I’m on a bit of a roll with volunteering-themed threads this morning, so I’m going to start this one on volunteering standards.
It feels like there has been a growth in demand for a standardised set of regulations for volunteering, particularly with UK companies offering placements.
My questions is, if there was to be some kind of ‘fairtrade’ standard for volunteering organisations, what should it be?
Things to think about;
- Can the industry regulate itself, or does there need to be an independent, possibly Quango-type body set up to manage it?
- What would be the criteria that companies would need to meet; Percentage of fees invested into local project? Amount of support offered? Justification of placement necessity? Demonstration of project sustainability?
- What would logistically happen? Would companies get some kind of rosette/icon to display showing they met all these standards? Would there be a muli-tiered level, where they could get ‘certified’ for some areas but not others?
- What would sites like gapyear.com do with companies that did not meet or refused to be evaluated for these standards?
- How do you create a desire for companies to meet these standards and travellers to demand them?
Interested to see what you come up with. It’s possible that something you suggest could be used as part of a new global campaign on volunteering standards, so get your thinking caps on!
P.S. Just for the record, I am okay with volunteering being a commercial venture. I know there are lots of gappers who advocate not paying anything to volunteer, but while I support that I think it’s important to recognise that approach is not for everyone. I would perhaps be a bit more independent about volunteering now I’m older, but at 18 no way would I have contacted a school in Asia independently and flown out alone. Volunteering companies can provide a worthwhile function for many interested in volunteering with more assistance/support behind them.
Also, I do not believe that worthwhile projects and profit need necessarily be mutually exclusive. The most success charities are often run like successful businesses, with investment in fundraising strategy, advertising, marketing, PR, etc. The same can be done with volunteering. I think there is a place for these types of volunteering companies as well as the DIY placements.