Site Visit

Mr. Anand's site visit reflections

My experience with volunteering is limited. For the longest time, I was rigid in the way I viewed what was possible. As a result, most times, I walked away without a sense of belonging to the organization, or a sense of satisfaction that I did something useful to someone.

But that changed during my sabbatical. A brief conversation with Ramya led me to an NGO in India in May 2019. Over the last 7 months, I have been able to deliver a variety of initiatives that is closely linked to the strategic objectives of the NGO. Most of it happened with me remotely sitting in Singapore. I don’t think this is beginners luck. There was something about how I offered myself into a cause for the first time, and how easy things turn out to be when that happens.

Here are some reflections from my own experience, on what I believe helped me get to the front and center of some of the action with the NGO.

1. Visit the place: No amount of reading and speaking can replace the effect of visiting the NGO, and absorbing their everyday life. However far the place may be, make sure you take the time to spend a few days with them, on their premises.

2. Be a super likable person: It’s fundamental to human nature. Chemistry with people goes a long way in open doors of possibility. Inspiration flows both ways, there is as much for you to absorb from them, as there is for them to find inspiration in you. Open up, share your life, your interests, and listen to theirs. Turns out, humor does wonders in breaking barriers and pulling people into a circle of friendship.

3. Understand their building blocks: There will always be a range of things to get done within the next couple of years from when you meet them first. I found that understanding the dimensions of their organizational vision in the near term provided a broad and encouraging canvas to think of ways I could be helpful.

4. Open up your network: Once you are spoilt for choice - in terms of things that you could potentially influence, spend some quiet time thinking through your personal network of friends and colleagues who carry the skills needed to help them. I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it is to feel a lot more empowered to contribute, by broadening my horizon.

5. Lobby, govern and communicate: When 1 to 4 above is clear, the most important role to play is to influence execution. This requires conviction and commitment. Always remember, the shortlist of ideas that you walked away with carries dependency on people who do not know the NGO first hand. It is vital to spend time with them building their interest and gaining their commitment. You will have to play a deliberate role in keeping the group together through conference calls, project manage the delivery of committed tasks, and resolve hurdles experienced en route.

6. Be flexible and disciplined: The entire effort is fragile, as nobody in it carries any real obligation to each other. It’s driven by conscience. I found that a very vital trait that helps maintain trust is demonstrating flexibility. Always be a YES man when it comes to being available for a quick conversation, or to bring a group together for a discussion. Hold people accountable. Until something is done, it remains a cute idea.

Hope you found my experience to be useful to craft your own