A New Volunteer Organization (V-BUS) Emerges in Guangzhou

China Development Brief, No. 53 (Spring 2012)

中文 English
As more grassroots NGOs have emerged in China over the last few years, this article by Wang Hui performs a valuable service in profiling a new volunteer-training NGO in the southern city of Guangzhou.

In 2008, the year of the Wenchuan earthquake struck, many volunteers suddenly made an appearance heading to Sichuan. For Heaven, a volunteer in Guangzhou, a city near to Hong Kong and far away from Sichuan, the year 2008 was a milestone. She had previously volunteered at Guangzhou Youth Volunteer Association (广州市青年志愿者协会) and later at New Path Foundation (美新路基金会). In December of 2008, she became one of the founders of a new organization: V-BUS (广州义工加油站).

Heaven recalls how the word ‘volunteer’ rarely appeared in the mass media before 2008 and would not have been recognized by most people.  At the time not many college students volunteered and even though Guangzhou´s voluntary sector was developing quickly, exchanges between domestic volunteer organizations were rare. So in September of that year, she and several friends developed a plan to hold a workshop aimed at promoting the local volunteering scene. The workshop was held on December 5th (International Volunteer Day) and became known as ‘Volunteers in the Making Day’. As Heaven says: through the workshop they hoped to explore ways to develop voluntary service and “go deeper into the issues to come up with new ideas”.

Six local Guangzhou volunteer organizations were invited to participate in the workshop. During the two-day event they participated in 14 courses that focused on basic volunteering skills and activity planning. After the event, many of those who took part said that they thought the workshop should become a regular event.

The courses that made up the Volunteer Growth Day were developed from the varied experiences of the volunteer organizations themselves and designed to meet the different needs of volunteers. Since that first workshop held in 2008, each event has been different. In 2009, for example, other content was added such as art and music, and personal development issues such as time-management and yearly planning.

The courses are run by V-BUS trainers. Themes for each course are selected and published online so that those interested in taking part can express interest online. The trainers assign places on the basis of the suitability of each applicant to the course. Successful applicants are listed on the blog and if enough places are filled then the course will be run.

Heaven said that even though these training courses were meeting objectives, they still used old materials that focused more on resource issues rather than the individual needs of the volunteers. This focus is different than what volunteer service organizations require to meet their needs. In addition to the Volunteers in the Making Day, trainers from other organizations have been brought in to the weekend courses to share their own training techniques and broaden the focus of the training. These weekend volunteer training activities range from learning how to give presentations on environmental issues, public speaking, and how to inspire volunteers to get involved. Training activities vary in location and charge 10-30 RMB per person. The money gained from these activities is often not enough to cover the running costs.

One of the most important functions of these classes is that they help to gradually break down barriers between Guangzhou’s local organizations. In doing so they are allowing these groups to find their own niche in the sector.

During the interview, Heaven talked about the differences between V-BUS and other local groups such as the Institute for Civil Society (ICS) of Sun Yat-sen University (中山大学公民社会发展中心), Harmony Promotion Association (和谐促进会), the V Learning Center (公益学习中心), V Love It (V乐益成长中心) and Guangzhou Green Point Environmental Protection Information Center (绿点广州). What sets V-BUS apart, she said, was its focus on creativity and the sharing of its innovations with the local community in Guangzhou.

V-Bus is beginning to co-operate with other local NGOs to host workshops and provide trainers. They also hope to increase cooperation and information-exchange with local organizations in the cities that surround Guangzhou. Through these activities, it is hoped that future volunteer trainers will come from the entire Pearl River Delta region.

V-BUS´s core training team is comprised of people from different organizations, with varied combinations of knowledge, experience and techniques that they use and share with each other. The team plays a vital role in developing the Volunteers in the Making Day and V-Bus’s other training programs by running workshops such as ‘V-Lab Laboratory’, ‘Question Time’ and ‘Free U’.

After several years of growth and development, in 2010 Jianjian became V-Bus’s first full-time employee. She took responsibility for the organization‘s publicity and art and design work. At the same time she also initiated her own projects and helped to develop PowerPoint workshops.

