I have been back in the UK for 3 weeks now. My daughter is in hospital, getting the treatment she needs, and so I have time before my sabbatical ends to continue with my volunteer experience.
I wrote an ‘initial impressions’ report with 5 recommendations for CONGOMA which I hope will be useful to them and will be a foundation for another volunteer to build on in completing their institutional assessment. So far, I have not had any feedback from them – I hope the silence doesn’t indicate disappointment or displeasure with the contents.
I have also written a brief report for VSO UK on my experience as a volunteer – the benefits I gained from it and the contribution I think other senior managers could make to international development through a sabbatical. There are also gains for the manager’s employers in releasing them for a period of time to learn new skills, get a different perspective on their own organisation and experience volunteering first hand. As I have often said – volunteering is a win/win for everyone.
So, after the two reports were done, I thought “what am I going to do now?” Action on Hearing Loss trustees were happy for me to continue with my sabbatical and I didn’t want to just fritter the time away (which would be easy to do!) as that would help no-one.
Yesterday I had a meeting with the Head of Volunteering at VSO UK and with two people from their external affairs team. In my view VSO has been a model of how to treat a volunteer – they were supportive when I had to return to the UK in a hurry, they have never made me feel guilty about letting them down, and now they have enthusiastically welcomed my offer of time in the UK. They have found me a project which fits in with my skills and experience and which needs to be done to help them achieve a larger aim. They asked me if I wanted to do the work in their office or I would prefer the flexibility of working from home – I have chosen the latter.
What I have been asked to produce is a baseline survey of the state of women’s participation and leadership in the UK, with a particular focus on which policies and practices have been successful at increasing it and which have not. Later this year VSO International are launching a global campaign on women’s participation and this survey will help to inform that campaign.
The specific areas which I am collecting data on are those which are referred to within UN treaties where participation in decision making is defined in relation to “political and public life”.
‘The exercise of political power, in particular the exercise of legislative, judicial, executive and administrative powers. The term covers all aspects of public administration and the formulation and implementation of policy at the international, national, regional and local levels. The concept also includes many aspects of civil society, including public boards and local councils and the activities of organisations such as political parties, trade unions, professional or industry associations, women’s organisations, community based organisations and other organisations concerned with public and political life.’
Any blog readers can send me information or thoughts on good source documents or people for data on any of the areas listed above I would be very grateful. In the meantime I have started the literature review and sent a number of emails to my wonderful network of friends and colleagues who are experts in this area.