May 2010 Archives

Pay-lunteers, anybody?

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A middle path between trying to motivate volunteers and hiring professionals.

CISV takes a lot of pride in being a volunteer organization. In fact, in Germany we always tell new families, how the IO ist he only place we're paying people to work for CISV. Of course, this is not entirely true, and there are several places , where the „volunteer-dogma" is being breached:

  • Many NAs employ people as national secretaries. It seems, as this job is both so time-consuming and dull, that no volunteer would do this for very long
  • The friends website was designed and programmed by an external company for quite some money
  • In CISV Germany a traditional kitchen staff is often complemented with a full-time professional chef.
Whether to find somebody to do a job as a volunteer or pay an outside professional to do the job is best illustrated in the question, who should best re-design CISVs website (which is an actual project these days):
The natural solution for our organization would be to find a volunteer, that is a professional, to do that job. From the back of my head, I know at least 3 people with the necessary competence. Furthermore, you can expect an intrinstic motivation in a long-time CISVer to give something back to the organization that gave him fantastic experiences. However, there's a whole bunch of problems associated with volunteer solutions: People sometimes accept jobs that they later find out, don't have the resources to do. Then there is a problem of holding them accountable, if stuff isn't completed in time, because, after all, it was just a volunteer job.
The other logical option, would be to find a company, to do that job. Usually a contract is signed, with deadlines, and agreements, so you can be sure to some extent that the job is done with the quality and in the time agreed upon. However, these people will have no emotional connenction with the organization, and since CISV is usually not the number one client on the list, similar problems can appear as with volunteers. Finally, of course, professionals are more expensive than volunteers.

But, instead of thinking in black an white, there is also a third way, to solve this problem: Many a volunteer may be willing to donate a bigger chunk of effort into time-consuming projects, if payed a small compensation. Think of students, who need a student job anyway - why not have a student job with CISV? People could feel more responsible for doing something, if they receive money for it - even if it's just a small sum.

I'd like to coin this solution "pay-lunteering". A few examples:

  • Swantje/GER used to be the national Summer Camp chair in Germany, when the position as national secretary became vacant. She dropped her usual student-jobs and works for CISV Germany next to attending University.
  • Bebbe/SWE could probably be called "Paylunteer No.1", since he is employed by IO as the administration officer. While most other people at the international office became acquainted with CISV during their job interview, Bebbe is a long time Seminar Camp expert.
  • Nic/GBR, formerly NJR and now trustee for Britain, spent a number of months in Stockholm, working at CISV Swedens national office as an EVS volunteer. In fact, this is probably a win-win-win solution because a) Nic got to spend a year abroad, b) CISV Sweden got a motivated staff and c) it was mostly payed by the EU.
Jobs inside CISV that could work out through „pay-lunteering" will have to be chosen carefully, and there is also the danger of spreading into all levels: If we start paying all leaders and staff, board members and kitchen staff, the „volunteer-concept" will soon be lost, and participation fees will have to rise.

Nevertheless this „third solution" should be kept in mind, when delegating new jobs, and especially, when volunteers are difficult to find.

Portugese Power (Part II).

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joao.jpgAn interview with CISV Portugal's president.

I met Joao many years ago, when we were both NJRs. Now it was fun meeting him again, both of us still being involved with CISV to a certain extent (him as CISV Portugal's president more than I) and both having recently startd a family. So here are some interesting insights to CISV Portugal's recent success story. As you will see, there is no "cheap lesson" to be learned, but a ton of details that, taken together, will make the difference. But read for yourself:

FTB: Can you pinpoint what happened in 2000 that started the positive development of cisv portugal?

Joao: 2000 was the turning point point for us. The 90's where a decade of decreasing participants for CISV Portugal, during those 10 years we lost 50% of the participants.
In 2000 the board realised that this downsize would led CISV Portugal to the end. So, in order to stopped it, we all (the board, the national chair of Committees and me as an NJR), went to Algarve for a weekend to developed a strategic plan for CISV Portugal.
Before the weekend everybody had to do their homework. I had to research and study all the participants that we had since 1973. During the weekend we did a SWAT analysis and came up with a strategy:

  • to give an international offer every year for all the participants from 11 to 25; Have international offers without any age gap, let a cisver run year by year until to be a leader. And it's much more easy to find old cisvers to participate again, than getting new.
  • Go to schools and promote CISV;
  • Participate in national youth events- Promote CISV internaly. Sendding letters to old cisvers when they get 21 years old.
  • host and send to all CISV programmes and activities;
  • Increase the participants in international workshops and AIMs
In 2002 Ana invited me to be treasurer of the Board and since than we continue to implement the strategy and increased it in some points. It's been a long way. We are now in 2010 and we are sending 250 for all programmes, 4 times what we send in 2000; we are hosting 5 programmes and 4 interchanges.

