Pictured: Back row, left to right: Rose Hennessy from Friends of Londinai, Emma Dwyer from Irish Rule of Law International, Ciara Close from The Umbrella Foundation, Kevin Murphy from Nurture Africa, Shannette Budhai from Comhlámh, Caroline O’Connor from UCDVO, from Colin Brennan from Viatores Christi, Anna Smith from Habitat for Humanity Ireland, John Close from Irish Aid. Front row, left to right: Tara McGrath from EIL Intercultural Learning, Mary Anne Stokes from Vincentian Lay Missionaries, James Redmond from Comhlámh, Colm Ashe from Comhlámh, Linked in Trainer, Nita Mishra from the Comhlámh Board, Dervla King from Comhlámh.
Last Friday (August 15th) a gathering of international development workers met with the Dublin staff of LinkedIn – the world’s largest professional network.
The day was designed to show how LinkedIn’s suite of tools can help raise their profile and recruit volunteers in an increasingly crowded NGO world.
The training was organised by Comhlamh, which is the Irish association of development workers and international volunteers with experience working in the global south. Comhlamh oversees a Code of standards for organisations involved in facilitating international volunteer placements in developing countries. Signatories to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice are working to develop a discussion group on LinkedIn designed to allow people curious a bout volunteering to ask questions and find out what options are open to them to work overseas.
Wendy Murphy, HR Director, LinkedIn EMEA had this to say:
“At LinkedIn, we’re fortunate to have a day every month called InDay to invest in our communities, ourselves, or the company, in any way that inspires us. We’re delighted to welcome Comhlamh into our Dublin offices and hope the day proves to be valuable to this important part of our membership,”
Head of Comhlamh, Mark Cumming reflected on how social media aids volunteers today:
“I remember in the 70s and 80s, a huge amount of time went into taking in CVs and processing them. The administration was a nightmare. Now we can cut all that out, and create an online space where people can directly hook up with sending agencies themselves The Irish volunteer community is massive and we’ve a huge tradition to be proud of. In this increasingly networked world, the use of groups on LinkedIn In lets us all come together to share our experiences. LinkedIn lets us directly field questions from them, look at the skill sets they have on offer and match them up with an appropriate roles. We’re really keen on developing this resource and at looking at how we can use it in tandem with things like Facebook and Twitter.”
Comhlamh’s Communications Officer James Redmond described where the idea came from:
“It struck me that there was a huge degree of fragmentation between all the different agencies and how they promoted their volunteering roles. It was like there was no one stop shop people that wanted to volunteer overseas could go to for information. Being familiar with the success of things like #jobfairy on Twitter, I thought why not just create one of them for international volunteering in Ireland? A simple stream of information for people to plug into, all in one location and shared among all the agencies. So, we just introduced it with a few status updates and it took off – that led us to bring people together in a LinkedIn Group as an added tool for discussion and questions.”
Siobán O’Brien Green, the Research and Policy Officer in Comhlámh said:
“We know that over 2,200 overseas volunteers travelled from Ireland and engaged in placements throughout 2012, with 60% of volunteer sending agencies reporting an increase in interest in volunteering in 2012. We are currently analysing the data for 2013 and seeing broadly similar figures However, one area that emerges in our research is the challenge of matching the skills of potential volunteers to the skills needed of the volunteer placements available and that is where #VolOps has such an important role to play. Also emerging in our research is the growth of online volunteering with 11% of volunteer sending agencies in 2013 offering and tapping into this rapidly growing form of volunteering.”
Shannette Budhai, Comhlámh’s Volunteering Quality Project Officer described how:
“There has been much media attention given to voluntourism – that portmanteau of volunteering and tourism that can have such negative consequences for host communities. With this LinkedIn group and the rest of our developing platform, we want to create a space where responsible volunteer agencies that have signed up to our code of can meet and interact online with potential volunteers. Irish volunteer sending agencies are light years ahead of their partners elsewhere in oversight and governance in international volunteering. We see the dialogue that can be created in this space as an important place to prevent both the volunteer and host community from negative impacts of fly by night operations.”
The training day is part of the soft launch of a new portal for international volunteering called #VolOps using elements of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The site seeks to promote the sharing of responsible volunteering options through a range of social media options.
It took place ahead of the run into Irish Aid’s annual volunteering fair which takes place in mid October. That day sees dozens of sending agencies set up stall in Dublin castle and put out their wares. The day will also see the formal launch of #VolOps which has already seen widespread take up as a discussion group on LinkedIn, as a newswire on Twitter and Facebook as a means to stay abreast of deadlines and events where they may find a placement.