There are no general prerequisites to volunteer for CSI except for certain technical tasks related to filming. The amount of work required varies but in order for a match to make sense we need a minimum of 1-2 hours per week on average. That means that sometimes we get busier and we need more help but when work is slow in a given area the volunteers have much less to do. We do not encourage more than 5 hours per week because that is a commitment that is not sustainable over time. Most of the work is also done online from your own computer at your convenience. The most important thing for us is reliability and continuity. It takes us a lot of effort to train you and bring you in and we are glad to do it for those who want to stay for a while. We are very grateful for your time donation but please do not volunteer if you do not think you can keep it up. Also, before you answer this ad, please read the pages that follow. They will answer most questions you have and can help you focus on the area in which you would like to get involved. Those interested in volunteering can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Structure of the Organization
Conflict Solutions International is a small, all-volunteer organization incorporated in the District of Columbia. It has a Board of Directors, which currently has five members. The Directors manage the corporation and tend to corporate, financial and legal matters. They have voting power. They are not necessarily involved in the specific activities of the corporation.
The directors appoint or elect a President and one or more deputies who run the activities and projects of the corporation. They also appoint a Secretary and a Treasurer.
CSI also has a Board of Advisors that currently has about 14 members in various countries. The job of the Advisors is generally to provide assistance when needed, recruit field contacts and serve as general liaison for studies or activities in the area where they are located. Advisors are appointed by the President and do not have voting power.
CSI functions in large part through the work of those in the Special Services Division which you can view under the Who We Are heading. They include a webmaster, an online editor, video production crew, an events committee and others.
The backbone of CSI are its volunteers. Some are recognized on the webpage with a specific title or function. Others are simply involved in one or more tasks. If they want to be recognized in the webpage we encourage that.
CSI is actively looking for volunteers for many different activities both administrative and operational described below. Some require a presence in the DC area but other activities can be done from remote locations.
Details of Volunteer Work
The need for volunteers is mainly in two areas: Administration and Projects.
Even though CSI is a small organization, it still has many legal obligations. We are incorporated and are subject to corporate and tax filing requirements. We are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. We maintain a website which is always being updated. As a professional organization in good standing, in addition to operational activities under our mandate, we also have to perform many administrative tasks. As the organization grows and our activities expand, we will benefit from a well managed corporation with a solid structure. The general administrative tasks are the following:
1. Bookkeeping and taxes (our treasurer is currently handling that);
2. Corporate filings ( the corporate Secretary is in charge of that);
3. Document management;
4. Website design and maintenance. We have a webmaster and an assistant but we could use additional help to move things faster;
5. Fundraising. There are several types of fundraising. They include mail-in campaigns, grant writing, benefit events, search for in-kind donations, corporate sponsors and specific-projects sponsorship.;
6. Maintain mailing lists;
7. Monitor email and phone messages;
8. Legal issues. Various areas, including compliance with Patriot Act and related executive orders. ( The lawyers on the Board of Directors are handling that).
Under 501©(3) we are essentially an educational organization. Our activities, however, can include a variety of areas, including action oriented operations such as overseas missions. Direct overseas activities are only possible through project sponsorship. The current focus of our local work is the study of and publications relating to issues of human rights, conflict resolution and self determination of people. We do so in the following ways.
1) Video and film. We have filmed many interviews with victims of human rights, leaders of liberation and independence movements and other individuals of interest in our field. We have many more planned for the next few months. Typically, CSI provides a host that introduces a guest. The guest gives a presentation or answers the host’s questions. We upload most of the videos to our channel on Youtube, Current TV and other internet sites. We also have signed up with public access television in several areas, including DC and Arlington. If funding will permit, we are planning some documentaries and other TV shows in the future. Volunteers with video/audio skills are needed for filming and post-production. Specifically, we could use cameramen, a lighting and an audio person. Editing is also a skill which we are in great need of. We have some good hosts but can always use more. Good speakers are encouraged to get involved. We strive to give more people the opportunity to be on the air.
2) Radio. Most of the shows made for internet and television could also be used for radio. As of this writing, however, we have not explored radio options for our shows and would need volunteers to work on that.
3) Internet. Our new webpage is now an interactive site that features a submission link where the public can submit materials such as stories, pictures, links, articles and comments. The site also contains and open forum where viewers can sign in and automatically post their opinions in real time. The person who manages the interactive content needs some help. We need to promote the site and generate traffic. Also, we can use people with graphic skills for our general website and publication activities. We need to publish our videos on sites such as Al Gore’s Current TV, MySpace, FaceBook and other places. We need help to make that happen.
4) Public relations. Our educational and information work cannot be very effective without promotion. It is important that our shows and publications receive exposure through press coverage and outreach events. We need volunteers to help liaison with the press, develop fliers, new brochures, pamphlets and other promotional materials. Networking with both individuals and organizations is essential. It is not just a means to an end because it combines promotion with education and access to more activities and projects. But it is labor intensive and we need more people to do that. Events are a good way to reach out to the public. Volunteers can help expand our reach through expanded email lists, advertisements and in other creative ways. We plan to write an article on the organization for Wikipedia. Requirements are stringent and we need somenone to take charge of that.
