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EPISODE 6:

BUILDING A MOVEMENT - CONNECTING ACTIVE YOUTH WITH VOLUNTEER ORGANISATIONS

Zach-Conn-2

Zach Conn

Caritas Czech Republic

With two years of service as a volunteer in Mongolia through the Australian Volunteers Program, Zach has contributed to projects in the sustainability and youth empowerment spaces. His experience in Mongolia has inspired a commitment to facilitate inclusive, skilled volunteering opportunities for young Mongolians to shape their communities.

Listen to the podcast interview with the author;

BUILDING A MOVEMENT -
CONNECTING ACTIVE YOUTH WITH VOLUNTEER ORGANISATIONS

The concept of volunteering in Mongolia derives from the socialist collective action era, and is being reinvented and expanded to cover more aspects of community development. During socialism, collective actions were organised on the weekends to encourage the community to clean public spaces, collect recycling, and improve public amenities. Over the past two decades this foundation has grown into a diverse tapestry of volunteer activities ranging from environmental volunteering, education, child protection and community development.

While only 0.02% of Mongolians volunteer, they make up for this with an outstanding contribution of time. In Australia, the average annual volunteer contributes 33 hours of volunteer time per year. hours per volunteer was 33 hours in 2014. In contrast, Mongolian volunteers on average contribute a staggering 136 hours per year. Clearly, once activated, volunteers in Mongolian are beyond generous with their time and impact.

Fostering connections in an evolving volunteering space

"All for YOUth, YOUth for All redesigned the first web platform in Mongolia dedicated to bridging volunteers and volunteer-seeking organisations."

In order to leverage the opportunity presented by a new and evolving volunteering space, and to foster connections between youth and organisations seeking volunteers, the Australian Volunteers Program’s Innovation Hub partnered with Caritas Czech Republic’s All for YOUth, YOUth for All project to . With the Innovation Hub’s support, All for YOUth, YOUth for All redesigned the first web platform in Mongolia dedicated to bridging volunteers and volunteer-seeking organisations.

All for YOUth, YOUth for All is a 4-year, European Union-funded youth empowerment project. Caritas Czech Republic, the Mongolian Youth Council, and the Center for Citizenship Education implemented the project to elevate youth voices in Mongolia through meaningful connections to community organisations and engagement in democratic processes.

Helping young Mongolians to find volunteer opportunities

A barrier the project team identified is that young Mongolians, who make up a third of the total population, are often interested in volunteering but are unsure how to find volunteer opportunities. Young Mongolians are passionate about their country, and seize opportunities to contribute to their community. We observed this time and time again with the number of young people interested in volunteering at our events. Given the shifting perspectives and interpretation of volunteering, All for YOUth, YOUth for All recognised an opportunity to innovatively raise the number of formal, long-term volunteer options for Mongolian youth. This was the genesis of iVolunteer.mn, a platform where organisations can post volunteer positions, and Mongolians can apply for them using  a single, user-friendly user interface.

"Young Mongolians, who make up a third of the total population, are often interested in volunteering but are unsure how to find volunteer opportunities."

A new partnership

While the project team began developing their strategy for this new platform, a new partner approached the project team with a like-minded vision for the future of youth volunteering.The Australian Volunteers Program’s Innovation Hub exists to enhance volunteer outcomes in all country contexts that the program works within, identifying strategies that have had exceptional results and investigating replication in other contexts. The Innovation Hub heard about a platform that had the potential to change the landscape of youth volunteering in Mongolia and created a new partnership with All for YOUth, YOUth for All.

From the beginning of this partnership, it was clear that the Innovation Hub was different from other partnerships the project had made previously. The Innovation Hub was commissioning first-of-its-kind research into volunteerism in Mongolia and sharing this with the project team, filling key knowledge gaps and informing strategies to bolster youth inclusion in the volunteer space.

Their financial support gave the project team resources to streamline new features into iVolunteer.mn to make it even easier for new users to register. iVolunteer.mn has been active for less than a year and already has thousands of young users registered and looking for volunteering opportunities.

Looking to the future

"The future of iVolunteer.mn, and raising the profile of Mongolian youth in the community, continues to shine."

The future of iVolunteer.mn, and raising the profile of Mongolian youth in the community, continues to shine. All for YOUth, YOUth for All plans to expand the website to include volunteer contract templates, best practice guidelines for volunteer management, and strategies for effectively using volunteer resources and for the inclusion of volunteers living with a disability. All for YOUth, YOUth for All has been supplementing this by running workshops for community organisations to support the volunteer ecosystem to move towards skilled, long-term volunteer opportunities that offer a more enriching experience for young volunteers.

The ongoing partnership with the Innovation Hub opens a unique door to successful volunteer mobilisation strategies in other contexts that can shape future campaigns in Mongolia. Through this partnership, All for YOUth, YOUth for All has helped to connect youth with volunteering in a novel way. Coupled with this is the project’s work to nurture mutually beneficial volunteering opportunities that allow young people to shape actions and feel that change is possible in their community.

Watch the video interview below as the author unpacks the topic;