During the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, many foreign companies looked to cooperate with local volunteer organizations. Alongside its established duties, V-Bus began to work with these new partners and Heaven recalls how her workload increased greatly. She herself went full-time and V-BUS also recruited a new staff member, Jiang Weihong.

During the period leading up to the Games, large-scale civil society activities were prohibited so 2010’s Volunteers in the Making Day was markedly different to that of previous years. However, after the Games, the Guangzhou government liberalized the registration regulations for service-oriented NGOs. Alongside their new partnerships with foreign companies and the legal wrangles that resulted from these, this liberalization really speeded up V-BUS’s drive to achieve legal status.  In April 2011, they made the decision to register.

After successfully working with the Guangzhou Volunteers Union during the 2009 Volunteers in the Making Day, V-BUS was accepted into the Guangzhou Social Organization Training Base (广州社会组织培育基地), a local government NGO incubator program that was operated by Guangzhou Volunteers Union. They also successfully submitted an application to register and in September of that year, V-BUS became officially registered as a civil non-enterprise unit – the Guangzhou Shandao Social Work Service Center (广州善导社会工作服务中心).

Through this incubator program V-BUS gained a small office space, although according to Heaven, it was too far away for her to use frequently. Fortunately Guangzhou Volunteers Union did not require V-BUS to work there everyday, and only informed it about meetings to attend. Overall being a member of the program did not bring too many benefits, and V-BUS saw its administrative costs increase. Despite these changes, Heaven said that membership gave V-BUS “the confidence to go forward”.

This transformation, for V-BUS, was just the beginning.

During the preparation for their registration, they also thought seriously about how to develop the organization in new directions. At the end of 2011, they invited friends from foundations and partner projects to collaborate in drawing-up V-BUS’s medium-term plans. The primary aim of this 1-3 year plan was to develop the organization while at the same time attracting stable revenue sources. Previously, the activities sharing volunteer experiences and training developed by V-BUS were mostly carried out in the offices of other organizations in Guangzhou, and the income derived from these activities was insufficient to support the organization in a sustainable manner.

Heaven says that a key objective is to gradually reduce the external courses whilst improving the training courses for the V-BUS trainers. At the same time, V-BUS hopes to create one or two products that have market demand in order to achieve sustainable development.

The top priority of 2012 is to improve the course content so that it focuses more on the individual requirements of volunteers. V-BUS is starting to do research on this subject and establishing a database of information that it hopes will enable its courses to meet the needs of the volunteers of the future.

