How to create the perfect volunteer/fellowship program

For those who don’t know, I co-founded  iVolunteer about 11 years back with the premise that individuals want to give back to society. Since our background was IRMA we created  iVolunteer with structures, forms, processes, business models, and all the things that they teach you in business schools.

So after 11 years of learning I guess its time to unlearn everything and start from scratch. Don’t ask me why but may be the catalyst for this is  this super cool course that I’m doing at Amsterdam called THNK ( rightly so).

So during our recent office retreat at Goshani we did some THNKING. We asked this question to ourselves- what if we were to throw away everything that we do ( the same question was also asked by my coach Robert Wolfe to me) and start afresh. What will the future look like ?. And thanks to Samta ( my colleague) we did come out with something which at least to some of us sounds very exciting.

So here is our new volunteer program ( draft) looks like

  1. People apply for what they want to discover or do : For instance I want to learn about water issues in rural areas or I want to work on creating livelihoods. As long as the issues are of social relevance they can pick anything that they like
  2. iVolunteer helps in finding them a space where they can do this. This space can be a village, a panchayat, a NGO, a social enterprise. We also provide  a stipend for 6 months.
  3. We also identify a On-Demand mentor for the volunteer which they can talk to in case they need help. They can also choose not to talk to the mentor at all.
  4. Volunteers only report back through blogs, photos, and other creative ways.
  5. All volunteers meet together before start of the program for a boot camp kind of thing and at the end of 6 months for a end point get together.

We don’t start the program with targets or any big marketing. We don’t raise institutional money. Unless we are sure of someone we don’t take them in.

We do this only for the love of volunteering and nothing else.

This is first draft, may be its a crazy idea. Would love to hear what you guys think. And what would you call a program like this ?


14 thoughts on “How to create the perfect volunteer/fellowship program

  1. Create opportunity for others to add on their interest if they want to. So if someone wants to volunteer and work on rural sanitation and 3 others are also keen, great ! Allow them to join in. Now you have a team that is volunteering. Far more useful particularly if they bring in diverse skill sets . And who knows you can start a movement…All the best. So when can I volunteer ?

  2. Hmmm … makes me go back to my days when i was joining ICICI Fellows program 2 years back. To be honest i wasnt even sure which ‘domain’ my interest is in. I just wanted to experiment and experience whatever comes. When i read the first bullet of the post which says you apply with a specific choice … i wonder where that would have left me if i were one of the aspirants …

    1. I completely understand what you mean, but I’m sure there will be other programs for someone like you :). The only monitoring in this program would be self monitoring so we probably need to be sure of what the person wants to discover.

  3. What I would like, is that I should be expected to ‘achieve’ nothing.. so there should be no pressure of deadline or reports or deliverable. I want to learn about some issue – say rural to urban migration and iVolunteer finds me a place where I can learn this in a practical way like by being in a village rather than through a course.

    Perfect for me! and if I am the right candidate, I will eventually have made some impact, some difference..

    1. Thanks. Well you are expected to do what you expected to do, which is what you came for in the first place. The only deliverable is a weekly or monthly blog.

      So yeah, no pressure from iVolunteer.

  4. My first question is around the first bullet also. I am intrigued by the ‘discover or do’. I understood from talking to you that the discover can be quite broad and include something of self-discovery, and perhaps something of the unknown. I’d love to hear your ideas on how you will extract that information from the people, also how they will find you. I LOVE the idea of the bootcamp before and after (and perhaps some peercoaching in the meantime):)?
    Cant wait for the name:)
    cheers Robert

  5. I think the idea is aimed pushing an individual to realize and self learn than preach. Keeping that in mind, on receiving an interest from a candidate, we should engage personally with the individual to help him/ her fill in the gaps. At the end, I would want the idea, the action, the field and the course of implementation to emerge from the individuals himself. On demand, we can support him with an adviser whose role will not be tell the individual how he or she should go about it but rather facilitate and push him to find the solutions to the gaps. We should also be open to the fact that many might experiment and even fail at the end. We are just working on the assumption that people learn more when left to themselves.

    Name suggestion- स्वतः pronounced as Swatah. It is a Sanskrit word meaning “doing by self”

  6. This is certainly the second posting, of yours I checked out.
    Nevertheless I personally like this specific 1, “How to create the perfect volunteer/fellowship program |
    The Blog of Nothing” the most. Thanks -Monika

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