Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of Youth-In-Action and Erasmus-For-All


I was reading about Erasmus for All 2014-2020 that will ultimately replace Youth in Action, which ends 2013. Generally the youth-network/NGO prefer YiA to be separated from it, citing the danger of losing focus on youth and non-formal learning, or event to extent of reaching out to the less privilege/fewer opportunity.

While I am interested to know if that statement is true i.e. less funding for youth/non-formal/workcamp organisation, as some organisation, for instance in Spain, sent distress call on operation budget cut. I wonder if these could be related chain of events.


Well i can give you an update of the discussion going on, but nothing is decided yet and there are serious discussions (see: disagreement) concerning the budget at the moment on the council level, so it is all very much not definitive!

Concerning the merging into the education programme (life long learning), there actually is the risk that small NGOs and youth workers will be less taken into consideration and will most probably have to work with big (coordinating) organisations if they still want to receive grants. Which could nevertheless be good for the quality of projects as they would be supported by bigger and experienced institutions.

But it does not mean that they won't have any access to the money, they rather will have to change their approach concerning applying for funding.

The new proposal has actually a lot more money for projects and mobility in comparison to what we have now, and the aim is to facilitate the procedure and have less sub-actions so that the whole programme is more transparent and less complicated (that is just the aim anyway, which does not mean that the commission has the right solutions to solve the current issues).

In the case of (distress call from) Spain, their problem are much more linked to the national situation and the local concurrence. Their The situation of the Spanish national agency is also mostly independent from the general European context, and there are very big differences between the national agencies in each country. Hence this new structure should not have huge consequences on their funding, as long as they adapt to the new funding rules, which they have already done before. Moreover, if they wants to receive funding, they can also apply to the executive agency in Bruxelles or in the country of a partner organisation, depending on the project.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Global IVS - Beyond current silo and potential

At least in my limited experience, the International Voluntary Service movement is not much "wider" than the current big-12 ( And, even if it gets "wider", real substance and progress hardly follow suits without having a "deeper" relationship.

With this in mind, I have recently decided to offer myself again to support the external representation team of a global IVS organisation. You can find the full text of my letter below, hoping to find resonance among the leaders of the organisation.

Here we go:

I would like to start this email with an apology for not replying your email earlier. Referring to the above, I am presenting myself as a candidate for the external representation group for your consideration.

2. As the immediate past International Executive as well as External Representation (EXREP) member, I have my own vision on how the organisation's external representation should be done. For one, I strongly believe that we have failed, at great cost, to “deepen” both cooperation and communication of our current/exiting network like CCIVS etc. and in particular, NVDA. Secondly, EXREP team can be even more coherent, that they able to take up even more responsibilities.

3. I have since start thinking what my focus should be, and most importantly how that will in turn, benefit our movement as a whole. Having recently elected again (not always a good sign for organizational growth) as committee member for local branc, I believe the answer lies at the international level as much as it is at domestic/local level – “the health of branches” mentioned by long-serving Irish activist (Ireland Annual Meeting 2009) still rings a bell.

4. Hence, I would like to offer myself again – to challenge myself – to offer a fresh new look on how we can move forward stronger. In concrete terms that would mean contribution in 3 areas:

a. External representation opportunities at local/domestic level i.e. networking with other like-minded organization or organization that needs international voluntary service that we might have overlooked before. It means we help (working together/sharing information) other branches to strategize as well.
b. Built up the EXREP structure and processes that will enable us to serve the movement better, in turn strengthen SCI global positioning. This means some SOP (Standard Operation Procedures) and clear role definition for each EXREP team member.
c. Contribute my ideas and body (attending) to external representation issues, challenges and solutions that I have much interest till now. This means, be even more responsive to your emails!

Finally I must stressed that I do not want to lose this connection - it was pure fun and inspirational to see what you guys did day in and day out, keep pouring energy that seems bottomless.

With this, I hope I have given enough explanation on my motivation and direction that I wish to continue my contribution to the growth of EXREP and our movement in particular.

