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Last week in a meeting with coalition partners and leaders of the opposition on current status of the reconstruction work, PM Oli proposed to mobilize political parties’ cadres to speed up the reconstruction work.

If we count on the number of volunteers, from the 3 major political parties, UML, Maoist ( Unified) and Congress) and here I do refer to citizens who have formal affiliation with their party but are not engaged in party politics full time, we can easily have at least twenty thousand persons, quite a figure if you think a little about it.

What such massive number can do? Well a lot of things but it will also depend on how these volunteers will be mobilized and how their actions will be coordinated with the government agencies at local level, and with the INGO and the NGOs already working in the affected areas.

I am wondering if there is already a detailed plan in place on how to effectively use the power of these thousands of committed citizens for the reconstruction as proposed by the Prime Minister.

Hard to say, after all volunteers’ mobilization could just be an idea born without much thinking and planning, a sort of catchy slogan to attract some attentions.

Moreover it is not that difficult to think of volunteers as a cheap and relatively easy way to manage human resources.

But those who work with volunteers know well how wrong these common perceptions are

Mobilizing thousands of volunteers in a cost effective and impact oriented way can instead require a lot of efforts in planning and coordination. Too often there is a wrong understanding on meanings and implications of using volunteers in the development sector. This is way the proposal from the PM can be an excellent one if it is executed after proper homework.

The state must be at the center of it, ensuring that any actions of the political parties’ volunteers are going to be based on a shared national plan.

The National Reconstruction Authorities is obviously the best agency to play this role. To facilitate the work of the parties ‘volunteers but also the involvement of any other volunteers, a good idea would see the establishment of a Volunteer Management Department within the Authority.

The Department would be in charge of coordinating the work of any agencies or organizations, including political parties using volunteers for the reconstruction.

I know that idea might raise quite a few eyebrows from the development practitioners as there might be the fear that a further level of oversight, even if in this case, only related to volunteers, could slow down the pace of the reconstruction and put a brake to the ongoing efforts.

One way to offset this risk is that the Department will not issue any forms of authorization or permission but will only work as one stop center to facilitate the mobilization of volunteers, encouraging the organizations involving them to reach out the most needed areas.

In addition the work of the Department could be focused only to those organizations mobilizing at least fifty volunteers in their reconstruction works.

In short here I am referring not to a regulator or a compliance focused agency but rather a facilitator that can coordinate and connect the volunteers to where there are the biggest needs, a focal point that can offer guidance on how best harness the potential of volunteering action.

The National Development Volunteering Program, NDVS that already mobilizes thousands of volunteers around the country, should also have a special agreement with the National Reconstruction Authority in issues related to volunteers. NDVS could offer expertise or even human resources to the Volunteering Unit to be set up within the Authority.

While it is a great thing to have the major political parties on the same page for a greater cause ( and there is actually nothing greater than the national reconstruction), we need to ensure that any involvement of cadres affiliated to political parties is done in a very transparent way rather than according partisan logics.

For this reason it would be very important that each volunteer mobilized would sign up a kind of ethical code of conduct that will spell aside any doubts.

Considering that the parties already mobilized their persons in the immediate aftermath of the quakes, I am sure that there will be no problem this time around if the proposal of PM Oli will be have a throughout  follow up.




Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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