FTB: So, hosting so many more programmes, you also need more volunteers to fill staff and leader positions. Where did you find those?

Joao: The volunteers were always the difficult to get! It isn't easy or even a done task. Over the years we are getting new ideas and activities. We need to have a minimum group of leaders for they can bring more by them self's. Getting 5 leaders year by year is harder to get 15! In our NRF we always ask more invitation than we got last year
One thing I know for sure is that we always need to push it up.

  1. Be flexible!  If you have volunteers find something for them, don't let them with a free summer;
  2. Known hosting plan. Let the volunteers now what we will host in advance;
  3. Invite the camp director from one of the best leaders form last year, and ask it to make the group of staff;
  4. Open applications to be a volunteer. Sometimes there are volunteers interested and they don't know they can/ want to be staff / leader;
  5. Organize the staff task to be a nice job. They have to like it in the end! We always give a present to make them fill special
  6. Host all activities all years to keep the knowledge and the motivation in CISV, new leaders can see nationally how to do it;

  1. Grand opening activities. Evenings in CISV where leaders bring new ones, about 4 during the year.
  2. Participate in Youth Forums for Universities
  3. Open applications to be volunteer and spread it to all organization
  4. Communication with Universities, be one there mailing list and make presentations
  5. Speak with the leaders directly to try them to get a friend
  6. Send a letter one the birthday of 21 years old to CISVers
FTB: Next to volunteers, money is usually a critical factor when a CISV chapter is trying to grow. How were you able to raise the necessary funds for the increased numbers of hosted programmes?

Joao: When I 1st got to the board we only could afford 1 international Programme a year. The taxes for participants were thought to an organization with 40 to 60 participants, sending more with the same structure is an advantage. Being just one chapter is much easier when we are talking about structure costs! One of the 1st measures we did as a board was to understand all the accountability and implement more ridged ways of controlling the budget. Studding the budget I understood that some national activities or even events were deficit, we finished with this! All costs need to have an income, from the participants or from sponsors. Second, we stopped the deficit of merchandising. Giving t-shirts to our friends or forget to pay them happened sometimes;) . We are much more ridged now. Also we have new items every years and sell them in specific points like national activities and parents meetings. Third, we didn't have almost any sponsors. We worked really hard to get some and got 3 big national companies to sponsor us regularly. With this regular supports we are able to pay village per year.  
We started to send more participants than hosting, now we are balanced, but has we have a national fee for Portuguese participants to host programmes that unbalanced helpe
d us.

FTB: Growing is one thing, but sustaining is another. How are you planing on keeping the level, that requests quite some motivation and
commitmment from everybody involved?

Joao: Sustainability is a constant worry. Not only we want to grow but also we want to be a solid and stable organization.
To keep the level we had to change the format of CISV Portugal, from an association based on specific people to a real institution with a structure that survives people changes. Also, we need to have a clear goal for CISV Portugal and make that goal, the goal of all the
Like I told you before, one of the things that we did, as a board, was to create series national norms and procedures. During those days we also restructure the work of the national office (NO). The NO started to assure most of the bureaucratic work so that the committees could concentrated their effort on the content.
The committees are a key piece of CISV Portugal. Our objective is that more and more they assure the content and the national activities (during the year) of each programme. To guarantee that they fulfil their job we need to give them know-how and motivation.
We started to have monthly expanded meetings, always on Wednesdays because the pizzas are cheaper ;). These meetings follow the board meeting. On the first ones, we handle all the bureaucratic-legal issues. On the second ones, we handle the content and practicals of all the activities. This way we widen the number of people involved in the decision making process, from 5, board, to 13, expanded.
To keep
the committees motivated we relay on the chairs to continue our work in the expanded in their committees and their activities. Also, we started to send a committee member annually to an international workshop to get specific training. This gives them knowledge and motivation.
In order to promote continuity our national calendar is based on activities during all the year, not only during the summer. Along the school year we have 3 mini-camps for each age (11; 12-13; 14-15); 2 leadership trainings weekends (jc, leaders, ipp and staff); on
e seminar weekend; 4 mosaic activities. These way we achieve an active volunteer group all year long, and high CISV content level.
Also the training and selection/lot of 250 participants (2010) is along the year and not everything at the same time. For example: in January we lot interchange delegations and select the leaders; in February-March we do the lottery of the village and summer camp delegations; and so on. This allows us to manage a big chapter.
Keeping everyone involved and motivated is essential for our development. Together with the structure this will led us to a sustainable growth. One of the roles of the board is to keep a positive attitude and always support all the volunteers. Whenever there is a crisis they know that they can call and count on us.
Like you said on your post, we are "a little obsessed" with numbers. Last expanded meeting we set a new goal: if we r
each 300 participants all chairs can go to an European AIM. You should have seen their faces! The best thing is that we are paying them to work harder to CISV.

