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Why Volunteerism? A perspective...Nadine Makarem

Why Volunteerism? A perspective...

by Nadine Makarem


Over the past few years, there have been an extensive number of papers written about what it is that millennials want: their behaviour patterns, aspirations, drivers, etc. are all scrutinized for the sake of understanding “what makes the tick.” This fascination with millennials is for good reason; according to one study, they represent a TRILLION-dollar demographic (Accenture) in the US alone. Globally, they account for 27% of the population - that’s roughly two billion people.


This “Generation Y” has clearly been recognized as a breakaway generation, bringing forth the biggest revolution since the dawn of time, namely, the tech revolution. Much like any change, one can either adopt it and ride the wave, or fight it and get left behind to collect the dust.  


Most industries have adapted well enough to the growing movement. However, the humanitarian sector in specific seems to be lagging behind. While several NGs and civil society organizations have taken to Social Media and built an influential online presence. However, this is only scratching the surface. What we need is a way in which to revolutionize the sector, to give it a boost of equal magnitude to the changes taking place all around.


The below graph highlights the progression of funding needs within the humanitarian sector. 


If this were any other corporate board meeting discussion stating that “we only met 59% of our target,” heads would roll and an emergency meeting would held immediately to look into the root cause of this problem and provide the ultimate solution.


The below graph shows the number of people targeted by the required funding.  


In 2016, the number of people targeted was 96.6 million people.


Considering both numbers, the result is a requirement of $135 per person per year – amounting to $0.37 per day. Call me crazy, but something about this SCREAMS inefficiency. Instead of mobilizing innovative measures, a plethora of checks and balances, and justification reports have been presented to justify this imbalance.


However, these checks and balances will not have any significant or long-lasting impact, as it becomes part of a vicious, never-ending cycle. What we need is to DISRUPT the industry by turning it over its head.


The key here is redefining the Business Model; starting at the beginning, the question “who is my customer?” needs to be raised. The answer, as it turns out, is NOT “the people who need help,” but rather the volunteers that can help them.


Why the volunteer, you say?


Since 2013, a substantial move across industries whereby the “Customer Centric” culture is making way for the “Employee Centric” culture has taken place, under the premise that “if you take care of your employees, they will in turn take care of your customers.”


It is with that same logic that focus needs to shift from the beneficiary to the volunteer, who will, in turn, deliver a part of the required service to the people in need. This is not suggesting a complete alteration of the nature of services provided, but the logistics need to be improved to make actions more efficient and effective.


How can we change these logistics?


If you agree that the new “customer” is the volunteer then the ensuing justification will not surprise you.  


Much like customers of other industries, “the Volunteers” are millennials who require a new and improved system designed specifically for them.


Moreover, the industry as a whole will be far more efficient if and when it becomes more local.  Most NGOs focus mainly on recruiting local employment-seekers, but there is very little effort being made to attract LOCAL volunteers. In a country like Lebanon, where the need for human resources and the availability of students, activists, unemployed professionals, and just altruistic citizens is affluent, it is surprising that we have still not been able to link the two.


The map below highlights the size of the crisis in the region as a whole.     

Clearly the area in dire need of support is the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. But there is a huge problem getting the local communities to show up and really do work to help with the relief efforts. The more we mobilize volunteers, the more we can achieve in less time.

To recall what an old boss used to say: “there are no people problems, only process problems.”

So, let’s work towards a new era of encouraging community balance to fix the process and make everyone part of the Volunteer Circle!


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