CA Matthew on volunteering by desktop
Matthew Hawkins CA is a volunteer for Grow Movement – a charity supporting businesses in Developing Countries via Skype. Jana Wedekind shares his story.
ICAS member Matthew Hawkins is one of a new breed of 'desktop volunteers' who are offering their support to others through internet technology.
Matthew, an Executive in Corporate Finance Strategy at EY, has signed up with charity Grow Movement to assist entrepreneurs in developing countries – and all he needs is an internet connection and Skype.
Matthew believes that there are a lot of talented social entrepreneurs with interesting ideas who lack the practical business knowledge that underpin key decisions.
He has volunteered for a variety of charities over the past two years, including Teach First, a charity based in Bamako, Mali and EY's Smart Future programme. Whilst looking for new opportunities to volunteer, he came across 'Escape The City', a website helping corporate professionals 'do something different' and was intrigued by Grow Movement's concept.
For Matthew, the African business landscape is still a big unknown as he is just about to start his first project with Grow Movement, but he is looking forward to learning more about the local environment.
"Grow Movement's concept of using volunteer consultants to assist entrepreneurs in developing economies is a novel idea with huge potential. The upcoming Uganda 600 study looks to quantify the help consultants can provide remotely and could even go on to influence foreign aid policy, which arguably is currently not as efficient as it could be."
The benefits and challenges
The concept of Grow Movement isn't the only thing that excites Matthew though. The fact that it allows him to get in touch with the other 600 volunteer consultants is a great benefit in his view. He said he will value the exchange of experiences with like-minded professionals from vastly different professional backgrounds.
The biggest challenge in volunteering is trying to fit it all in around his demanding job at EY. The Grow Movement model allows him to continue to balance his work for EY with his commitment to assisting others.
One great aspect of volunteering with Grow Movement is the flexibility, contributing a couple of hours every fortnight as well as being able to connect with local entrepreneurs via Skype.
The main benefit Matthew gained from volunteering is greater appreciation for the skills he has obtained during his studies and professional experience to date. He enjoys putting them into practice and finds that his volunteer roles require a different level of thinking, a skill which he has been able to take back to his day job.
When asked what advice he would give to volunteer newbies, he said: "Look for a project that you are genuinely interested in. There are so many different businesses at different stages of their development cycle - just starting out, or trying to grow - in all sorts of industries. Find something that appeals to you and I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience."
If Matthew's story inspired you and you would like to become a volunteer, you can learn more about Grow Movement.