Contact: Heaven

Email: info@v-bus.org / heaven@v-bus.org

Site: http://volunteers1205.blogbus.com   www.v-bus.org

Sina Weibo: @义工加油站

就在2008年汶川地震发生的那一年,社会上一下多了很多义工。 广州毗邻香港,这些年慢慢受到影响,也同样如此。 对身在广州的Heaven来说,2008年是一个分界点。她之前曾在广州市青年志愿者协会启智服务总队做志愿者,也在美新路等基金会工作过,当年12月成为广州义工加油站(V-BUS)的发起人之一。
Heaven认为,2008年之前“义工”一词很少出现在大众媒体上,不被大多数人认知,且大学生参与的也不多。 即使当时在国内义工发展较快的广州,义工机构之间的交流也少。 所以在该年的9月,她与其他几个好朋友碰撞出一个计划,在12月5日国际义工日当天筹备一次针对义工成长的工作坊集市。 后来这天也变成持续开展的“义工成长日”。 他们希望在推动义工服务的发展上,“可以做的更深一点,做出一些新的东西来。”
于是分头行动,广州本地在义工成长或服务方面做得较好的6个志愿机构受邀参加,共同开始了第一次的义工成长日活动。 在2天的时间,他们共分享了14个课程。 这些课程主要围绕义工基本的服务技巧以及一些志愿活动的策划。 事后,参加该次活动的志愿者组织或义工,很多都希望将义工成长日活动继续下去。
义工成长日上的分享课程,都是由义工经验较为丰富的机构自己提出并讨论敲定下来,他们的风格也不一样,正好可以满足不同的义工需求。 之后,每一年的义工成长日的课程,大部分都不一样。 比如在2009年就加大了艺术、音乐等元素,也更多集中在义工个人成长方面的需求,如年度规划或时间管理等内容。
这些课程都是由V-BUS向分享者(也叫培训导师)提出邀请,然后挂在博客站点上,由感兴趣的人进入报名系统提交报名,最后由导师根据该课程的要求以及义工的需求进行筛选,通过方可参加,且这些名单在培训前也会通过网络公布。 如果有课程报名人数不够的话,直接取消。
但Heaven说,尽管实现了义工成长的目标,这些课程一开始乃至现在也不是从义工的需求着眼,更多还是从资源出发,主要是看哪个机构有成熟的课程。 这与民间服务机构一贯从服务群体需求出发,有着不一样的视角。 除了义工成长日之外,在日常的周末或月份里,也会有来自不同服务机构的分享者,也会带来各自的培训。
这些平日里的义工培训活动,花样众多,有故事会,有鸟兽虫木的自然体验,也有三分钟的快速演讲,也有旨在通过启迪义工参与付诸行动并实现想法的志愿者实验室等诸多的分享活动。 与成长日的活动不一样之处,就是报名参加这些活动需缴纳10~30元不等的费用,用于支持V-BUS的持续发展,但其实这些远远不够。
不过,V-BUS也开始转向到为其他的NGO提供“分享者协作和培养”的工作坊、培育本土的协作者上,而不再只是一次次义工经验和知识的分享。 不仅如此,他们也希望在广州的周边城市,东莞、深圳和珠海等地,将这些珠三角地区不同城市的机构经验知识能够得到流动,让更多的分享者涌现出来。
在V-BUS的工作坊与课程分享的过程中,形成了一个叫V-BUS教研小组。 该小组是V-BUS的核心伙伴,他们扎根于各自的组织,又透过知识共享和培训发展聚集在一起,并一起参与组织义工成长日以及平日里不同分享者的课程开发,像“V-Lab实验室”之“Question提问”、“Free U”等在V-BUS中具有举重轻重的作用。
日积月累、厚积而能薄发,V-BUS走到2010年,开始迎来了第一个全职工作者健健。 她负责V-BUS的对外宣传、艺术设计工作,同时也独立承担一些项目,并开展一些对外的戏剧、ppt工作坊。
当时适逢广州亚运会,大批的外企开始寻求志愿服务合作机会,所以,除针对志愿服务机构义工的需求外,V-BUS也开始与企业进行接触并合作。 工作量的加大,也让Heaven开始转为全职来做这份工作,另一名工作人员姜伟洪也同时加入进来。
不过因亚运会会期前后不允许民间举办大型活动,所以当年12月5日国际义工日当天未像往年一样举办“义工成长日”活动。 但亚运会之后,广州政府在对民间服务组织的注册政策上有很大的放开,再加上V-BUS与外资企业在合作过程,出现了捐赠发票的纠纷,这加快了他们寻求民间机构合法化的步伐。 2011年4月,他们做出了注册的决定。
因在2009年义工成长日与广州义工联合会合作过,彼此给对方留下很好的印象。 此时,义工联正承接广州市政府的“广州社会组织培育基地”孵化器项目,于是很顺利提交申请,并于当年的9月正式注册成一个民非机构——广州善导社会工作服务中心。
孵化器项目成员的身份,为V-BUS提供了一个办公位置,尽管只有1平米大小,不过据Heaven说,办公的地方比较远,不常过去,好在义工联对他们也没有太多的苛求,有活动才会通知他们过去参加。 与过去相比,注册为民非对V-BUS似乎并没有太多的好处,反而机构的行政成本增加了。 尽管如此,对Heaven所在的V-BUS来说,“无形中也会底气足一点”
在为V-BUS筹备注册民非期间,他们也在思考战略转型。 2011年底,他们邀请来自基金会和合作项目方的朋友参加,初步制定了一个1~3年的战略规划,希望利用这段时间帮助机构实现转型,并获得稳定的收入。 之前V-BUS开展的义工经验分享活动以及培训主要是借用广州本地其他组织的场地,且活动的收入也不足支持机构的持续发展。

CDB Guest Columnist, Former Staff Writer

Translated by Sharon Gai

Reviewed by Tom Bannister

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