Best wishes,

Low KC
Kuala Lumpur, April 03rd 2012

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On the terminology 'Work Camp'

The first workcamp in 1920 neither the term "work camp" not "workcamp" was used. The term 'Service' dominated in the documents of that time for philosophical and religious reasons. It was used as follows:
* Practical Service - title of working paper at Bilthoven conference, July 1921
* Groupe de Service International - used in head of letters and reports from Esnes Nov.1920-Apr.1921

SCI archives catalogue recorded the term "Work Camp" from 1945 on:
(1) Publication: "Willy Begert : Organizing International Voluntary Work Camps - A handbook. Paris : UNESCO (1950?)"
(2) Name of a Organisation: "Liaison Office of International Work Camp Organisation (LOIWCO) 1947-1949"
(3) Name of a Organisation: "Association of International Work Camps for Peace (AIWCP) 1949-1958"

In a 100 page strong book written by the first international secretary of SCI, Willy Bergert, which includes a bibliography that mentioned a publication from 1933: "Epting K. & Datha R.: Work Camp and Volunteer Work Services in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Wales. Geneva : International Student Services (1933)"

According the catalogue the term "Workcamp" was used since the 1970s. It was found for the first time in a German SCI publications, at the time it seems that the term is linked to new volunteer placement system, which was introduced then.

Source: Philipp Rodriguez from SCI International Archives (June, 2011)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Global IVS Movement - excerpt of lil. review

The global IVS movement is best presented in NVDA biannual report (Figure 1) where 12 voluntary networks are mentioned. They are:

1. Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations (ALLIANCE)
2. Co-ordinating Committee for International (CCIVS)
3. Eastern African Workcamps Association (EAWA)
4. International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE)
5. Latin American Alliance of voluntary service organizations (LAA)
6. Network for Voluntary Development in Asia (NVDA)
7. Service Civil International (SCI)
8. South African Workcamps Cooperation (SAWC)
9. South East European Youth Network (SEEYN)
10. (Network in the north Africa) (UMAV)
11. West African Voluntary Action Network (WAVAN)
12. Youth Action for Peace (YAP)

As showed in Figure 1, the interaction and connection between one IVS network to another is comprehensive, and the dynamic of their relationship can be very complicated. Although most NGOs will be member of only one particular IVS network, it is not uncommon for that NGO to be a member organization for more than one IVS networks simultaneously. For instance, International Volunteer for Peace (IVP) of Australia is a member of two IVP networks (both SCI and NVDA), while New International Friendship Club (NIFC) of Nepal is a member YAP and NVDA.

The complexity of intra-IVS networks interaction is even greater when taken into account of the fact that most networks shares one or more similar partner organization. Take NIFC-Nepal example again; NIFC member organization of YAP and NVDA, and at the same time partner organization of ALLIANCE. The means NIFC can exchange volunteers with all three IVS networks (YAP, NVDA and ALLIANCE), although they do not have voting power within ALLIANCE which they are not a full member.

End note: Thank you so much - for those who responded to my questionnaire. I indeed finished my research and now still waiting for the results. We shall be in touch!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Part of 1.3 billion, part of the world

Each time I go to China, I go deeper - few hunder kilometer deeper at a time. I stay longer too - few days longer at a time. As if the 20 odd years of my grandparent's life is not enough - I went back again and again, as if the extend the "log-in" time or their presence in mainland China, their beloved nother land. Except I went in, each time, as an alien - and so it will remain.

Talking of which I have sent email questionnaire to 3 IVS organzations from China (Hong Kong included, but not Taiwan - well, I am not up to these kinda debate anyway). Most of us (me included!) might have heard about or came in touch with VYA-Taiwan and Voltra-Hong Kong - both organizations, in my opinion, are considered well managed and successful. For instance I have seens (well, videos CDs! Get one from Klaus!) how wonderfully VYA-Taiwan mobilised the local youth and mass media, transformed a junk yard/old house into a piece of art with the help of volunteers, at the same time motivates local residents. I am also amazed with how well Hong Kong's volunteer understand the development of Voltra, highly motivated as young as they (rather, he/she) are.

But my interest also lies in two other Chinese organzations. That is where we, really, start counting the part of the 1.3 billions population. Or part of China. Both Hainan and Yunan province are located in the extreme southern part of China, symbolically represents an entry point to IVS organzations in China. For me, it is even more meaningful - it was my grandparent's decision (or forced to, under circumstances) leave to Hainan province in those troubled years that lead to the creation me: the third-generation here in Malaysia. My long lost cousin-bro now study Vietnamese langugage in Yunan province - "It's good for me, since it is not too far from Haikou/my family," he said.

So in fact each time when I go to China, my connection with China grew deeper - few stories and beers at a time. I may not be the part of the 1.3 billions, but will be forever part of the world. China wouldn't care less if I am part of them - their one-child policy actually delayed the population growth to 1.3 billions for 4 years.

But each one of us in IVS counts - as how each outgoing email requesting us to accept a volunteer, or incoming email of sending one. Needless to say, your reply to my questionnaire counts too - and for this, I say thank you in advance!

