Jaime Ulloa Vara is fostering social responsibility by helping people with an interest in volunteering connect with the organizations that need their services, and by fostering corporate volunteerism.
The New Idea
Jaime has developed the first and only massive effort in Peru to promote widespread citizen volunteerism. Jaime's organization, Asociación Civil Trabajo Voluntario Trabajo Voluntario (or Trabajo Voluntario) brings together nonprofit organizations looking for volunteers and individuals who wish to volunteer, matching supply with demand via the Internet. With just a few clicks, people in locations throughout Peru can find volunteer opportunities that mesh with their own social interests and with society's needs. This benefits nonprofit organizations because they can easily find volunteers to increase the human capital available for their projects without having to invest the time and resources necessary to identify and train them. In this sense, the increase in volunteerism is a direct injection of human capital into the Peruvian economy in the sectors that most need it. It also serves to build a strong sense of solidarity that is essential for the future of the country.
In Peru, there are many people who want to do something positive to help their society, and there are several organizations that need that help. However, since volunteerism is not typically promoted as a solution to social problems, these two groups do not connect. Potential volunteers have difficulty finding the appropriate settings in which to apply their skills, and service organizations do not find the type of volunteers they need.
Although a study by Apoyo Opinión y Mercado S.A. showed that 90 percent of young people 18-24 in Lima believe that they need to be more involved in volunteerism, that same study indicated that only 36 percent of young people in Lima performed some sort of volunteer work during 1999. According to the study, the primary reasons young people in Lima do not volunteer are a lack of time due to work and studies; a lack of knowledge about how to get involved; and a lack of motivation. For those people who are motivated to volunteer, the task of finding the ideal organization is so laborious that many lose interest before they start. Moreover, there is a lack of publicity about volunteerism in Peru. There is no publication or other media outlet that broadcasts the work that thousands of organizations do to improve their communities or the country.
Volunteers are needed urgently in Peru, a country marked by extreme poverty, social injustice, and a historically weak state. Traditionally, civil society has been the sector taking the most important steps toward satisfying the country's basic needs. Volunteers are key to this effort, but they are not being used effectively as a resource. They have great potential to offer nonprofit organizations; nonetheless, few nonprofits in Peru take advantage of them. Although according to a study by the Research Center of the Universidad del Pacífico and the Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 110,000 nonprofit organizations in Peru that on the whole do not make effective use of volunteers, mainly because few have the time or resources to dedicate to recruiting them. The problem is not limited to the nonprofit sector, either–in Peru, corporate volunteerism is rare. Citibank is the only company that has a formal volunteer program, which has been very successful. Other businesses have demonstrated interest in implementing similar programs, but none have made significant advances toward this goal.
Jaime has developed an interactive Web site, trabajovoluntario.org, that serves as a meeting point for volunteers from the general public and the organizations that need them. Trabajo Voluntario has several volunteer promoters, who work at least 12 hours a week for a minimum of three months, each of whom is responsible for a portfolio of organizations. It is their job to approach nonprofit organizations about participating in the site and to collect information about them through interviews with personnel in order to gain a complete understanding of what the organization's volunteer opportunities entail. Based on the information gathered, they then evaluate the organization. Depending on this evaluation, Trabajo Voluntario goes to work.
If the volunteer promoters determine the organization in question to be too disorganized, Trabajo Voluntario will not immediately connect it with volunteers. Instead, it will consider working with the organization to first improve its administration, initially using a "pilot incubator" for volunteer programs that it is designing in conjunction with another organization, Visión Solidaria. The promoters also develop detailed breakdowns of the volunteer activities in each organization and help them create a work plan so that volunteers have clearly defined responsibilities and their time is used as effectively as possible.
Once the organization has been deemed ready, it coordinates with the volunteer promoters to publicize the activities it has available. The volunteers write up a creative summary of these opportunities, and Trabajo Voluntario sends an email with the complete information to all volunteer subscribers and publishes the information on the Web site. Those potential volunteers who have interest in a particular opportunity then either email the site or enter their information directly on the site. Once the volunteers reconfirm their commitment, Trabajo Voluntario sends each volunteer's information to the organization. The volunteer promoters are also responsible for following up after the fact, both with the volunteers and the organizations. In order to evaluate the level of volunteers' satisfaction with their experience, the promoters survey the volunteers and make changes to the process according to their responses. The promoters follow up with the organizations by making site visits and by being in constant telephone or email contact. Eventually, Jaime plans to conduct quantitative studies with the organizations to get more precise information.
Within the first week of its launch in February 2001, the site had 500 subscribers. To date, more than 5,500 subscribers have registered to receive information about volunteer opportunities, and Trabajo Voluntario has posted more than 100 diverse possibilities on the site from 50 different nonprofit organizations. Because many people do not volunteer because they do not have the time, opportunities with varying time commitments are presented so that those with limited time can still participate. To date, potential volunteers have offered more than 1,900 commitments in response to opportunities posted in nine email bulletins. Volunteers who found opportunities through Trabajo Voluntario have worked more than 8,500 hours. Valuing that time conservatively at $1.53/hour (based on a salary of $250 per month) demonstrates that volunteers have contributed some $13,000 of work to Peruvian society. Although several important Web sites, the daily newspaper El Comercio, and others have offered to donate advertising space to Trabajo Voluntario, Jaime has decided to wait so that the supply of available volunteers does not further exceed demand for them. Meanwhile, the volunteer promoters are working diligently to involve more organizations in the site's program.
