service gathered to celebrate some of those volunteers’ achievements. The other goal of the forum was to discuss both how to make those individual efforts more impactful by pursuing best practices and standards, and how to bring more recognition to the central role of volunteering in global development and international relations.
The event, hosted by VEGA Alliance in partnership with Building Bridges Coalition, IAVE, Service Year Alliance, Partners of the Americas, and Impact 2030, featured a panel of experts on volunteering as well as an awards ceremony for outstanding volunteers.
One theme in the remarks was the importance of mobilizing skilled volunteers to areas where their skills can be useful, and linking those typically short-term interventions to longer-term followup and oversight to ensure that their impact is sustainable. Many of the volunteers who were honored brought special knowledge and skills to their service, such as years of experience in small-scale agriculture or income-generating enterprises.
Another theme was the importance of creating multi-sectorial partnerships, something we’ve always emphasized in America Solidaria. Amanda MacArthur of PYXERA Global pointed to a partnership they helped arrange between IBM and Peace Corps to link short-term volunteering focused on a specific skill to ongoing long-term volunteering. MacArthur suggested that the most important consideration in creating a successful partnership is not that both organizations have the same goal, but that both organizations are going in the same direction.
Perhaps the most important theme that emerged from the panelists was the importance of demonstrating the impact of volunteering in achieving concrete objectives, like the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Kathi Dennis of IAVE pointed out that the reports on threshold measurements of progress towards the SDGs did not mention the word “volunteering.” Diane Melley from IBM commented that it is a priority for corporations who believe in volunteering to be able to see and demonstrate that volunteer efforts are having a real impact – through the Impact 2030 initiative, IBM is leading the way in dedicating their staff resources to this kind of research and measurement.
The remarks of keynote speaker Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) made it clear that this impact is as crucial as ever to global development and U.S. national security interests abroad. He argued that the traditional threat to global security, war between nation-states, has been compounded in recent years by terrorism, climate change, and endemic poverty and disease. Murphy noted that, since the 1950s, non-military U.S. foreign assistance has dropped from 3% of the U.S. GDP to 0.1%, a 95% reduction. This makes supporting individual volunteering efforts and catalyzing their impact through key partnerships more crucial than ever.
For social media posts and videos from the event, check out this link.