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United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS):
A Legacy

Assisting Others As An Expert Volunteer

This article was part of the online Knowledge Base hosted by the United Nations Information Technology Society. It was written by Jayne Cravens, and is an example of the kinds of resources that were a part of the UNITeS Knowledge Base to help volunteers applying ICT in the developing world, and to help organizations who wanted to involve such volunteers.

Assisting Others in Your Area of Expertise

Volunteers often support an agency's staff members or other volunteers in a particular area of expertise. For instance: Problems can arise in such situations when the volunteer "expert" is assisting a staff person with working with a system or technology that the volunteer understands quite well, but the staff doesn't. How do you balance making the topic accessible in the way you present the subject without talking "down" to the staff person or other volunteer?

Other problems can arise around differences in culture -- perhaps the online volunteer is used to sending brief e-mails with very short sentences, but the recipient thinks that such short sentences mean the sender is unfriendly or even angry.

The following suggestions should be kept in mind by all online volunteers donating their "expertise" to an NGO in a developing country -- and most can be applied to face-to-face situations as well as online:

Phil Agre of University of California, San Diego, offers additional excellent advice for people helping others with computer and software use; this information is for traditional, face-to-face volunteer settings, but the many of the tips can carry over into online settings:

This resource was based on the original document "Dos and Don'ts for Technical Assistance Volunteers" created by the Virtual Volunteering Project.

Phil Agre has posted his excellent publications about computing's impact on community and social practice on his Web page How to help someone use a computer.

To see the complete, original UNITeS web site and its resources, including its extensive knowledge base, look up unites.org at archive.org

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This archived version of the UNITeS web site is hosted by Jayne Cravens