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's Jasper, CIVS Nairobi!

If you still thinking who will be the FIRST to reply my questionnaire, well, don't.

It's Jasper of CIVS Nairobi - or CIVS Kenya. For some reason I like the word "Nairobi" very much - Kenya isn't all that bad but Nairobi is beautiful! Anyway, thank you so much, Jasper! You certainly give me the good start I wanted, and the motivation to work even harder - I wasn't expect first reply to be within hours!

But really, this is far from over - Jasper is the first of many that are still pending:

SCI branches/Groups - 43
Latin America - 15
Africa and Middle East - 39 (Jasper is in, so out at the list!)
NVDA and Asia Pasific - 23

Yes, I need to "good luck", Jasper! Particularly I haven't reach ALL the IVS organizations - there is still others in the CCIVS member's list that I have not heard before (EFIL, IBO, etc.), let alone understand them or know what they are doing. In addition there are many still to email: Central Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe...just too many of them. It's a tedious and hard work, but also a huge MOVEMENT- I can only imagine, until all the reply comes it....The thought of being able to email EACH one of you raise my morale, not at all making me feel tired! 

But still, I am only human. Here I must apologize to Katja and friends of KVT Findland, as I wrongly address her organization "IVP Australia" - what a blunder! It's "copy and paste" no doubt, or a least the main part of the text, but I try my best to personalize my email as much as possible. If there is 121 emails, it will require 121 clicks to send them all out, not just with one single click. Because I expect not less than 100 replies, that is.... :)

So, now I am going to email Jasper and tell him he is working too hard? :) But I guess I can understand that, it's a placement season, isn't it? I have never hold a position as placement officer but believe me, the general enquiry mails also increase substaintially during this period (I was the Office LTV in SCI-International Secretariat from 2008-2009), apart from different emails get clogged somewhere in SCI Mailing systems, volunteer/activist leaving/joinning the list etc.

In brief I wish eveyone out there have a good one!


Thursday, July 29, 2010

About this blogpage

This blogpage is dedicated to the research on international voluntary service organization (IVS) around the world. Your organization will be invited to take part in the research if they are being identified as (CCIVS membership criteria):

a.) An international voluntary service (IVS) which is a coordinating body consisting of national organizations, and/or,

b.) National or state-based youth or voluntary service organization involved in voluntary work and with established relations with other voluntary service organization in its country of registration with regional and/or international relationships.

This research will leads to a successful completion of International Masters in Regional Integration (IMRI), currently pursued by the me at Asia-Europe Institute (AEI).

It is hopeful that this research will contribute to the understanding of current trend in international voluntary service (IVS) movement, apart from the wonderful work done by volunteer and activist alike on the ground.

Now that the 'official' introduction is over, you might ask: What, really, motivates me to research on this topic?

Well, ever since I am involved in IVS movement, I sometimes get disappointed when many never heard about IVS (despite all the great effort/work, under challenging conditions), let alone trying to differentiate IVS from other NGO. But this is probably not their fault but the fault of our own making. We sometimes do not understand ourselves or agree on a unified definition of IVS. For instance, just when I think I know what IVS is all about, I found some CCIVS member organization (i.e. EFIL, IBO) that I have never heard about. Other example: I have also never came in contact with any ICYE activist/activity, or EAWA for that matter. This is probably my own ignorance, or there is no such necessity. But nonetheless, I wish to, through my research, get an overview of IVS organizations' health/profile, and hopefully connecting them to each other (for those who have not or long overdue).

Secondly and referring to CCIVS President report of 2006, I am also interested to know why IVS is mostly youth-based, while in fact most of us are not a youth organization. I follow the traces left by the money/fund and that leads me back to European Union's youth policy. Hence I am interested to know how their policy evolves and other non-European IVS organization get absorbed into it as well - a typical rolling-effect of this supranational body. In my opinion, it is important that we understand the origins of EU-IVS relationship before we can closely examine its impact or influences.

Of course, there are more questions awaiting to be answered - a goal which cannot be achieved by myself, or in one research. Hence your feedback and support is very much appreciated - in particular I will soon send the questionnaire to your respective organization.

In longer term, however, I hope we all will be always in touch - like a saying in SCI "once you get involved, you never really leave". This is more like the reason why I decided to create this blogpage - I didn't give much space for discussion in my questionnaire, nor all volunteers can be involved in the questionnaire (mostly organizational things). But we can certainly talk and communicate here.

I can be reached at kokchang.low [at]

More updates on the research will be available as when they are available to me.

Thank you so much for your time and your participation and solidarity will be much appreciated!