Takeaways of UN Youth Volunteers participating in the virtual workshop, and Niels Lohmann (right), Team Lead, Capacity Development.
Takeaways of UN Youth Volunteers participating in the virtual workshop, and Niels Lohmann (right), Team Lead, Capacity Development.

Creating a virtual space for UN Youth Volunteers to connect and learn

For UN Volunteers, being able to connect with peers and learn from one another is essential. The sense of community, as well as access to information, onboarding support and professional development are important factors. Even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, over 600 UN Volunteers took part in onsite trainings designed to build a community and grow the skills and competencies that are key to serving with the UN. From February onwards, COVID-19 restrictions made in-person workshops impossible. Hence, it was clear we wanted to create a virtual space to facilitate learning and enable exchange among volunteers.

While running webinars, e-Courses and our volunteer learning platform is a routine, designing and delivering interactive, virtual workshops with volunteers serving across the globe is new terrain. We decided to attempt to recreate a classroom experience leveraging the video conferencing tools that people have become much more familiar with in the last couple of months.

Offering an opportunity for UN Youth Volunteers to connect, exchange and learn from each other is critical, and has gained a new level of importance during the pandemic. Given the limitations to exchange resulting from COVID-19, it was clear we needed to create a virtual space to uphold the support. While UNV trained well over 600 UN Volunteers onsite in 2019, the virtual concept was a pilot. It is great to see participants from across Asia and the Pacific, from Vanuatu to China, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The workshop was a great success overall, and we will now hold the same for volunteers in other regions as well. --Niels Lohmann, Team Lead, Capacity Development, UNV

Our design included ice-breakers, former volunteers sharing their experiences, discussion and online polling, breakout rooms and sharing of stories among participants. Last  month, we ran our first ever Virtual UN Youth Volunteer Workshop for 38 participants serving in a range of UN entities, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Women, World Food Programme (WFP,) UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and others in countries across Asia and the Pacific. 

The 3.5 hour module turned out to be a success: great exchanges, people getting to know each other, learning from former UN Volunteers, even break out rooms and video connections worked almost seamlessly. Overall something we will now reproduce for volunteers in other regions as well.

It was useful to share experiences and build connections with other volunteers, even virtually. Living in Samoa with no COVID-19 cases still has its challenges, as the world around us is affected. Being able to interact to see how other people are coping and working in the new environment was very helpful. The support from UNV is great, especially with online learning and opportunities. It was also a great learning experience to go beyond the small UNV community I had so far interacted with, and learn more about the broader role of UNV and volunteerism. --UN Volunteer Youle Beatty (fully funded by Australia), Joint Programme Support Officer, UN Resident Coordinator's Office, Samoa