KEY FINDING: create an English internet portal that identifies websites such as Benevol, NachbarNET, Swiss Red Cross, and smaller niche groups with volunteer opportunities for expats.
Experienced volunteers and those keenly interested in community service focused on what volunteer opportunities are available today and considered what is missing that would help expats to further participate. Two groups were formed: one to identify criteria necessary for rewarding volunteer work, the other to develop ideas on how to increase accessibility of volunteer opportunities to expats. The combined findings indicated the steps to be taken to access an untapped pool of expat volunteers for local organizations:
- Provide volunteer activities with a broad mix of work types, duration and intensity, level of contact and atmosphere.
- Identify opportunities where German is not essential.
- Create additional offerings tailored to the expat community.
- Make existing volunteer information more accessible to expats
- Improve the network among groups offering volunteer opportunities.
Although a number of volunteer opportunities exist in the Basel region, most information about them is provided in German. Thus expats with limited German have restricted knowledge of and access to volunteering outside of their own communities. Six areas for improvement in creating volunteer opportunities became clear:
- Existing websites are the point of entry for people seeking links to volunteer organizations. More information can be provided in English.
- Communication through existing media – distribution of brochures in German and English through neighborhood organizations and groups.
- Personal contacts and guidance: Swiss and expat individuals and groups could create a network of bilingual people to act as facilitators
- A phase-in program for expats with insufficient German skills
- Opportunities requiring little or no German; expats offer English translations
- Expats are willing to engage but need the help of local organizations to find opportunities
Idea Development & Solutions
Bridges can be built through better understanding of expat needs and capacities by local volunteer organizations. Small changes can lead to mutually beneficial results. Concrete suggestions for moving forward include:
- informing local volunteer organizations about the growing amount of comprehensive information, studies, and data examining expat integration
- better publicity of language programs such as Besseres Deutsch durch Begegnung
- improved volunteer websites with drop-down menus and bilingual helpdesks
- improved use of existing media, e.g., radio talk shows, Swiss news
Read about our Working Groups and how they were inspired by the 2011 conference workshops on this page.