FTB: Thanks for the interview!


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A solution for some of our technology challenges?

I've recently taken part in an e-mail and Skype discussion on the future of CISV's use of technology. We have some important websites -, friends, resources - that are used a lot, but desperately need a makeover and fresh updates. After relying on volunteers on these things in the past, the general plan these days is to hire a company to get the job done reliably.

Everybody knows, there are a ton of clever geeks among the CISV crowd, but how to get them together to fix such a huge and complicated problem?

Alex' recent comment on my Wiki post inspired the following idea:

Let's organize a CISV hackathon (Wikipedia explanation here)!
Lot's of big tech companies, like facebook, get vast amounts of programming work done this way, so why can't we? Let's try and gather fly in a bunch of clever CISVers together for a week, lock them in at a place with a broadband internet connection and let them have a take on it! It's probably cheaper and loads of fun, and the results could be amazing and also rewarding.

Portugese Power.

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Almost unnoticed (to me), CISV Portugal is looking back to a decade of incredible development.

Last week, Martha and I joined Anna to Lisbon, where she held the staff training for the upcoming IPP in Mozambique. We extended our stay to a week and enjoyed the hospitality of the nice, friendly, caring and partying people of CISV Portugal.

One night as we were having dinner, Joao (currently CISV Portugal's president) admitted, that recently they had become a little obsessed with continuously increasing the number of participants sent to international CISV programmes. This had gone so far that they regularly spent Friday afternoons nervously awaiting the IO update, to check for new available spots, which they'd immediatly apply for and usually manage to fill in no time.

After spending so much time with CISVs numbers in the past, I wondered how it could have sliped my eyes how succesful CISV Portugal had recently been. But when you check the Balcony Index, there's no doubt, CISV Portugal is reaching for the stars:


It gets even more impressive if you look at the number of international participants, for which my data reaches back to 1996:


From a low-point of 40 participants in 2000, they climbed up to 186 in 2008 (and more than 200 in 2009) - reversing a falling trend that possibly started before 1996. Incredibly, meanwhile they're hosting every programme each year, with the exception of Seminar Camp and IPP that are hosted alternately.

Here at FTB we've briefly discussed the fairytale of CISV Austria before, which had a similar period of growth from 1997 to 2003 and seems to be sustaining that position ever since. One of the reasons mentioned here, was that CISV Austria restructured and split 1 into 4 chapters. But CISV Portugal has done all this with more or less one single chapter.

So how did they pull it off? Joao agreed to an interview, that I will post here shortly, so  stay tuned.

On Wikis an their looks.

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As Wikis become more popular, they deserve to look better.

A stylesheet ist a technical part of most websites that defines which fonts and colors are used, and how the site is overall designed. The good thing about a stylesheet is, that you can change the "look and feel" of a website, without having to fiddle around all the individual pages of your website: You just change the CSS-file (as it's called) and everything looks different.

In MediaWiki, the system behind Wikipedia and  JBpedia, changing the stylesheet is referred to as changing the "skin". A number of skins are provided, once you have it installed on your server, but most people keep the classic "Wikipedia" style.

Wikis are becoming more and more common to organize work among CISV working groups: Wikis are great to aggregate ideas, links and organize work. They're easy to use, accessible and can be password protected. Setting one up takes less than 15 minutes for somebody with a bit of tech experience. So in Germany now, the national board has one, the AIM planning group has one and we recently started a fundraising wiki - all using the Mediawiki software.

Unfortunately they all still look like Wikipedia. Check out, how Facebook adapted their developers wiki to their own look and feel.
Now, isn't there a smart CISVer out there who would like to create a CISV-Skin for us? To make JBPedia and all the existing and future Wikis look a little bit more like CISV?

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Super Mario for change?

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How the art of gaming can make a real life difference.

In one of the first e-mails through the Year Of Diversity list I found a link to take part in an online game called Evoke. Since I find online games usually quite uninspiring , I couldn't be bothered to dig into the game concept after looking at the introductory comic strip. Besides, I couldn't quite grasp, why I should play a game to change the world?

A few days ago, however, I watched yet another TED talk* and Jane McGonical explains the concept behind Evoke, and suddenly it all makes sense!

Quite impressive, how the simple concept of collecting points and reaching levels can make such a difference. But being fairly competetive myself, I can see how people engage in this.

The idea also reminded me of Jesse Schell's talk that inspired me to award "CISV-Points" inside the "CISV & Me"-application I set up for facebook. Also GOOD magazine recently ran a similar story, refering to a game called Armchair Revolutionary.

I'm still don't think I'll ever play Evoke - but maybe somebody reading this can tell us, what it's like.

*yes, I know, this blog should be renamed into "From the TED Conference", but seriously, almost every one is mind-blowing and relates to CISV one way or another

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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