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“Corporate Volunteering is crucial to ambitious plan to fight poverty” says VSO at Knowledge Exchange launch in London

In London last night leading figures from the worlds of business and international development gathered to launch VSO Knowledge Exchange.  Seed funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and run by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), VSO Knowledge Exchange offers skilled employees in the private sector a way to volunteer to help change the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest places. 

Knowledge Exchange launch event

London, 2/7/15: In London last night leading figures from the worlds of business and international development gathered to launch VSO Knowledge Exchange

Seed funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and run by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), VSO Knowledge Exchange offers skilled employees in the private sector a way to volunteer to help change the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest places. 

Speaking on a panel at the launch in the Institute of Directors in London last night, key stakeholders focused on the need for greater collaboration between public, private and civil society sectors to deliver on the ambitious new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), tabled for signature at the UN in September. 

Matt Foster, Director of Strategy sand Programme Effectiveness, VSO“We need a much more ambitious plan now to fight poverty.  It won’t happen through simply investing more money in aid or even economic growth.  We need to work together differently to achieve our collective goals.”

Celia Moore, Director Corporate Citizenship, IBM;  “Economic development is about learning to do business, and IBM is in the business of doing business. We are aware that we have the capacity to play an effective role both in terms of our technology and people”

Mary Woodgate, Global Programmes Senior Manager, Accenture Development Partnerships lauded the initiative and stressed the importance of changing mindsets in the business sector, quoting an African saying: “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”.   “We need more enlightened self-interest because the business sector can’t survive in a failing world,” she added.

Jonathan Mitchell, Director of International Programmes, Plan International stressed that it’s the “Exchange” part of this initiative that matters most and how we all need to move away from a traditional silo- approach to working in the developing world. “It’s the two way aspect that is so relevant in an increasingly convergent world.” he noted.

Juan Gonzalez-Valero Head of Public Policy and Sustainability, Syngenta which has just completed a round of corporate volunteering with VSO in Bangladesh said: “Syngenta is in agriculture and agriculture is in the developing world but we don’t just want to send volunteers, we want to set up something that is the real co-creation on the ground. We had a dialogue with VSO about it and agreed to work with Bangladeshi farmers on access issues like market, credit, and health systems access.  To do it right we needed a knowledge exchange, to actually get all the people together, and that's how we got involved and that's what we are doing at the moment.”

Chris Walker, Director of the VSO Knowledge Exchange said: “The summer is often a time when the seeds of discontent are sown by people on holidays dreaming of changing their lives in some way.   Knowledge exchange could be part of solving this in a profound way by offering employers a chance to do something meaningful in emerging markets, whilst also helping their employees to develop professionally. Crucially, it will also drive initiatives in the countries where volunteers are placed that will create jobs, raise incomes and generate sustainable growth. ” he added.

VSO Knowledge Exchange has been seed funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and is run by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The first volunteers will be heading to Tanzania, India, Ghana and Bangladesh in 2015. The placements will typically range from two weeks to three months and will be open to experienced corporate professionals.

For further information or to book an interview contact Ciara O’Sullivan, VSO Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)7753 10 34 60  E-mail: ciara.osullivan@vsoint.org   Visit VSO knowledge exchange

Editor's notes

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all. http://www.vsointernational.org/

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