Cuso International is a non-profit international development organization based in Canada. Cuso places and supports highly-skilled volunteers from Canada and the USA in developing countries to support a variety of projects. It is similar to VSO in the UK, the Peace Corps in the USA, and the United Nations Volunteers program, part of UNDP.
Some years ago, Cuso International found that approximately 60% of the Cuso International volunteers who returned from their in-country placements continued to support their in-country program partners, usually NGOs, through various online activities. Cuso International established E-Connect program “to formalize and enhance this activity that is occurring already and lend further work experience credibility to the distance support provided by the volunteers.” Its E-Connect program is not limited to returning volunteers: many of its online volunteering opportunities are for any skilled person that meets the experience requirements, though most roles are limited to Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents only.
Cuso International also produced the nine-page E-Connect: Cuso International’s E-Volunteering Guide. The guide offers an overview of the kinds of online volunteering Cuso International supports and a table of task-based support ideas for online volunteering. Online volunteers involved with Cuso International complete a Scope of Work document for each placement at the beginning of the assignment. This document outlines the overall project goals, planned tasks, and deliverables associated with the volunteer assignment. “Online volunteers complete different reporting documents at varying times during their e-placement to measure their project’s impact on their program partner over time as well as to monitor their own experience throughout their journey.”
In another guide for online volunteers, Cuso International makes this important observation about virtual volunteering, one that I’ve made for many years:
E-Volunteer placements may be perceived as “easier”, or not as commitment-intensive than in-country placements as you do not have to re-locate countries, follow a routine schedule, or perform the work in-person on someone else’s time. However, online placements can be just as rigorous and involved and volunteers may have to work harder on communication, assume a greater individual responsibility, and be more proactive to have a successful e-placement.
There are lots more suggestions and specifics about virtual volunteering, including task and role development, suggestions on support and supervision of online volunteers, guidelines for evaluating virtual volunteering activities, suggestions for risk management, online safety, ensuring client confidentiality and setting boundaries for relationships in virtual volunteering, and much more in The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by me (Jayne Cravens) and Susan Ellis.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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