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Organizing Volunteer Networks

Jennifer Armstrong's Volunteer Experience Talk Examines Networks

— October 30, 2013 — Keynote Trends
Jennifer Armstrong's volunteer experience talk focuses on her experience as a volunteer and educator in Kenya. Armstrong traveled to Africa with the determination to "fix" something. She embarked on an idealistic curriculum that encouraged students to reevaluate concepts such as gender equality and energy sustainability. However, she found that the students weren't engaging in the material. What she did notice was that her students were not lacking in inspirations, with ambitions and determination that far exceeded her expectations.

After a meeting with the schools headmaster, she realized that her work was failing to achieve tangible results. In so realizing, she also recognized that volunteer work has a tendency to elevate the individual. Most volunteer workers operate under an assumption that "doing something is better than doing nothing," and so regard themselves as super heroes. However, this perception gives the individual too much credit and ignores the network as a whole. She wishes to shift the understanding of volunteer work from an emphasis on the individual to a celebration of the community in order to mobilize and strategize affirmative, network-based action that can better address community needs.
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