Since early 2020 disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have added significant strain to a host of human development challenges across the globe. These have been most acute in countries where states lack adequate capacity to deal with this public health emergency and to cushion citizens from the associated economic impact. We have also witnessed a massive loss of life in many parts of the developed world where ideological muddling, misinformation and disinformation have rendered impotent the state’s capacity to contain the pandemic.
In this context, challenges emerging from COVID-19 have nevertheless attracted numerous innovative solutions from the volunteering community at all levels (local, subnational, national, regional and global). These innovations require careful analysis and documentation as important lessons can be learned from them; however, the innovations must also be considered in the context of broader structural challenges and new dilemmas for volunteer involving organizations (VIOs).
Despite the vast experience that VIOs have gained in the face of natural disasters, incidents of mass violence, and infectious disease outbreaks over many years, COVID-19 has exposed these organizations to a new and frightening set of realities on a global scale not previously experienced. How well volunteer effort intervenes and responds to this pandemic is dependent on a number of factors such as strategic leadership capacity, organizational and sectoral capacity, and resourcing and relationships. In this context, national volunteering leadership organizations (VLOs) are an increasingly important asset in supporting and developing the global volunteer movement to meet current and future challenges. This new reality has raised several volunteer development and managerial questions about VLO interventions in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research study was commissioned by IAVE to create a body of knowledge about the experience of national volunteering leadership organizations in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The research report examines how COVID-19 has impacted on the strategic leadership role of national volunteering leadership organizations (VLOs) in advocacy, development and volunteer mobilization. It also considers what this means for VLOs and the future of volunteering.
The data was collected from VLO members and potential members of IAVE’s Global Network for Volunteering Leadership (GNVL) using a mixed methods approach which produced quantitative data from 70 respondents across 67 countries to an online survey sent to 125 organizations, and qualitative data from 31 in-depth interviews conducted online. Survey respondents and key informants were spread across the six regions in which IAVE operates: Africa, the Arab region, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America and the Caribbean. The data was collected between February and April 2021.
The evidence shows that across the globe the pandemic increased the complexity of the volunteering environment, on this basis the research team examined the implications for strategic leadership in VLOs that are navigating an unpredictable future.
Leadership for Volunteering: The COVID-19 Experience
By Jacob Mwathi Mati, Cliff Allum and Helene Perold with Benjamin J Lough and Rebecca Tiessen