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United Way Blog

All in a Day’s Work: Creative Volunteer Solutions to Pandemic Problems

Recently I was invited to be part of the “Virtual Ideathon,” an amazing, 3-day event where volunteer teams from 23 major NGOs and volunteering organizations from 20 countries came together to develop sustainable and impactful solutions to challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. I served on a panel of judges that reviewed ideas for engaging volunteers in mental health support, an area supported by United Ways around the world. 

The challenge was for teams – in less than 24 hours -- to come up with ideas and initial implementation plans for volunteer opportunities that involve those with mental health issues to get involved in the design and delivery of services.  The winner was Ruach Tova from Israel, and the project was “Prescription to Volunteer.” 

Ruach Tova will use their $25,000 in prize money to launch the effort, which entails engaging people with mental health challenges to help develop an algorithm-based questionnaire that will be used to help others struggling with mental health issues find personalized, suitable volunteer opportunities. I can’t wait to see the results.

The other prize winners were DeedMob B.V. from The Netherlands (for volunteering in the medical sector) and The Volunteer Center of Trinidad & Tobago (volunteering to support vulnerable populations). Sponsored by First Abu Dhabi Bank and organized by the UAE Ministry of Community Development and Emirates Foundation in cooperation with IAVE, the effort underscores how important it is for companies, governments, and philanthropic organizations to partner in tapping the caring power of volunteers. I hope the Ideathon is a tool that continues for years to come.

Volunteers on the front lines of the response to the global pandemic have made an enormous difference in the resilience of their communities. What’s the best idea you’ve seen to mobilize volunteers in response to the pandemic?