How can someone on one side of the world affect an initiative on the other side? Or contribute to making an improvement to a large-scale process? Or share the knowledge they have acquired through years of education and experience? The stories of TKN volunteers Ali Thanawalla, Adam Jutha, and Huma Pabani are all examples of short-term, remote assignments with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), which have made a significant impact on the agency's work.
Ali brought his User Interface and User Experience knowledge with Google to enhance and design new features for AKF’s innovative teaching and learning mobile application ‘PROMISE3.’ Available entirely offline, Ali’s contributions enable teachers in AKF supported schools to receive real-time data on the relative performance standing of their students, grouped by quartiles from high performing to those significantly under-performing.
Adam contributed to AKF’s Results and Learning agenda by co-leading a synthesis for various stakeholders on a recent food security study across four provinces in Afghanistan. Adam was instrumental in helping Accelerate Prosperity, AKF’s and AKFED’s new regional incubator for small and growing businesses, to develop a systematic and user-friendly process for collecting performance data through dashboard reports, which have enabled AKF to convey Accelerate Prosperity’s message to partners and stakeholders quickly and cost-effectively.
Also working on the Accelerate Prosperity initiative, Huma used her excellent writing skills to create a brand book for Accelerate Prosperity of the highest standard - a cornerstone document in a toolkit for replicating the programme in new countries or new regions. Huma helped the team to think through the accessibility of communications and how best to optimise their materials for greatest impact.
These three inspiring stories feature volunteers from the AKF TKN Pools, an innovative concept for volunteers to give of their time and knowledge in a new modality, co-launched by the TKN Central office with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), Geneva at the beginning of 2018.
Through the inaugural ‘TKN Pools,’ AKF offers volunteers the opportunity to be recruited on an annual basis with AKF Geneva and then serve on a range of short term, remote, and impact assignments across AKF’s diverse geographies, functions and thematic areas of work. Grouped into three pools for ‘Research Analysts,’ ‘Writers and Editors’ and ‘Visual Designers’, the initial team of 28 volunteers serving in 2018 were selected from a rigorous search process.
Over the last year, these volunteers have served on 47 assignments and made a significant impact on AKF’s programmatic areas and functions. They have collectively contributed in diverse areas of expertise, which include strategic presentations and annual reports; creation of dashboards; supporting monitoring and evaluation studies; due diligence on partners; and production of various external communications documents for a wide range of audiences, including multi-lateral stakeholders. Based on a remote-working model, these volunteers have supported a range of initiatives in several countries including Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Mozambique, and India.
AKF Pool volunteers reflect the diversity of the global Jamat. Ranging from a few years of experience to seasoned career professionals, volunteer backgrounds include expertise in user interface and user experience from world leading technology companies, strategic communications experience from national media agencies, and management consulting and nonprofit programme management skill sets from several leading international development organisations.
Noting the impact made by these volunteers, AKF General Manager Michael Kocher said, “The TKN Pool volunteers’ time, competency and expertise have contributed towards the agency doubling its uptake of TKN, and offered our teams an efficient and focussed modality to benefit from TKN. I hope the volunteers have found this service as personally rewarding as this has been for AKF and its programmes and operations.”
Reflecting on her experience, Huma states “Living in Canada, we usually hear about AKDN's work through fundraising campaigns, we listen to a speech with one or two feature stories and see some stock photos of people on the other side of the planet who have benefitted from AKDN's work.” She adds, “As a member of this pool I have interacted with AKDN staff in Pakistan, Tajikistan and Russia. What I know now is that the scope of AKDN's work is far bigger than I imagined. I'm in awe of the many moving parts working to make a positive difference in people’s lives and I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute through TKN.”
Through this innovative TKN service model, the Pools are demonstrating that volunteers, anywhere, anytime, of any background can find meaningful ways to contribute their time and knowledge to help build institutional capacity. Pool Manager Noureen Ali said, “The AKF TKN Pools are a special opportunity for professionals to contribute our gifts to the world - our knowledge and expertise, our inquisitive minds, our passion to make a difference beyond what we do in our everyday lives. Location, mobility and time may be limited, but our desire to contribute is not. Every individual in the pool is grateful for the opportunity to make their TKN contribution to AKF's and AKDN's outstanding work"