Training Local Staff: Capability versus Dependency
“I want to make an impact.”
That’s one of the most common answers volunteers give when asked for their reasons to go overseas and volunteer their time. But what that impact actually looks like and how sustainable it is very much depends on the volunteer organisation and its practices. Some responsible volunteer organisations focus on training local staff through skill sharing. Others do not. In the end this will determine whether it is capabilities or dependency that volunteers are creating.
One of the shortcomings of voluntourism is that more often than not, long term impact is not taken into account. Whilst volunteers make an immediate impact through their work, the average voluntourism placement lacks sustainability. Rather than building capabilities, they create dependency.
Dependency is created when local organisations start to rely on the support of volunteer organisations. For example, most volunteer organisations pay local partners to take in international volunteers. Whilst this practice can serve as an essential support to the success of the local initiative, it can also create financial dependency. If a local organisation could not survive without the payments coming from volunteering opportunities, they won’t be able to serve their communities and solve the challenges they set out to tackle.
Similarly, dependency is created when international volunteers take on local job roles. Rather than investing in training local staff, volunteers fulfil the tasks that a local team member would otherwise perform. This might be cheaper for the local partner organisation as they don’t pay a salary. But in the long term, this means that local organisations are dependent on volunteers and fail to create local jobs that benefit the community. Rather than performing the tasks themselves, volunteers should be sharing their skills and focus on training local staff so they can take over.
Capability means that, after the volunteer leaves, the partner organisation keeps thriving on the work that was completed. It means that skills are transferred and applied in the future through training local staff.
On a much more abstract scale, capability building means that – in the future – the challenges tackled by the partner organisations have been solved. So essentially, the goal of any volunteer organisation, NGO or organisation in the development sector work is to make themselves redundant.
Capability building means to first support partner organisations by training local staff so they can better solve the challenges they set out to do. The second step of capability building is then to empower communities so that they won’t need NGOs and development aid anymore.
How to Build Capabilities Through Skilled Volunteering and Training Local Staff
The best way to build capabilities is through skilled volunteering and training local staff. Here is why:
- Skilled volunteering matches volunteers’ skills with organisational needs so that the best outcomes can be achieved.
- Skilled volunteering ensures that communities determine what they need, what challenges are solved and how.
- Skilled volunteering focuses on staff training to drive the sustainability of local organisations and support them in achieving their goals.
As a result, the most responsible way to make an impact is by sharing your skills. This is how you can build Capabilities, instead of creating dependency. Contact us if you are ready to get involved in training local staff to build capabilities and contribute towards sustainable development.