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VSO VSO’s Diaspora Volunteering Initiative

Brian Rockliffe, Director of International Volunteering, VSO

Who/What is Diaspora?
• Self definition – people who see themselves as part of a Diaspora - not synonymous with BME • De-territoriality – must have current or distant origins in a country other than the ier country of residence • Homogeneity – relating to a group/organisation, not individuals. Not synonymous with ethnicity e.g. can have Asian Diaspora from East Africa. • Hybridity – emotional, family or financial links with country of origin

Context – Diaspora in UK
• Alienated from both government and mainstream NGOs (seen as pursuing their own agendas and not inclusive of Diaspora voices) • Particular alienation in context of UK as former colonial power – and strong sense that Diaspora communities have distinctive understanding and contribution to make • Diaspora communities often generous in financial support to countries of heritage – both through remittances and through small local charities • Intra Diaspora conflict over scarce resources

Why invest in Diaspora volunteering?
• Diaspora people and communities also motivated to fight poverty through volunteering • Motivated to mobilise skills for international development • Also wish to build real connections for young people with their heritage • VSO wish to increase the overall impact of volunteering and make it more inclusive

VSO’s Approach in UK
• Work in creative partnerships with Diaspora organisations to build capacity to run their own volunteering programmes • Technical support and training in volunteer management skills • Limited direct financial support (£1/4m) but programme funding support and lobbying government for funding • Facilitates learning and collaboration between Diaspora organisations

Criteria for Work
• Diaspora organisations (not individuals) • Volunteer Focus – challenges of interpretation • Poverty focus and Synergy with VSO Goals • Driven by UK Diaspora but based on needs overseas • Operates in countries where VSO can provide support • Can be groups of skilled people or separate placements

Diaspora Case Study - AFFORD
AFFORD supports Entrepreneurs and Enterprise Development in Africa with a focus on job creation as a route out of poverty Programme: • Volunteers provide business training and mentoring services • Business development centres • Targets disadvantaged communities • increase access to financial services • Diaspora investment club planned

Different Approach in Canada
• Very different context - large Guyanese community in Toronto happy to work in support of VSO’s own programme in Guyana • Pilot project matches the skills and experience in the Diaspora to the under-resourced social development sector in Guyana • Includes both government and civil society organizations (CSOs) working on social development objectives related to improving public education, and strengthening health and human rights support for people with disabilities

UK – Progress to Date
• Initial research with Diaspora community to shape VSO’s engagement - > 50 organisations interested in participation • Five organisations short listed for initial phase, over 100 Diaspora volunteers have completed placements (in Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and India) since 2005 • Now working with 9 additional organisations to research or pilot programmes including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda • Awareness raising events in UK communities

UK - Challenges
• Negotiating Diaspora sensitivities around working with large development organisations (fear VSO will ‘take over’) • Tensions between DVI programmes and VSO country programmes where both are working in same sector and sometimes with same partners • Funding - though there is now DfID commitment to funding • Encouraging partnership working between Diaspora organisations