|Date: 2024-02-24 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00011522
SEEKING FEEDBACK: How much is your time worth? ... July 2016
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY
Gmail Peter Burgess
[CrisisMappers] SEEKING FEEDBACK: How much is your time worth?
My name is Samantha Levinson. I am currently working in collaboration with UN-OCHA and the Digital Humanitarian Network, looking to understand how we can calculate the market value of the work contributed by Volunteers & Technical Communities (V&TCs).
I am aware that this topic is controversial; the idea of calculating the worth of volunteer communities poses multiple issues, including the risk of getting the calculations wrong, or the difficulty in measuring the impact of these technical contributions, just to name two.
My current tact for calculating the value of the work done by V&TC’s is to identify how much these services would be worth in other markets. For microtasking organizations, this means identifying analogous public sector data (as such found on Mechanical Turk). For organizations that focus on volunteers with specific skills, I am looking for various sources of information on how much per hour these volunteers would earn if they were undertaking the same work in a ‘for pay’ position.
For this reason, I need your help. I would appreciate any information you might have on the volunteer services you provide, what organization(s) you volunteer with, and, if you do the same work in a fee-for-service capacity or for a paying organization, what are the industry standards for those specific tasks. In addition to information about your specific activities, I would appreciate any feedback you might have about the idea in general.
I’ve attached a link to a Google Form here to help curate feedback:http://goo.gl/forms/HP91csjffVPrRGkM2.
Please feel free to respond with questions/comments via this thread as well. For confidential questions or comments, I’m also available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) undertook a study on this topic. You can find it at http://www.ifrc.org/Global/Publications/volunteers/IFRC-Value%20of%20Volunteers%20Report-EN-LR.pdf.
I hope this helps.
Kind regards, Catherine Kane
No doubt volunteers play a highly valued role in crisis response and in filling in many gaps of daily care, support and assistance. However, I think its hard to truly calculate the 'value of volunteers' because they come in many sizes and shapes from differing organizations. I saw Catherines' very well done paper sent to you in response. Let me try to offer some balancing concerns from disaster response experience. There are factors (I have listed a few below), which actually adversely impacts the overall 'value of volunteers'. It strikes me these should be part of your research. My point is there are organizations where the value of volunteerism is high and there are other organizations where that is not the case. Because of the unevenness of organizations, it is difficult to have a one size fits all perspective. At some point beyond the positives, efforts need to be made to identify highly effective organizations from ones that are not effective, are poorly motivated, or cause far more harm than good.
Some of the mitigating factors which adversely impact the value of volunteers are :
I would be remiss then not to offer some short tips for creating high value volunteerism:
Just random thoughts
Carl- Excellent perspective and points!
Samantha- This article is broader than your initial focus on market value, but I expect that you will find the wider context quite relevant:
Eystad, M. (1997). Measuring the difference volunteers make: A guide to outcome evaluation for volunteer program managers. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Human Services. http://www.serviceleader.org/sites/default/files/file/measuring-the-difference-2005.pdf
Many thanks. Your link to measuring the difference is absolutely on point. What I suspect is true is that most volunteers want to make a difference. They want to have value. They want to go home and feel they have contributed in a meaningful way to alleviating suffering, improving conditions, or advancing opportunities for those who they have been called to serve.
Against that backdrop of a genuine desire to serve and make a difference you have the realistic experience on the ground. That experience may see volunteers as having far less value and in fact being disruptive or even harmful to recovery. I mentioned Dr. Tiffany Keenan. Here is a blog about her during the earlier days in Haiti post earthquake http://haitivillagehealth.blogspot.com/2010/03/another-write-up-tiffany-calls-it-like.html. I spoke with Tiffany frequently during those times and understood her frustration. I also knew two of the doctors in Haiti working long hours, with no supplies, performing those amputations that she rails against. They were skilled surgeons, who genuinely believed they were doing the right thing. They donated their time, their supplies and worked without expecting anything in return. They did what they thought was right at the time under the circumstances. At the moment of their work they would have been identified as high value volunteers. Unfortunately time has diminished those accomplishments. They were seen as procedure happy surgeons, with woeful post amputation surgical site infections. Leaving behind a legacy of disabled Haitians where there are few (or no) rehab programs or job opportunities. Their medical judgment was questioned including by local physicians (who were in scant supply) who suggested many of the surgeries were unnecessary. When the Japanese tsunami occurred Japan passed a law barring American doctors from volunteering. There was even an editorial cartoon of American surgeons with axes and saws rushing towards Japan to prey on the injured.
