After finishing Day 1 on a high, I had to hit the bed early by around 11.00 as my next day was supposed to begin early. The next morning I had decided to take MARTA the public transport service. I had to take a bus first from the bus station which was close to the apartment I was staying and reach the nearest train station and from there I had to take the train service to Georgia World Congress Center. A one way ride in the train costs $2.50 and the bus ride is free and complementary. I had to initially take a Southbound train and switch station at another station and take Westbound to reach the venue. I started at 5.40 AM from home and reached the venue by 6.30 AM. After picking a cup of coffee from Starbucks, I walked in to the room where the session was supposed to begin.
The first person I met this morning was Ann, who was one of the key organizers of the conference and is with Points of Light, Atlanta. It was great to see her remembering me from the last night’s talk. She greeted and we exchanged few remarks about the conference and the way it had been organized. The first session at 7.00 in the morning was Pathway to Excellence : A breakfast session on Volunteer Administration. I thought that we’ll be attending the session with the breakfast at the venue and later learned that we had to bring our breakfast :-). This session was interesting as they were discussing how volunteer coordinators should improve their core competencies and enhance their need among organizations. The session was interactive as well and the session was conducted by Council for Volunteer Administration who also do a certification program for Volunteer coordinators. It gave insights on how periodic assessments of yourselves can help you improve your efficiency. For more information on the certification program they recommended people to visit http://www.cvacert.org.
My next session was also at the same hall but I had 30 minutes with me to quickly get out and grab some coffee to drink before getting to the next session. I was so excited about the next session as it was on Innovation : Impact Volunteering 3.0. However, as the session progressed, I learned that it was more focussed on volunteering at America. I thought that some parts of the learnings could be useful for me to take back and apply to Indian context but even after 20 minutes into that I couldn’t draw anything parallel. I then moved out and found another interesting session which discussed about employment opportunities : How to use unemployed Youth for Volunteering. This session was labelled as a Global session and it was interesting to learn how organizations were tapping into the potential force of unemployed youths. This had a take away message for NGO’s who should think of working with the Government in getting the unemployed youth force to become volunteers and then the volunteering provides them an opportunity to build their career.
At 10.30 I headed to the main auditorium for the next session titled “Providing better future for the Kids”, which was a panel discussion on what should be done with respect to investing in Education to improve future for the children. All the speakers in this session were excellent and were making remarks on what they thought as effective investments Non Profits and Government should be making in terms of providing children a better future. It was really interesting to listen to Ms. Reba from Target (they were the primary sponsors for this session and also one of the major sponsor for the conference) mentioning about learning quality and learning outcomes. Though the speakers spoke about many things in context to America, I felt that a lot of those can be replicated in India as well.
I then rushed to the refreshment counter to grab my lunch. By the day 2, I was able to recognize many faces and many people were able to recognize me as well. I had a good network of friends by now. At the lunch table I met a couple of international delegates with whom I had lunch. We discussed about the FIFA World Cup and the delegates from Brazil were so thrilled about their match with Mexico that evening. Some said that they were planning to leave to the hotel room to see the match. I had a session to catch up at 12.30 and rushed to the hall and found that it was a luncheon where they provided lunch :-P…. This was on Building Social Capital and was a panel discussion. This session had talks which spoke about having more civic engagement in initiatives by organizations. I found this session a little boring in the middle :-).
AT 2.30, after grabbing a cup of coffee from Starbucks, I moved to the next session which was Not your everyday Volunteer, which was another panel discussion on innovations in Volunteering. In fact the entire theme for the second day was on Innovation. This session was so engrossing. The panellists were so experienced and were able to tell stories from their work on how they formulated social entrepreneurship programs. Not many people discuss about failures in session but in this session we spoke about failure and learnings from failure. It had 45 minutes of panel discussion and 45 minutes of Question and Answers. I had aquestion which I posted to the panel and got some ideas. What was more interesting was after the session one of the panellists come to me and was discussing to learn about the work I was doing as the question I had posted was interesting to him. Also another participant came to me saying that she will be happy to help me in finding some possible solution as her organization was also working on something similar. This was really pleasing!.
I was a little tired by the evening after attending back to back session but was thrilled by the fact that I was getting to converse with so many people. One more thing which I felt was I was able to share so much from my work experience which people found very useful. I had knowingly or unknowingly taking volunteerism more professionally and found that many of my approaches were being discussed here. I now seriously believe that I can now certainly conduct such sessions in future in India :-).
Later in the evening, we all were invited for a networking dinner at the World of Coca-Cola. We reached there a little early by around 6.10 but even by then the drinks and the dinner were ready. I got to meet the Hands On international affiates who were by now good friends and have dinner with them. The food was amazing in the evening. We took some photos and were deeply discussing about the tied Brail Mexico World Cup match. I had to leave by 7.30 to meet AID Atlanta volunteers. So I didn’t get any time to see the Secret Vault of Coca-Cola or got a chance to taste the different flavour of Coke. And yeah, I now remember that after being in Atlanta for about 4 days now, I haven’t done any sight seeing!… That is the amount of engagement the conference had to offer so far… Let me see if I can get a chance to go somewhere on Day 3!