A New Volunteer Initiative and a New Chapter for VEGA
On August 30, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced a new initiative to leverage volunteers in reaching our global development goals: Volunteers in International Security and Prosperity (VISP). USAID describes this new VISP Annual Program Statement (APS) as “a mechanism through which USAID will maximize development impact and efficient resource use by mobilizing the creative capacity of volunteers globally.”
VEGA welcomes the VISP APS in that it demonstrates that Administrator Mark Green shares our view, and that of several members House of Senate, that skilled volunteers offer great value to USAID in achieving its mission to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. The VISP APS states that “volunteers and the principle of volunteerism maximize USAID’s development programs through bringing in non-traditional partners and new solutions and ideas, increasing peer-to-peer learning, building community, advancing diplomacy, and leveraging resources.”
We couldn’t agree more as this has been our direct experience over the past 13 years.
One of the great, largely untold, success stories of USAID has been its partnership with skilled volunteers who represent the generous spirit and skills of the American private sector. In partnership with volunteer-sending organizations, USAID has leveraged expertise from across America’s private sector to provide opportunity, tools and training to people in the developing world seeking self-sufficiency.
Over the past 13 years, VEGA has partnered with USAID to achieve development impact by leveraging skilled volunteers largely through a Leader with Associate award (LWA). VEGA has facilitated more than 44,000 days volunteered by experts spurring economic growth, and in the past 31 years, Farmer-to-Farmer partners have sent more than 16,700 volunteers to increase food security through skills training. These relatively small, but high-value volunteer-sending programs at USAID have used our foreign assistance funds efficiently and effectively, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.
VEGA has spent the past several months sharing the results and success stories of these volunteer-centered partnerships with members of Congress and the new leadership in the Trump administration, urging that they continue and expand upon partnering with volunteer-sending organizations. We have submitted testimony and policy recommendations, and highlighted the extraordinary stories through our Volunteer Impact 360⁰ Campaign—all to ensure that these programs would not end with the end of the VEGA LWA, which sunsetted on September 8, as well as to assist them in effectively crafting the next initiative. We are pleased that the new VISP APS reflects many of our recommendations and is poised to expand upon the success of the past 13 years.
VEGA is deeply gratified by the support we have garnered on the Hill and in the administration which led to this new volunteer initiative. We appreciate Administrator Green for prioritizing USAID’s partnership with volunteer-sending organizations and skilled volunteers as one of his first initiatives. We also are deeply grateful for the following bipartisan members of Congress and their staff for their strong support: Senators Boozman, Leahy and Isakson, and Representatives Hill, Cicilline, Donovan, Connolly, Sherman, Shea-Porter, Beyer and Chris Stewart. We look forward to continuing to work with these champions for volunteers in service of our global development goals to realize the promise of the VISP and beyond.
On behalf of our 30 volunteer-sending member organizations, VEGA embraces this new opportunity to continue to partner with USAID and is eager to help USAID fulfill the vision and objectives of VISP. We begin this new chapter for our alliance with a commitment to do all we can to ensure that USAID is successful in fully and effectively leveraging skilled volunteers in U.S. global development for more prosperity and security at home and abroad.