Hence the value of volunteers in disasters, is more than just believing you are doing the right thing. It is doing the right things correctly in concert with others whose local knowledge, practices, customs and requirements amplify your effectiveness. By doing the right things correctly your outcomes can indeed be measured not just by the organizations plan but hopefully by asking the very people you are assisting and others in the community as sort of disaster based CAHPS approach.
During Haiti my greatest moment of frustration came from an American doctor who had convinced his hospital to donate a very expensive and large piece of surgical equipment for an operating room. The Air Force obliged by transporting it on a flight that instead should have contained medicines and food. Once in Haiti the doctor realized there were no biomedical engineers, no a/c, little to no power and no one on the ground that knew how to use the equipment. I suspect it is now an artificial reef somewhere.
Tiffany turned her frustrations into action. She descended on the Jacmel airport and became the emergency medical incident commander. She organized where volunteers were needed and routed them accordingly. Most mission medical groups landed without a plan or with a plan that all had them going to areas already awash in volunteers. Tiffanys approach increased the value of these volunteers by putting them around Haiti where the need was greatest.
I know I have now gotten Samantha way way off track for which I apologize but value = worth and perhaps that is the right one question - at the moment in time what was the volunteer worth to those they served.
all my best carl
Thanks for the reference!
Thank you for your reference! It was an interesting study to read.
Thank you for taking the time to post such a thorough reply! I would be interested to know how you conceptualize some of these challenges/negative side effects of volunteers transferring to digital volunteers (those who don't - at least as obviously - participate for on-the-ground personal benefits as you described).
I also find your suggestions for creating better volunteers very useful; the idea of measurement speaks really to my academic training and in fact is one of the reasons spurring this project - metrics help us track success and make strategic decisions.
Thank you for the reference, it has helped me better contextualize my work.
As regards to the value of volunteers, it was a network of volunteers in the Haiti Epidemic Advisory System (HEAS) who provided tip information regarding the United Nations Mirebalais base and its recent deployment of Nepalese troops. This then prompted media attention placed on that base and hence insurance that the UN would be held accountable for the accidental introduction of cholera to Haiti. To this day, the UN continues to deny its involvement despite genomic sequencing proving the origin of the pathogen.
Controversial, yet an important aspect of humanitarian aid: do no harm.
James M Wilson V, MD FAAP
I actually like the concept of digital volunteers and think perhaps their role has been underestimated (assuming you can organize a community and channel activity).
I tend to think we would be better at disasters if the structures we used looked like a mash up of Google, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram, and if anyone knows how to do that let me know- I have a team in Nairobi that would love to chat.
Some quick thoughts:
Disasters tend to take the region from digital to analog in a heartbeat for varying lengths of time.
Yet citizens, responders, physical volunteers and leaders still need to accomplish a series of tasks generally falling into two buckets- situational awareness (knowing what is going on) and surge capacity (dealing with displaced populations of the well, not so well and deceased).
Virtual volunteers can provide two things- knowledge and stuff. Knowledge drives situational awareness. Stuff promotes effective surge capacity management.
However for those on the ground now in analog mode the idea of using google to find information does not work. But someone sitting in a Boston apartment for instance in fact can connect, harness data, share responses.
So those on the ground with txt resources may find it easier to communicate outside of the impacted area than in it. Those outside the area may be able to find knowledge or in a perfect world get vendors to participate in real time bidding to deliver stuff that is actually needed rather than clogging up space on planes with things that are not.
There is a lot missing in my perfect world. The biggest is trust. NGOs, govt, military, .org and .com entities do not natively trust each other (in my opinion). The second is some kind of structure which reduces the noise of lurkers, promotes effective digital response and connects digital responders to physical responders to close the loop. Southern Command/ Pac Com made a good effort in Haiti using something called APAN. But because APAN had the dna of a .mil resource I am not sure it was as successful as it could have been.
In order to build trust and structure and capability to be counted on for real solutions when 'it' happens, the relationships are best built in advance of an event. Not that they cant be created during an event, but disasters always promote way too much confusion and stuff that does not work, which impedes my ability to know if I really need a generator in Port Au Prince-can I count on Samantha to deliver it.
Finally in a talk I gave this week for the VA on Zika I said one of the other problems we have is the fact that in the US and internationally many public health agencies are themselves still stuck in an analog world using plans created during the Civil Defense days when we were concerned about putting heads under our desks when we were nuked. The digital natives (I am not one as you have guessed but at least I try) are not yet in a position of power to move the needle on how we use virtual response and digital resources. No one has stepped forward to Uberize disasters. But there ought to be room for a dialog in that direction (I think)
all my best carl
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