This is a guest post direct from the 2014 Global Volunteer and Engagement Skillshare by Anastasia Nikitinskaya and Rachael King.
“OMG! No wait, I mean GMO”, someone said today. One of the challenges of holding international meetings is language. With over 90 people from offices all over the world, it’s sometimes hard for everyone to understand each other. Nevertheless, we have more in common than we have differences – joys and challenges of working with volunteers, internal issues within our offices, and satisfaction when we get it right. In 2002 only seven Greenpeace offices had paid staff working with volunteers. Now, in 2014, every office in 43 countries has staff doing this role. This is a great achievement. Volunteers magnify our reach and help us win campaigns. We cannot do it without them, or the staff who support them.
The first day was “Greenwire Monday,” a day dedicated to discussing the uses and benefits of a new web platform, designed specifically for Greenpeace volunteers. How can we ensure it doesn’t turn into an expensive intranet? How can we attract people currently outside of Greenpeace to use the platform, how do we encourage volunteers using it to organize their own campaigns, and what are the benefits and dangers of doing that?
We heard from offices who are already using Greenwire, from offices about to launch, from international staff championing its use, and from people who are developing the platform for us. I’m so excited about this as a tool to bring volunteers together, to create a global community working towards common goals and creating more positive changes in the world.
Day two of the Greenpeace Volunteer Coordinator Skillshare was dedicated to getting a feel of a bigger picture when working with volunteers. And get the bigger picture we did!
During the session on different ways of organizing volunteer work, we learned that all of the Greenpeace offices in 43 countries use more or less the same six approaches. All of these approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and as the session went, we realized that we are not 100% satisfied with the way that our own systems can deal with different kinds of tasks. I guess the lesson of the session was that we have to make the best out of the systems we use already, and make sure that our systems evolve according to the changes that happen to Greenpeace with time.
Another common ground was discovered during the session on creative empowering of our volunteers. We learned that the main problems we face in the process are the same in all the countries, and the ways to deal with it are also rather similar. The key to people empowerment is knowing your volunteers, and making sure that we can efficiently match some people’s needs with other people’s skills. Training of volunteers is also essential: even if after the trainings some volunteers do not stay with us for a long time, we still contribute to building a stronger civil society in the long run.