An easy to use online toolkit has been launched by a researcher from the University of Warwick to help anyone motivated to volunteer in the Global South to turn their ambitions into practical action.
International volunteering has long been a popular way to see the world and contribute to good causes – indeed, the UN has called for volunteering to be embedded at the heart of the development agenda. However unprepared volunteers and poorly-planned initiatives can do more harm than good – for example, the phenomenon of “voluntourism” at Cambodian pseudo-orphanages – or waste time, energy and goodwill by reinventing the wheel, providing a service that others are already offering or that no-one wants.
Drawing on his own experiences setting up Hmongdom, a non-profit rural livelihoods development initiative in Vietnam, and on his academic research, Dr Seb Rumsby of Warwick's Department of Politics and International Studies has created www.diy-development.com, a series of interactive questionnaires to help anyone involved in citizen aid to think through the challenges they are likely to face as an informal aid volunteer and receive practical suggestions to fine-tune their ideas.
Dr Rumsby said: “Development is no longer seen as the exclusive job of governments and professionals, but something which ordinary citizens can take the lead on.
“Small-scale non-profit organisations face unique opportunities and challenges compared to traditional NGOs, but it’s hard for individuals or low-budget, grassroots initiatives to access specialised training.
“I wanted to use my own experience and my research to put together a resource that will help fill that gap and promote best practice among small-scale, independent or informal international development practitioners.”
Free to use and with an engaging interactive format, www.diy-development.com offer users the chance to fill in a series of questions and receive instant ratings, feedback and advice across seven categories such as team dynamics, effectiveness, collaboration and sustainability. The site also includes a library of additional resources and links to key external organisations.
Dr Rumsby is passionate about translating academic research into real-world impact and hopes this toolkit will help promote best practice in the grassroots volunteering sector, leading to better and more effective development projects.
· DIY Development was created during Dr Rumsby’s ESRC postdoctoral innovation fellowship, funded by Warwick's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.
Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick