Change the World on Your Next Vacation

How Volunteering Your Real Skills Abroad Can Help Solve the International Talent Gap

Many organizations working to make real change in the field are doomed to fail before they reach year two.

This Valley of Death (also known as the Pioneer Gap) gobbles up the inspiring initiatives of people with passion, a mission, and a plan. While a lack of access to capital is a well-known reason why organizations fail, an even bigger reason is because of the lack of needed skills and manpower to find the momentum to create sustainable change. This talent gap is well documented as one of the leading barriers to global progress, and it prevents changemakers from reaching the people that need their interventions most.

There is no shortage of data supporting the evidence of a talent gap. According to Manpower’s 2016-17 Talent Shortage Survey, 40% of global employers report talent shortages. 65% say hiring challenges are harming their industry in the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey. Perhaps most staggering, an Indeed survey revealed that 86% of respondents found it challenging to hire and find technical talent. These statistics all point to one thing – there’s a serious gap, and as a result, even though there are solutions to get clean water, healthcare, electricity, and knowledge into tough-to-reach places, there are still billions of people living without access to necessities.

The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative’s report, Accelerating Startups in Emerging Markets, explains that there is a tangible gap gap in fundamental skills for many smaller organizations working to solve real problems, writing, “Emerging market entrepreneurs have more-than-adequate educational experience and technical competence, according to data and interviews. However, investors often point to a lack of entrepreneurial experience among founding teams.” The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneur’s research in their 2015 report on the small and growing business sector reinforced this, explaining, “Once SGBs have reached a certain size and maturity, often their biggest challenge is building a team that is able to manage their next step to scale. Recruiting the right candidates, developing current staff, and retaining the team are all key challenges.”

According to Forbes, both funded and unfunded social enterprises agree that finding the talent they need will have a critical impact on their business. The most in-demand skills might be surprising— sales representatives, accountants, finance professionals, and engineers top the list of the hardest positions to fill.

How You Can Help Bridge the Gap

Here’s the thing: professionals looking to get involved don’t have to quit their jobs to help tackle this problem. Instead, they can make a huge impact simply by volunteering their time and their real skills while on vacation. This “Experteering” movement is already creating a notable impact. When professionals volunteer their skills overseas, they can help:

  • Solve an immediate challenge to help the team focus on creating an impact
  • Upskill local team members to be sustainable in the long term
  • Consult and help improve organization operations and strategy, making it more impactful in the future
  • Make connections to global networks for funding, partnerships, and future talent needs

These factors combine to bridge the talent gap by allowing Experteers (expert volunteers) to use their skills to support international social enterprises in an impactful way. Whether it’s using web design and database skills to increase access to running water in the Philippines, marketing and videography to promote animal welfare in India, or using entrepreneurship to support education in Cameroon, there is an opportunity for every skill set and every socially focused organization.

But note that there is a right way and a wrong way to volunteer your skills overseas. As we share in our popular training for MovingWorlds.org members, volunteers should:

  • Work on a project that is conscious about being self-sustaining after your project ends.
  • Be careful to not erode local jobs
  • Focus on transferring skills
  • Learn about and plan for cultural differences
  • Shut up and listen

With these principles in mind, even a short trip can have a huge impact.

Create Change, Be Changed

At MovingWorlds, we launched with the goal of democratizing access to talent on an international scale. We pair together international nonprofits, social enterprises, startups, and other changemakers with experienced professionals who are traveling to donate their skills in exchange for a unique experience.

What we’ve learned is that not only does Experteering create a sustainable change in the field, but it creates change for the Experteers, too. Volunteering abroad allows for a more immersive experience that helps you better understand the locals, get a better feel for the country, boost your resume, and, of course, help bridge the international talent gap.

Take Action

The international talent gap is certainly a significant barrier, but it is not insurmountable. Skills, time, and talents are the greatest assets we have, and donating these allows you to create an impact that extends far beyond your bubble, setting off a domino effect of knowledge exchange and a shared growth. Change is possible, but it will only come through communication, community development, and collaboration.

So here’s what you can do:

Use your vacation time as a catalyst for change. It can create long-lasting impacts abroad while you volunteer your skills, develop your resume, and get an in-depth look at a country that you might have never experienced. Rather than having to abandon

Opt for Experteering rather than Voluntourism. What’s the difference? Quite a bit. For one, opportunities you find by Experteering will never charge you to volunteer, and more often than not, food and accommodations are provided with your stay. You’ll also be donating your skills and talents rather than contributing to a generic project with questionable impact, like building a well or teaching English. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations, whether it’s social enterprises, startups, foundations, and small businesses, while voluntourism often works with nonprofits or educational institutions.

Vacation with the support of a community. If you don’t have much time, something that might work for you are Impact Teams. These assignments of between two to four weeks allow you to connect with a cohort of like-minded professionals that are all volunteering around a shared theme, amplifying your impact and your network in a short amount of time. You will grow, share, and experience this unique volunteering experience together.


About the Authors

Mark Horoszowski is co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform that helps people volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations around the world, on their own or through corporate-sponsored programs. Since its launch in 2011, MovingWorlds.org has unleashed over 7 million dollars worth of professional skills across 60 countries. Mark has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, Stanford Social Innovation Reviews and many more as the founder of the “Experteering” movement. Mark also serves as Adjunct Faculty at University of Washington Tacoma’s Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility and is a contributor at Huffington Post Impact.

Petra Barbu is currently a public relations intern at MovingWorlds, specializing in economic development and social impact marketing.