Monday, 21 May 2012

International exchange - do it!

I recently took part in one of those online meetings that reminds me how awesome the internet and associated technology is.  On the call were myself; President of Volunteer Squared, Tony Goodrow; Kathy Cahill, President elect of AL!VE; Rob Bonesteel, current Presdient of AL!VE; and Karen Buenger, President of Australasian Association for Managers of Volunteers (AAMoV).

When I started in volunteer management back in the mid-1990's we had no email, internet or Skype and  international exchange with peers was only possible with the aid of a very healthy travel budget now I can connect with colleagues in the USA, Canada and Australia in real time, working on a common document we can all see at the same time.  Of course poor Karen was up in the very early hours of Saturday morning for the call - technology is great but it can's solve the time difference we all had!

The call was convened by Kathy to discuss international links in the volunteer management community.  It was a great conversation with some fantastic ideas and great connections made.  We all agreed there was real value in trying to connect via the web the professional bodies and associations for volunteer management.  We all felt there was real value in those organisations exchanging ideas and providing support to each other.  Equally there was agreement that no one organisation should try to establish themselves as an international body for volunteer managers, hoovering up all the other associations.  Instead, we discussed potentially influencing IAVE to better reflect the importance of volunteer management in effective volunteer engagement.

I was very happy to share the great work of our own Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) with international colleagues and I hope AVM will accept the invitation offered to them to take part in future calls which will take place quarterly.

I also shared the work done by Sue Jones (of Warrington Voluntary Action) and her team of Volunteer Management Champions.  They've done fabulous things during EYV2011 and into 2012 to raise the profile of volunteer management, to support networking between volunteer managers (principally via Ivo and their Thoughtful Thursday's on Twitter) and to show that the consultants and gurus in our field don't have the monopoly on good ideas, enthusiasm and leadership for the sector.  Again, I hope Sue will join the next of Kathy's meetings in July.

I think we need to remember that despite the cuts and economic woes we face in the UK, we have much to offer the world of volunteer management, as well as much to learn.  Exchange with each other is important and so is exchange with our peers in other countries.  I know from personal experience that seeing the issues we face reflected in the mirror of a different setting and culture can be an incredibly valuable learning experience.

I will keep you posted on how the conversations with this group of international peers progress.  In the meantime, what can you do to start some conversations with volunteer managers in other countries?

Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Join one of the sister bodies to UKVPMs.  There is OzVPM for Australia & New Zealand and CyberVPM in the USA.  Also look for the various volunteer management groups set up to aid professional networking and exchange on LinkedIn.
  • Take part in a future Thoughtful Thursday and keep an eye out for posts that run into Friday.  These are normally from overseas colleagues working a different time zone to us.  Perhaps some of them would be useful connections.
  • Check out the resources available on the Energize website that signpost to volunteer management groups and networks internationally.
  • Subscribe to some of the great newsletters and journals produced internationally.  Perhaps start with the Volunteering New Zealand newsletter as they are doing some awesome work around volunteer management, and perhaps subscribe to, an international journal on volunteersim.
  • Don't forget our near neighbours in Europe.  Check out the European Volunteer Centre (CEV) and the Volunteurope networks, both of which hold events that needn't cost the earth to attend thanks to low-cost airlines.

Let us know how you get on.


  1. Great idea me thinking...can you (or anyone else) paint a picture for me of how volunteers engage in emergency services elsewhere in the world (I'm in Australia)? I'm referring specifically to formal volunteering in ambulance or fire & rescue services (as opposed to spontaneous, disaster response volunteering) - what training do they receive? What is their scope of practice? How are the paid and volunteer workforce integrated? My organisation and my state (Western Australia) do it fairly well, but there's always room to improve and to learn from other organisations and other countries. Are there any informal networks which exist specific to emergency service volunteer management? Cheers,

  2. This is great news. The history of VM Associations shows that keeping them alive and active can be a real struggle. Despite national variations there is much that can be learned from each other about recruiting and keeping members, engaging with members, identifying the key services to provide, the proportion of time/resources to be spent on campaigning and influencing etc etc