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Volunteer Now CEO Launches Global Network of National Volunteer Centres

16 December 2013

The 14th IAVE Asia Pacific Regional Conference took place in Macau 9 – 12 December 2013, the host organisation was the Association of Volunteer Social Service Macau and the theme of the conference was ‘Allied Volunteer Efforts Being Change Agents in a Risk Society’.

IAVE Conference

On the Monday I facilitated a one day session for representatives from across the Asia Pacific region in total 14 countries/jurisdictions were seated around the table – Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, S. Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and we had apologies from two more; India and Cambodia. IAVE has strong connections in the Asia Pacific region. Of course N Ireland was also at the table!  The time was spent looking at the promotion and development of volunteering and there was great sharing among the participants, great development activity and a real passion for volunteering. A number of the countries such as S Korea have a strong 20 year experience of building volunteering including a network of volunteer centres; while Vietnam has an emerging volunteering infrastructure. These countries are diverse geographically, culturally and politically and yet the organisations at the meeting, bound together by the common cause and belief in volunteerism, reaffirmed their commitment to working together to develop the capacity for volunteer involvement. It was a privilege to spend time with them and get to know their opportunities and challenges for volunteering. During the conference I had discussions with a lovely young woman from Myanmar (Burma) who is working hard to develop volunteering in her country, not an easy task given the political environment, however in the next month she will launch her book about volunteering in Myanmar. She is keen to learn from Volunteer Now’s expertise and we would be happy to support her in whatever way we can. Another country will be joining the IAVE Asia Pacific family.

IAVE Conference

The highlight of the conference for me had to be the launch of the Global Network of National Volunteer Centres. This initiative was started some years ago by IAVE and in 2010 they asked me to join the IAVE Board to give leadership to the establishment of the Global Network. I undertook a piece of research during 2011 and a year ago in London at the IAVE World Conference I chaired two separate sessions with leading volunteering organisations from 40 countries. In London they endorsed the Global Network of National Volunteer Centres initiative and I made a commitment and set a target to launch it by December 2013. The last year I convened a working group of 12 individuals from the 6 IAVE regions, Africa, Arab Region, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, & North America. We agreed a definition of a National Volunteer Centre and importantly established a set of values to underpin the work - integrity, commitment, empowerment and leadership. The launch took place on the 11 December and we have 6 founding members, they are CENAVOL, Peru; Points of Light Foundation, USA; NCVO, England; Navnet, Kenya; Volunteering Australia; and Volunteer Now, N Ireland. Two corporate sponsors are supporting this work, the Ford Motor Company and UPS Foundation. At the launch I was also able to showcase messages of congratulations and support for the new Global Network from across the world including our colleagues in CEV, the European Volunteer Centre. We now have a global steering group which I will continue to chair and we want to spend the next 12 months increasing membership and developing ways to share knowledge and learn from each other. The world suddenly seems a very small place and it is both humbling and inspirational to see a truly positive and global agenda for volunteering and for N Ireland to play its strategic part.

logoThe whole Asia Pacific conference was really interesting and of all the sessions I attended it was the Forum about social inclusion that reminded me of a really important fact, volunteering covers many concepts from mutual aid and self help to traditional service giving and community activism, all are equally valid. All are about being agents for change emphasised by a speaker from S Korea who said, ‘volunteer action is not only about filling a gap but about changing a condition’. That gets a big thumbs up from me!

Wendy Osborne OBE
Chief Executive
Volunteer Now
December 2013