Encouraging creative thinking

You’ve had many of the traditional AFS roles over the years, on both the hosting and sending sides of the organization. Now you’re ready for a new challenge. But what?

This is where the AFS Playground comes in! Once a volunteer has gained substantial knowledge and understanding of the organization, the Playground gives them the opportunity to create new roles and projects still related to the AFS work, but are outside the traditional roles that keep the organization functioning.

First individually, then together with one’s mentor, volunteer coordinator or representative from the national office, volunteers can reflect on creative and/or novel ways to contribute to the organization. There are no limits to the possibilities in the Playground stage!

Check out how AFS Iceland manages the Playground Stage:

Steps to Consider

Does your organization encourages innovation?

  • If a volunteer in your organization had an idea for a new project for AFS, would this volunteer know where to go or who to talk to in order to present that project?
  • What kind of formal process could be easily implemented at your organization?
  • Who would you need support from to be able to implement that?
  • What would be the most effective way to propose new projects? Should this be done at the local level, or in collaboration with the national office? Who would make the final decision for resource allocation – the Volunteer Development Coordinator, the Partner Director, the National Board?

Voices from the Network

Learn about playground initiatives from the AFS Network!

AFS Germany

Denkfabrik (‘Thought Factory’) was an initiative that used to happen once a year. A topic was pre-given by the Board, derived from the organization’s overarching strategy, and different volunteers came together to develop new ideas around them.

AFS Argentina & Uruguay

Escuela de Liderazgo (‘Leadership School’)  is a training program for leadership development in which participants are encouraged (and supported) to create and implement new projects at the chapter level.

AFS Switzerland

The Project Incubator, where a group of experienced AFSers, including a Board member, help develop innovation project ideas for AFS through coaching and offering resources.

AFS Brazil

Sinapses AFS, a very recent initiative started by a group of volunteers who have shared values and concerns (related to AFS and beyond) and want to help AFS Brasil volunteers to create and implement to generate change.

The following Stages of Participation:

  1. Assessment and Data Collection

  2. Retention