OVO: Hello. Today, we have the privilege of discussing a remarkable volunteer experience with Jo, who has been actively involved in the My Guardian (MG) project. Jo, could you give us a brief overview of your journey with OVO and MG?
Jo: Certainly! I started as a volunteer in 2019, initially working behind the scenes by occasionally reviewing files without direct contact with the entrepreneurs. Following the boost camp in 2020, I transitioned into the role of a lead screener, and in December 2022, I became involved with MG.
OVO: That's quite a journey. Can you share the primary focus of MG and the challenges it seeks to address?
Jo: Absolutely. MG is centered around supporting individuals, particularly young women, engaged in labor export, primarily to Saudi Arabia. The challenges involve potential exploitation, questionable recruitment practices, and the need for a system that ensures the well-being of these workers.
OVO: Jo, you initially had reservations about this project. Can you tell us more about the concerns and how they were addressed?
Jo: Indeed, I was initially skeptical about participating in a project that seemingly promoted labor export. There were concerns about the potential for exploitation and the ethical implications. However, after extensive consultation with local stakeholders and internal discussions, we found that the impact of the project on the local community was overwhelmingly positive.
OVO: That's a crucial insight. How did you navigate the economic realities of labor export, and what were the main positive impacts?
Jo: The economic reality in countries like Saudi Arabia is that household staff is standard, and labor export contributes significantly to the Ugandan GDP. Despite our initial discomfort with the concept, it became clear that the economic impact on the families in the home country was positive. Workers could send a substantial portion of their earnings back to their families, contributing to education and home improvements.
OVO: So, how did My Guardian add value to this scenario?
Jo: My Guardian aimed to improve the living conditions of these workers and act as a guardian against potential abuse. It is estimated that around 10% of cases involved some form of abuse or contract violation. To address this, MG offers services such as repatriation in case of abuse and local consulting and insurance, contributing to a positive social impact.
OVO: That's commendable. Moving on, what were some of the key challenges faced during the project development, and how were they overcome?
Jo: Challenges included unrealistic sales forecasts and business plans, and the need to redefine the minimum viable product. I played a role in instilling realism, adjusting the focus, and setting priorities. Additionally, the rapidly changing context of apps required an agile approach, evaluating what had economic value and what did not.
OVO: How did you manage the investment process, considering the uncertainties in the software world?
Jo: OVO decided not to invest initially, as MG needed to prove its viability. I invested personally and sought four additional investors, securing $10,000 instead of the requested $50,000 USD. We decided to work with milestones, starting with minimum investments and gradually progressing based on achievements.
OVO: Valuable insights. Lastly, what lessons have you learned from this experience, and what advice would you offer to other volunteers engaging in similar projects?
Jo: Lessons learned include the importance of understanding and respecting the local context, staying critical, and seeking evidence when coaching a project. It's crucial to adapt to the evolving nature of projects, maintain realism in forecasting, prioritize effectively, and remember that as a coach, you don't need to be an expert in the field to make a significant impact.
OVO: Thank you, Jo, for sharing your insights. The My Guardian project serves as a compelling case study, highlighting the complexities of volunteer engagement and the potential for positive social and economic impacts.
🌍 Understanding Local Context:
· Importance of understanding and respecting the local context.
· Critical thinking and seeking evidence when coaching a project.
· Adapt to the evolving nature of projects.
· Maintain realism in forecasting, prioritizing effectively.
💪 Impactful Volunteerism:
· You don't need to be an expert to make a significant impact as a coach.