This month, we’re featuring our partner Winrock International.
Winrock has been connecting professional volunteers (we call them ‘Experteers’) with local projects for almost 25 years. They’ve helped improve the lives of countless disadvantaged men, women, and youths around the world.
We had the opportunity to ask Jen Snow, Outreach Director and Angela Kraszewski, Program Associate at Winrock a few questions about their world-class projects.
What is the Story of Winrock International?
Winrock’s mission is to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity, and sustain natural resources.
Winrock International traces its roots to a charitable project established by Winthrop A. Rockefeller in central Arkansas. Winrock International Livestock Research and Training Center was created in 1973 to improve animal agriculture, using the expertise that developed by raising cattle at the mountaintop Winrock ranch.
In 1985, that institution merged with two other organizations founded by Winthrop’s brother, John D. Rockefeller III, to form Winrock International. Since then, the organization expanded its mission to focus on environment, clean energy and leadership development, in addition to agriculture.
Since 1991, Winrock has engaged skilled professionals to support projects around the world. The professionals are donating their skills to projects where their knowledge is most needed.
Since then, Winrock ‘Experteers’ have completed over 5,400 assignments in 56 countries. Currently they’re running volunteer assignments in Bangladesh, Guinea, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, and Senegal.
How Does the Volunteer Process Work?
Winrock’s volunteer projects are 100% demand-driven. In-country representatives work with local organizations to identify challenges that are both interesting and viable for international experts to tackle. Together, they develop a scope of work that defines a clear assignment. Winrock’s recruiters use these scopes of work to identify the right candidates. Recruiters coordinate all the logistical arrangements, and also help the Experteers to get familiar with the culture of their destination country.
Experteers donate their time and work individually, or as part of a team. Most volunteers travel abroad for an assignment that lasts two to four weeks. Travel expenses are covered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or other donors.
On location, there is always a Winrock representative to act as contact person during the assignment. They arrange everything, from transportation to interpreting services, and can provide local tips. On the ground, the volunteers always work directly with the local organizations to exchange ideas, solve problems, and create lasting solutions. Many develop deep, long-term relationships, and many return for follow-up assignments later.
After the assignment, most Experteers rate their experience as one of the most rewarding and fulfilling work they’ve done!
“All of the trips have been tremendous learning opportunities. These assignments have been the most professionally and personally rewarding of any work I’ve ever completed. Our work touches thousands of individuals and families and is most humbling.” –Dr. David Henzler
What Type of Impact can Winrock Experteers Make?
Here’s an example of a typical Winrock story:
Arise & Shine International (A & Shine), a Nigerian honey business, was established by a husband and wife team in 2000. Ten years later, the company was still in operation, but it struggled to achieve growth, and was unaware of its market reach. With the help of Winrock Experteer Cliff Wener, A & Shine made some key improvements.
First, Cliff worked with the owners to do a thorough market-survey. Then he provided recommendations to help the company lower costs, increase productivity, and sell more products.
A & Shine implemented Cliff’s recommendations, which included introducing more efficient packaging, branding improvements, changing storage practices, purchasing new processing equipment, and hiring a bookkeeper.
Following these changes, A & Shine saw immediate benefits, achieving a $60,000 increase in sales just one year after Cliff’s assignment. The President of Nigeria liked their honey so much that he awarded them the National Productivity Award.
Today, A & Shine continues to thrive, and the owners are working hard to keep up with the increasing local demand, offering several new products. The customer base is up by 35%. They’re also generating new jobs that are hard to come by in Nigeria, and serve as an example for other entrepreneurs in the region.
“The volunteer’s visit made us look inwards and reassess the ways that we might cut costs and improve quality ourselves. He opened our eyes to see opportunities and solutions to problems that we have previously not noticed.”
-Mr. Adeshina, co-owner, Arise & Shine International
How to Apply to be a Winrock Experteer?
Every US-Citizen can apply to be a Winrock Expert, as long as you are willing to donate your time and expertise.
Most of Winrock’s projects are funded by USAID, but there is no funding to pay for consultancy fees. As a Winrock volunteer, you will be representing both Winrock and the United States. You must be flexible, patient, willing to learn about other countries, and respectful of others. Sometimes it can be beneficial if you speak the local language, but it’s usually not required. Most hosts speak English or have someone available who speaks English. If not, an interpreter is always provided.
Once accepted, it’s hard to say when exactly you’ll be approached for any specific project, as all the assignments are demand-driven. However once you’re on location and immersed in a new environment, you can be sure that the experience will be an unforgettable one!
See Experteering Opportunities with Winrock International