The Mosbacher Institute’s 2016 Bank of America Program on Volunteerism featured Bud Philbrook, co-founder and CEO of Global Volunteers, on February 9, 2016. Mr. Philbrook described the advantage of the short-term volunteer model used by Global Volunteers to address what he contends is the most significant challenge facing the global community: human and economic development. He explained to the audience gathered at the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum that governments understand the comprehensive interventions necessary to address the challenge but often do not have the means to address it directly — namely, money and people.
Global Volunteers and their short-term volunteers, however, provide the money and people to solve the problem. The volunteer base attracted to Global Volunteers are individuals who want to help but generally have families, school, or occupational commitments which preclude them from being able to go somewhere for extended periods of time. Money is not a constraining factor for the program as it is for governments because the volunteers pay their own way.
Global Volunteers uses its human and financial resources to focus on what they believe is at the root of all global challenges: a cycle of poverty and disease. They attempt to break the cycle by especially assisting expecting mothers and children under the age of two to access education, nutritious food, and vaccines. Children develop the most quickly physically and cognitively in the first 1,000 days after conception. However, if they do not receive adequate nutrition or are exposed to disease, their growth is stunted, and their full potential cannot be met. If all children develop to their fullest potential, the world, Mr. Philbrook said, would benefit from the human capital but also from a decrease in poverty, stunting, and disease. To break the cycle of poverty impacting hundreds of millions of children worldwide, Global Volunteers is comprehensive in its approach of simultaneously eradicating hunger, improving health, and enhancing cognition. Focusing on just one area would only make a limited difference because all three are interrelated in their impact on the lives of individuals.
Mr. Philbrook concluded his remarks by outlining the guiding principles of Global Volunteers: teams only go where they are invited; they work under the direction of local leaders; they have local communities determine the programs they believe are necessary for development; volunteer teams work with locals directly to accomplish the community’s goals so the changes are sustainable; teams only do what they are asked to do; and they return only as long as they are invited.
Dr. William Brown, a Professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service, engaged Mr. Philbrook in a short question and answer session following Mr. Philbrook’s remarks. Dr. Brown asked a mixture of questions submitted by audience members and his own prepared questions. After the question and answer session, Dr. Lori Taylor, Director of the Mosbacher Institute, presented Mr. Philbrook with a plaque recognizing his contributions to humanitarian relief and effective innovation in the non-profit sector.
During his visit, Mr. Philbrook also had several meetings with students and faculty. He spoke with a Bush School non-profit management class, had lunch with a small group of second year Bush School students of various academic concentrations, and met with the staff of Texas A&M’s Center on Conflict and Development.