Over the years ABV has sought to recruit and mentor an engaged community of volunteers with core business skills. ABV now boasts a registry of several hundred experienced volunteers, the majority being business people and corporate professionals. With the international development community’s increased focus on small business and the private sector, ABV considers this volunteer registry to be our distinguishing asset, and a key strength.

ABV’s strategy has not just been to place business experts on assignments, but to build up a community of business volunteers with extensive international volunteering experience. Reflecting this strategy over the last several years more than 70% of our assignments have been carried out by volunteers who have previously undertaken an assignment with ABV. Even among those who have not yet volunteered with us, the majority of our registered volunteers have previously worked or volunteered in the Asia-Pacific region.

Reflecting our thorough selection process around 80% of host organisations have rated the volunteers they hosted as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’, with less than 1% rating the volunteer they hosted as ‘poor’. Additionally, each year 95-100% of host organisations have said that they would be interested in hosting ABV volunteers again and would recommend ABV to other organisations.

ABV’s volunteers are impactful because they have the expertise to get the job done and because they are flexible in their approaches to capacity building. An ABV volunteer survey has found that a typical assignment will involve elements of advice, training and mentoring. There is also value in the fact that they are volunteering. . Recent international research has found that volunteering facilitates ‘people-centred development’ and local agency in development, because it is reliant upon the relationships formed between volunteers and those they are working alongside.

ABV ourselves have found that relationships are an added value of international volunteering. After the completion of assignments more than 60% of our volunteers stay in contact with their host organisation in relation to their assignment outcomes. ABV has also found that volunteers are often seen by local communities as offering trustworthy relationships, because they are acting out of altruism.

Because of the rise of low-skilled ‘voluntourism’ there has been some negative commentary around international volunteering, but it is notable that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognises volunteer groups as stakeholders to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteerism is described by the United Nations as being, by its very nature, ‘an important vehicle for sustainable development’. In the intergovernmental organisation’s words ‘volunteerism strengthens civic engagement, safeguards social inclusion, deepens solidarity and solidifies ownership of development results.’

Moving forward ABV will be leveraging the almost unique resource that is our registry of volunteer business experts, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ emphasis on volunteering, to build our partnerships, grow our programs, and deepen our impact.

Photo: Gill Hinsbey (R) with weavers during her AVID business development assignment with Lotus Silk in Cambodia.

Australian Business Volunteers