What is skill based volunteering?
One of the main criticisms of voluntourism is the fact that unskilled volunteer perform tasks that normally require relevant skills and qualifications. For example, volunteer teachers are often not required to proof any experience or qualifications. Medical students on some volunteer electives abroad are sometimes allowed to perform medical procedures and assessments that they are not qualified for.
Skilled volunteering avoids this by placing skilled volunteers into roles that require skills and experience as requested by local partner organisations. By sharing your professional skills, experience or knowledge, you are able to make a long term impact on the partner organisation and contribute towards their long term goals.
What skills are required for skilled volunteering?
Depending on the placement, different skills and experiences are required. Skilled Impact offers three different types of placements, which require different skill sets. Volunteering for professionals requires you to be an expert in your profession. In order to complete a medical elective abroad, you need to be a registered student or recent graduate of the relevant field. If you are at the start of your career or you’re looking for a career break, you can search through our internships.
Skills needed for volunteering are often transferable. They might not be skills specific to your degree or profession. But instead those that you will have developed through your personal and professional experiences. These transferable skills are often relevant for sharing your expertise abroad. Examples include skills such as interpersonal skills, leadership skills, the ability to quickly learn new processes, or excellent written and spoken communication skills.
Listening skills and flexibility also play a big part in skill based volunteering. Skilled volunteering can push you out of your comfort zone. Being able to adapt quickly, keep an open mind, and show an eagerness to learn is important.
The most essential skills for making an impact
Volunteers need to have an understanding that learning is a requirement for making a positive change. There needs to be a realistic expectation of what can be achieved during the placement period. Often, the impact occurs after you’ve completed your placement.
Lastly, humility is a leadership skill that plays an important part in skilled volunteering. It is necessary to get the most out of the experience. To act with humility you must be able to: admit when you’re wrong, seek advice, practice listening, and be comfortable in acknowledging your weaknesses. This approach will gain the respect of your colleagues. It also means that you are positioning yourself as someone who is willing to listen and learn from those around them.
Matching volunteers to partner organisations
Skilled Impact has developed a rigorous matching process to ensure that volunteers’ skills are matched to organisational needs. All placements advertised on our website are roles that have been specifically requested by our partner organisations. The purpose of skilled volunteering is not to replace local staff, but to complement and collaborate with local teams.
Both volunteers and partner organisations are vetted by the experienced Skilled Impact team. This practice ensures that the volunteers’ skills match the role. As a result, their efforts and time are contributing to long term, sustainable, and impactful initiatives. The volunteer recruitment process consists of a review of the applicant’s CV and professional qualifications, an informal interview, as well as a review by the partner organisation.
If the volunteer is qualified for the role, but requires additional training, they will receive it at the start of their skilled volunteering placement. Every volunteer receives a partner induction session. It includes an introduction to the organisation, their mission, and vision, their current projects, and how the volunteer’s work aligns with their goals. Specific training relevant to the job description is provided when required, to make sure the skilled volunteer is equipped with the right tools to hit the ground running.
Sharing Skills, Learning Skills
Getting involved in community work and sharing your skills with NGOs and social enterprises in the host country is an enriching experience. It provides you with an array of new skills – and opportunities to further develop skills you already have. Skill sharing is a two-way process. You share some, you learn some.
So what skills can you gain from skilled volunteering?