How Forum Is Supporting Its Members in Responding to COVID-19 – Updated September 2020

Forum members have been affected by COVID-19 in a variety of ways. In recent months, many have had to make difficult decisions about the future of programmes, and gone through a challenging process of repatriating international volunteers and ensuring the safety and security of volunteers who remain in placements.

Members are also considering the longer-term implications of COVID-19 for their organisations, and for volunteering for development as a model of development cooperation.

What has Forum done so far?

Forum responded at the beginning of March by convening a conference call for our members and launching an online space on the Forum Hive for members to exchange information and advice on their responses.

We have hosted monthly conference calls at the Heads of Agency level to provide a space for our members to exchange information on how they have been impacted by COVID-19, and how they are responding. Following each Heads of Agency call, we produce a ‘state of play’ paper.

Beginning on 20 May, Forum launched a series of webinars to help share information on a range of topics related to COVID-19 response. These addressed –

Remote Volunteering

Evolving your Volunteering Programme for the COVID World

Volunteer Safety and Security in the COVID World

We have produced papers based on each webinar, the first of which is available here.

Forum produced an article on how the volunteering for development sector has been impacted by COVID-19, how we are adapting, and the centrality of volunteers to COVID response and post-COVID recovery. You can read the article in Devex here. We have written a second article on remote volunteering.

We have launched a research project on COVID-19 and the Future of Volunteering for Development, thanks to funding from Norec. This project (detail and terms of reference here) is being led by Helene Perold, Jacob Mati, Cliff Allum and Ben Lough. It addresses three questions: the future direction of volunteering for development, alternative volunteering models, and lessons from the COVID-19 response. We will publish the results of the research at the end of this year, and it will inform discussions on COVID at IVCO 2020.

The next six months

At IVCO 2020, there will be one day dedicated to COVID-19, with a plenary and break-out sessions. The COVID-19 research project will produce a discussion paper for IVCO, and will frame discussions.

We will continue the series of webinars, looking at themes including post-COVID economic Recovery and strengthening health systems. We will continue to write papers based on these.

The Heads of Agency calls will continue, moving to every six weeks from August. We will continue to write ‘state of play’ notes based on these.

The research project will surface themes for articles and content for the Forum website, and we will identify speaking opportunities to share the research.

Building on the research project, we are considering how to engage consultants on a pro bono basis to support Forum members to develop strategies to adapt and diversify their offering. This could be a more practical, strategy-focused second phase for the research.

For more information on Forum’s response, email

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