5) Events. A few times a year we run outreach events. The purpose of these events is to conduct educational activities under our mandate, broaden the reach of the organization, fundraise, recruit volunteers and network. We usually feature speakers at these events followed by a social. If you live in the Washington area you can help to plan and run the events. That includes: finding a suitable venue for the event, finding speakers, buying and preparing food, tending the bar, register guests and many other things that become necessary. We have an events committee but can always use more help. The week before a big event It gets very hectic.
6) Research. This is where most of our materials come from and is at the core of our operations. New research is mostly done through the internet. This field of activity provides many challenges but we offer training to those who are seriously interested in participating. We also need research for the structural development of the organization as it is explained below. We have several research projects. These evolve with time so stay tuned. The main ones are the following.
A) Locate speakers for our programs in Washington.
As part of its educational efforts, CSI conducts programs with speakers. Most of the time we film the presentation, edit it and upload it to our Youtube channel. Finding speakers is a time-consuming effort and it requires a careful analysis of the topic involved. The reason for that is that we try and present a balanced view of the issues we deal with. We therefore strive to offer several, sometimes conflicting, opinions on a given subject.
Let’s take a practical example. Say that we want to do an event with speakers on Kosovo and Kosovo independence. Who are the parties involved in that issue? Mostly Kosovo, Serbia and, to a lesser extent, Russia and others. We first have to locate a delegation or some kind of representative from Kosovo. Find out if they can send a speaker. Find out who s/he is, her caliber, notoriety, etc. We then should contact the embassy of Serbia or other community organizations to see who they can send. They will want to know who is speaking for the opposite side. They may want to know who we are and what we are doing. Embassies may need to check with their foreign ministry. So there are a lot of emails going back and forth. Sometimes, when one party refuses to debate, we need to make a statement to that effect at the time of the presentation.
Another instance that requires research is to search the internet for local people that are related to a given conflict.
Practical example. Let’s say that we are concerned with the suffering of the Kurd people at the hands of the Turkish or other government. Let’s also say that we want to present the view of the separatists. It’s very difficult to communicate with someone in the Kurdish region, let alone bringing them into the United States. So we need to research immigrant communities, ethnic associations and other leads to get the local representatives of the movement to speak on one of our programs. They have a good reason to make an effort to appear on our programs. If they are somewhere on the Eastern seaboard of the US there is a good chance they will come to Washington. In some special cases, we can go to them. It’s tough political game but interesting work.
B) Meetups organization in different cities
CSI Washington does not have a monopoly on good ideas, programs and research. We have therefore decided to expand to many cities around the world, which is now made possible by the Meetup system. If you are not familiar with that system check them out at Meetup.com. Typically, an organizer in a given city will lead by-monthly discussions at a café or other public place. In the case of CSI they should discuss human rights issues and, more specifically, how CSI can address them. Eventually, we hope the meetups will lead to self-governing chapters that can operate locally and at the same time enrich our activities and our website with submissions of materials and videos. A grass-roots system is what we are striving for. Our main engine is people and you can help us by getting involved and finding more people like you.
The first challenge in setting up a meetup is finding a local organizer and as many interested people as possible that can attend meetings. While CSI does have contacts in several cities we need more research to put together good teams. Energetic young people with organizational skills are worth their weight in gold.
As far as we can tell so far, it seems that the best way to recruit people in other cities is to advertise on Craigs List under Community/Volunteer activities, university bulletins and by using the Meetup itself. A well designed meetup site will attract people on an ongoing basis. With a good organizer in place the chapter can grow and do well.
We need help in locating and recruiting organizers and others. Also important is to keep initial relations with these groups as they get started.
C) Identify issues of interest to the organization and materials for our interactive website.
This project is similar and related to A. The main object here is to study issues around the world and select those that we can tackle. But instead of looking for speakers, we are mostly concerned with gathering materials for our website. We need articles, pictures, stories or videos. Those can be submitted to the address specified in the webpage. It takes time to contact people of interest and solicit materials. But it is important if we are to be representative of a broad range of views and issues. We are also interested in encouraging participation in our interactive features. We welcome exchanges of views and ideas in our site. That is why we created the open forum feature. Unfortunately, there has not been enough action on it as of yet. The goal is to have as much traffic on our website as possible. The more the content, the more we have to offer viewers.
Where projects number A and C come together is if we can remotely locate individuals of interest to the organization that can participate in a program through videoconferences. The way that can work is the following. We can have an event in Washington with a live speaker. We film the speaker directly into a laptop which is connected to a website. At exactly the same time, the person we are interviewing in the field is also filmed and fed to the same website. So we can have a live discussion in real time with individuals that are in inaccessible or dangerous locations. Well, that is the theory anyway. In practice this is difficult to accomplish without a lot of research and communications to set this up.