On November 14th, our executive director, Justin Bedard, had the opportunity to speak at the IAVE conference held in Bangkok. IAVE stands for the International Association of Volunteer Effort. The organization began in 1970 and has an engaged member network from more than 70 different countries around the world.
Justin began his presentation session by getting the conference participants out of their seats, encouraging each of them to talk with someone else in the room about “intention” in relation to volunteering. The room quickly filled with voices of passionate individuals from all over the world. Among many valuable ideas spread throughout the space, one participant shared that their intention for volunteering is to help find a sense of purpose for herself. Another individual claimed that their intention is to bridge knowledge gaps between people. This discussion prompted additional questions and established the need to place attention on intention.
Beginning his presentation in this interactive way allowed Justin to share an authentic element of the JUMP! Foundation–connection. By talking to the people around them, the conference attendees engaged in a meaningful way. Connection is critical, regardless of the realm of work that an individual resides. It allows us to share our experience and find like-minded individuals, but if we fail to initiate the conversation, connection is difficult to create.
With the participants well engaged, Justin easily transitioned his conversation into the other items he planned to cover, beginning with finding partners. Most volunteer efforts don’t happen in silos. When we are working collaboratively, it is important that we are conscious of the values and principles of the organizations that we partner with. A partner that does not share values that align with our own may not be a good fit—even if they are also doing positive and impactful work. Why not? It all goes back to the original conversation, as Justin questions, “How can we be authentic with our intention?”.
Once we have a partner with aligned intentions, we are led to the creation stage. As we create volunteer efforts, it is most effective if we co-create with our partner. It should not be a one-sided experience. We must identify the needs, resources, and structure for volunteering in a collaborative way. To do otherwise can too easily lead to poor or uninformed decision-making. In addition to co-creating projects, it’s also important to co-create localized standard operating procedures. The standard operating procedures that work in one place are not generally universal. If we set the standards at the beginning of each new venture, we can better ensure a positive trajectory of the experience for all involved.
Even when we practice the best intentions, make good choices, and follow procedures, things don’t always go right. Though this situation is not ideal, it is an opportunity for learning and can help us avoid the “wrong” with future endeavors.
Our intention at JUMP!, particularly through JUMP! Impact, is not to have thousands of volunteer projects happening indefinitely in the same communities around the world. We hope that through initiating these programs, communities are able to develop their own capacity to create sustainable change without our support. We recognize that this perspective towards volunteering time, resources, and energy is relatively unique, but we are proud to stand behind it.
Thank you, IAVE, for allowing us to share our thoughts at your conference this year. We are grateful that you created such a wonderful setting for passionate people to meet and connect through a mutual interest, share dialogue, and create means for more effective volunteering across the globe.