The inaugural AKF TKN pools were launched jointly by the Aga Khan Foundation and the TKN Central Office at the beginning of 2018, when the first cohort of volunteers began to serve in three pools of expertise: Research Analysts, Visual/Graphic Designers, and Writers and Editors. Pool volunteers are recruited on an annual basis to serve on a range of short term, remote assignments across AKF’s diverse geographical and thematic areas of work.
In 2019, the “tkn.ismaili” website posted the first article (https://the.ismaili/news/aga-khan-foundations-tkn-volunteer-pools-make-global-impact) on the contribution made by AKF’s TKN volunteers in 2018. Since the 2018 inception of the AKF Pools, over 30 volunteers from this Pool have served on an impressive 147 TKN assignments in support of 65 AKF projects globally!
This second story features some of the work done by three TKN AKF Pool volunteers, Asif Samnani, Asif Lakhani and Nevins Saeed, who have collectively served on 46 short-term assignments with AKF.
Asif Samnani applied his skills as a Research Analyst to conduct financial, legal, and reputational due diligence on more than 18 institutional partners and donors. The Civil Society Monitor is an annual internal publication produced by AKF to track the state of civil society around the world. In 2020, AKF produced an “Exceptional Edition” of the Civil Society Monitor to track the global civil society response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 14 countries where AKF is active. Asif’s invaluable input to this included conducting research on the response of civil society to restrictions on civil society activities and basic freedoms.
AKDN offers Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), which are free online courses available for anyone to enrol, providing an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills. Asif’s contribution to this project was the completion of a competitor matrix for AKF's Blended Learning Initiative, to inform on what other institutions’ blended learning platforms are offering, their business model, and the features they offer. The research investigated global and regional MOOC platforms. Emphasis was placed on those that have content focused on international development or aimed at non-profits and civil society organizations.
Asif says, “AKDN and Jamati institutions have played a significant role in my life. Born and raised in rural India, I attended the high school run by Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) and used health care services provided by Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS). I am extremely grateful for this TKN opportunity to serve AKF and AKDN and to pay back what AKDN has contributed to my personal and professional development”.
Asif Lakhani contributed his expertise as a Senior Graphic Design Specialist in visual design on 21 AKF projects to enhance the appearance, aesthetic appeal and readability of AKF documents intended for public consumption. Since visual design of a brochure, manual, report or other key document is the first impression a reader gets of the document, this is a necessary discipline to support the work of the writer/editor of a document to ensure capturing the readers’ interest.
Asif says, “TKN is a blessing for us to get the opportunity to work for different institutions around the world and learn from diverse people experiences. I am very blessed that I got an opportunity to work with AKF for different countries. The team always respects our work and communicates with kind understanding. I had a great experience working with many teams around the world. Inshallah I will continue to serve the AKF institutions till the end of my life."
Nevins Saeed used her extensive Writer/Editor skills with AKF projects in India, Kyrgyzstan and East Africa. Nevins supported the Kyrgyzstan AKF office to develop success stories on the impact of the AKF Mountain Societies Development Support Project on young entrepreneurs in Jalal-Abad region, encouraging them to remain in their country, rather than abandoning their families to seek jobs in neighbouring countries.
Safeguarding covers the responsibility of organisations to ensure that their staff, operations and programmes do no harm to children and adults. The AKF Safeguarding Manual sets out AKF’s Safeguarding Policy and Code of Conduct. Nevins assisted in the revision of the first version of the AKF global safeguarding manual, making it more user–friendly. Asif Lakhani then worked on the visual design. Additionally, Nevins worked on other global AKF projects, writing case studies, developing brochures, and editing reports and manuals. In all cases she worked closely with the teams on the ground, guiding and imparting her expertise to team members.
Nevins says, “I feel very blessed in being given the opportunity to use my skillsets to support the excellent work the AKF and AKDN continue to do to alleviate the suffering of rural populations in the most under-developed countries; and to enhance the wellbeing and uphold the rights of the underprivileged around the world, including women and children”.
AKF’s General Manager, Michael Kocher, praises the AKF TKN volunteers. “The exemplary service by these excellent and committed professionals continues to strengthen our institution, and enhance our impact in beneficiary communities,” he said. “The fact that they are doing so during an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is particularly impressive, for which AKF extends its sincerest gratitude. Looking ahead, we plan to deepen further this important engagement.”