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How Possible Is International Exchange?

How Possible Is International Exchange?

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Mon, 11/20/2000
I think the discussion about the "American Model" is not very clear. It is assumed that the US has the largest non-profit sector in the world, but research has shown that the sector relatively speaking is stronger in the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Israel. And even if the percentage of volunteering in the population is higher in the US, the difference is not so big compared with some European countries. The real difference, I believe, is not in the scope of volunteering or the sector, but in the way the work is organised. It is not primarily volunteering that is different --that's a result -- it is the volunteer organisation that is different. In Europe we have a membership tradition, in the US a service delivery tradition. In the former everything starts with the members. They form an organisation, they decide what it should do and they do the job. In the latter an organisation starts with the task and then recruits volunteers to do the work. The first model is strong on democracy, the second on service delivery. If helping people is your major aim, the service delivery model is obviously much more efficient. From my European perspective, to combine the strength of the two into one organisation seems to be the best solution. But is that possible? The Importance of Being "Culturally Aware" Volunteering, unlike paid work, has to be in tune with local conditions and traditions. Because these differs between counties volunteering can, I believe, not be exported from one country to another. Volunteering concepts can however be imported and successfully be put into work by local "translators and adapters" (this seems to be what Elena De Palma is doing in Italy). I think the chain looks like this: be inspired, import, adapt, develop, change and maybe "export back."Rob Jackson is right: both parties learn from the exchange. An outsider’s eye can help you understand your own work.

Mon, 10/16/2000
As Convening Editor, I'll comment that the term "American Model" was used in a fairly broad and generic sense - however I guess it was used primarily to refer to the well developed American structure of formal Volunteer Program Management more than anything else.

Mon, 11/06/2000
Sorry for my late reply. Maybe I wasn't very clear. What happened here in Brazil, is that people wanted to help the others but they worked without any commitment. On the other hand, the entities didn't want to accept these volunteers because they used to go there once or twice and then disappeared. They wanted to perform volunteer work for their own sake. This was bad for both sides. For this reason we started using the expression "organized volunteerism". We started to orient the entities about volunteers recruitment, selection, orientation, evaluation,etc. We began to ask people to work at least four hours/week in the entity and respect its policies and procedures. I agree with you when you say that generations of informal volunteers maintained the spirit of volunteerism alive over the millenia.