Trabajo Voluntario has operated primarily with volunteers and donations from the private sector. The company ASIX donated the technical development of the Web page, Data Expert donates the server, and the volunteer promoters donate their time. Trabajo Voluntario is also working in cooperation with other organizations, for example, on the joint incubator project with Visión Solidaria, in which promoters would meet with an organization wishing to start a volunteer program, train its staff and accompany them through the initial stages of operation. When an earthquake hit southern Peru in 2001, Trabajo Voluntario joined forces with the Asociación Solidaridad en Marcha to collect donations and mobilize volunteers to collaborate in picking up and sorting them. As a result, 20 tons of provisions and other products were collected and donated to the earthquake victims. In addition to working with other NGOs, Trabajo Voluntario is working in collaboration with the government to enrich its programs and policies. Jaime has been in conversations with the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and Human Development (PROMUDEH) and is helping municipalities find volunteers for various programs including food assistance, clothing donations, elderly assistance, and a medicine bank.
In addition to this nonprofit and public-sector work, Jaime is now working to promote corporate volunteerism. Jaime has decided to focus on corporate volunteering because it can be easily incorporated into many companies' existing policies regarding social responsibility and personal development. Such enterprise builds bridges between the business and nonprofit sectors, and the people who enjoy the most economic power become more socially responsible, which can in turn prompt them to use more of the resources at their disposal to serve those most in need. To promote corporate volunteering, Trabajo Voluntario plans to offer services to companies that include recruitment, planning, training, and program execution. He is currently working on proposals to begin corporate volunteerism in three of Peru's biggest companies. To spread this practice, Trabajo Voluntario has recruited the person who runs Citibank's successful volunteering program to be a Volunteer Promoter, and it has signed an agreement with the Instituto de Responsibilidad Social to facilitate additional contacts. By the end of 2004, Jaime expects to have 20 companies and 2,400 employees participating in programs, working on 80 different projects. To reach this goal, he has applied for funding from the Kellogg Foundation and the AVINA Foundation.
To parallel his promotion of corporate volunteering, Jaime has designed an educational program for schools, in order to plant the seed of social responsibility in future business entrepreneurs. Through a series of courses and workshops, young people will learn about volunteerism, solidarity, donations, values, and social responsibility in the business sector. There will also be a Web site that will contain all the information about the courses and workshops. It will feature related topics in order to keep young people informed and interested.
Jaime is also planning to start a magazine–Marcando Vidas–that will be the first publication to spread information about work being done for the social good in Peru and to offer positive messages to the population about social responsibility. The magazine will be easy to read and understand in order to appeal to a wide cross section of the public. It will initially be published three times, and Jaime expects that eventually it will be a monthly free supplement in some of the most widely read magazines in Peru. He is currently negotiating with one of the country's major media outlets for the supplement's initial distribution.
Trabajo Voluntario already has 300 subscribers outside of Lima and will further spread its work nationally through various publicity campaigns: posters in Internet cafes, and at universities and other educational institutions; publicity on the Internet; and mass mailings. It will also look for volunteer promoters in all of the provinces once it has a salaried person to lead this search and a local partner, such as a university or municipal government, to help. Jaime is also considering trying to involve an existing group of volunteers–like the Scouts–to begin to supervise programs in other parts of the country. Given the similar state of affairs in neighboring countries–which also have citizens that want to help their countries, yet lack the infrastructure to be able to do so–Jaime believes that his model will be easily replicable in other countries.
Jaime demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. At 14, he took charge of administration and marketing for his mother's cake businesses, recruiting friends from the neighborhood and organizing a successful door-to-door campaign. Jaime earned the highest score among 3,000 students on his college entrance exam and entered the best university in Peru. Because of his proficiency in mathematics, he was offered a job as a teacher soon after starting college, and in 1994, only halfway through his studies, the school made him head of the business department. Later, while working in the city of Puno as chief of sales and distribution for Backus, one of Peru's largest food and beverage companies, Jaime saw the need and opportunity to contribute to the communities in which he worked, and so he implemented a successful social marketing campaign.
In 1999 Jaime took a leave of absence from his job and went to Philadelphia to study English at the University of Pennsylvania. With less frenetic schedule, he began to look for things to do in his spare time. A professor encouraged him to volunteer, which he did, at an afterschool program and a senior citizen group. This experience was enriching, and he began to wonder why volunteerism could not be as commonplace in Peru. When he returned to Peru, he developed a Web site for Backus (the first commercial Peruvian Web site), which was interactive, service-oriented, and a huge success. After that, he moved to the marketing department where he learned many important marketing tools and developed a magazine for the company. In October 2000, motivated by his experience in Philadelphia and equipped with the business skills he acquired at Backus, Jaime founded the Asociación Civil Trabajo Voluntario with a group of friends, focusing on promoting volunteerism and solidarity. The other founders continue to work part-time for Trabajo Voluntario, but Jaime made the difficult decision to quit his job and commit himself full-time to his idea.