Volunteering to make a difference:
skilled volunteering and organisational sustainability
Volunteering skills are a long term strategy for organisational sustainability
We are getting close to the end of the “volunteering abroad to make a difference” series. And I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lengthy comments as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. In this last post, I want to discuss the value of skill sharing, and its impact on organisational sustainability.
You can identify a responsible volunteering organisation right from the start. The application process can tell you straight away whether skills and needs are matched, and whether the benefits to volunteers and partners are valued as equal. But in order to achieve this long term impact, skill sharing must be at the heart of volunteering. Here is why.
The Meaning of Skill Sharing
Skill sharing means mutual learning. It takes place when skilled, international volunteers collaborate with local experts. The exchange of insights in the field and best practices opens up new ways of thinking for both parties involved. The result is long term growth, both professionally and personally.
The Purpose of Skill Sharing
Skill sharing means that volunteers bring an expertise to their volunteer placement that is unique. What it doesn’t mean is that they replace a member of staff. Their work should be complementary to the efforts of the partner organisation’s staff. Complementing, not substituting.
The purpose of skill sharing is therefore to transfer knowledge and experience to local change makers. Knowledge and skills they normally would not have access to. As a result, the partner organisation can adopt new techniques, methods and practices. Skill sharing is therefore practice with a long term perspective in mind, so that the benefits of the volunteer experience long outlive the actual placement.
The Impact of Skill Sharing
The impact of skill sharing is organisational sustainability. Skilled volunteers are able to support partner organisations in the development of best practices and improved organisational functioning. This means the partner organisation can become more efficient and effective in delivering impact in the communities they serve.
An organisation can only survive if it develops and grows over time. When it comes to NGOs and social enterprise, this development and growth comes in the form of achieving the desired impact outlined in their mission and vision. The only way these organisations can get there is by having access to the necessary skills and knowledge. Whilst skills and knowledge are usually available in-country, there is a lot of benefit in skill exchange. I have recently seen skill exchange working in practice, and how beneficial it can be.
Skill Sharing in action
Skilled Impact recently had two speech therapists come to Hyderabad to work in a learning centre for children with autism. They soon identified the difference in working practices between the UK and India. Whilst UK speech therapy focuses on functional techniques, Indian practices put more emphasis on directed therapy. Combining the two approaches has shown much progression with the children, and especially with the parents. Interestingly, the volunteers highlighted the relief they saw in parents after they learned that a functional approach – letting the children lead the learning rather than directing them – is the best way to support a child with autism.
Do you have a skill you’d like to share? Many of our partner organisations are looking for skilled volunteers to make an even greater impact on the communities they serve. Speak to us about our partner organisations and what skills they are looking for.