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Annual report 2006-2007


For the first General Assembly of BeVolunteer, we are proud to present its first "Annual report".

This document will try to resume the main part of what we did together during this year. It's a way to share our work to institutions, to keep an archive for the future, and probably to analyse our work with our actual experience!

1. Short history

1.1. The Preparation

Before BeVolunteer was created, its founders, along with other members, worked for more than a year to establish the basis of the future organization.

On 11 September 2006 and after nearly a year of preparation and establishing the basis, an organization called Hospitality Club Volunteers is founded and the statutes and creation document are submitted to the court in Rennes, France. The non-governmental organization is born.

Two weeks later the website is developing fast and new volunteers join the team. On first of May 2007 the legal organization counts 37 official members.

1.2. Name change

In January 2007 the members vote to change the name of the non-governmental organization into BeVolunteer. A step towards independence and defining a prospective identity.

1.3. Opening BeWelcome.org

Only a few weeks later and after various months of preparation the project BeWelcome is announced and the website www.bewelcome.org goes online - in Beta phase. The project BeWelcome is the main tool of the non-governmental organisation to reach the goals it defined in the statutes.

2. Structural activities

The decisions about how to set the structural basis for the organization were taken collectively through thorough discussion, followed by a proposal of the Board of Directors (the founding members)and then submitted to vote. Each decision had to find a best way between the ideals of the organization (expressed in the document "Values") and its original content (participation through internet of very numerous persons).

2.1. Designing the Membership Process

The different possibilities to join the official organization BeVolunteer or only sign up as a member to the website BeWelcome required a clear definition concerning volunteering for both the project and the organization.

It was agreed that

  • membership of the website BeWelcome does not automatically include membership of the non-governmental organization BeVolunteer
  • any member of BeWelcome can participate in volunteer activities within the project BeWelcome without having to be a member of the legal organization BeVolunteer
  • any member of BeWelcome can apply to be a member of BeVolunteer and then participate more deeply in the volunteer activities which are coordinated by BeVolunteer. This status implies mutual legal responsibilities between BeVolunteer and its members, as outlined in the Statutes of the association.

2.2. Implementing Democracy

Democracy is one of the key values of BeVolunteer, and it had to be carefully implemented in decision making procedures. Therefore the General Assembly (which holds a meeting at least once a year) is the main representation of it, and an internet based forum has been established to facilitate democratic debating and discussing throughout the year. All members of BeVolunteer can access and participate in the various areas of the forum, covering all aspects of BeVolunteer.

Simple majority is needed to end a discussion and lead it towards its implementation, be it through common consent or through a poll established when required.

2.3. Implementing Transparency

Transparency in the current and past decisions is another key value of BeVolunteer and is needed to reach the goals of the association. Therefore results and arguments deriving from forum discussions are documented in an extensive Wiki page which acts as the BeVolunteer information basis. This way all volunteers have permanent access to information and are encouraged to contribute and improve it where necessary.

2.4. Increasing Participation

Funding the organisation entirely on volunteer commitment is a challenge and many different communication tools are implemented to encourage people to join and help (such as newsletters, chats,permanent online communication and working groups etc.). The extensive use of internet technologies is seen by BeVolunteer to be a possibility allowing volunteers from all over the world to participate and help contribute to the goals of the association.

2.5. BeVolunteer Bodies

Board of Directors: meets on weekly basis through online chat and deals with strategic and routine work related to the development of the association. Reports of the meetings are published weekly.

General Assembly: meets at least once a year and acts as the decision approving body.

Other teams meet regularly but without obligation. They also share their reports online.

On a monthly basis, online chat meetings are organized for all the members of the organization

3. The Big Challenge: Creating BeWelcome

BeWelcome.org went online in February 2007 (although in Beta - phase) and is a website managed by BeVolunteer. It is the organization's main project to realize its goals: support hospitality and intercultural exchanges throughout the world.

These exchanges (be it only through the website, meeting in real life or even staying at another member's place) are possible through the website as communication and participation platform. To successfully run this website all members of BeVolunteer are encouraged and required to participate, be it through technical work, coordination and management or administrative contributions. Only then it is possible to create a bridge between cultures and countries where each individual can learn and meet people from all over the world.

3.1. Construction of the site

  • September 2006: Wiki and forum are set. Beginning of technical work, the discussion for a server

rental was started.

  • October 2006 : the server was rented in October. Hannu starts its configuration.
  • November 2006 : Heidelberg meeting, Marcos explained his plans and possibilities with TravelBook environment, JeanYves presented briefly the Database Model he was working on. Hannu finnished the server configuration
  • December 2006 : the Database model was installed for test on the new server, the first Layout experiment sent by Micha by end of november was activated on this model
  • January 2007 : Marco starts to install the TravelBook system, connected with the rented server, on test site, registration was made possible, but just for testing. Micha provided several new layout, Peter fixed several problems, also contributed Matthias, Felipe
  • February 2007 : Starting the heavy translation job, and starting the website as Beta (February 10th)
  • Messaging through the website
  • Profile
  • Forum
  • Comment
  • Blogs
  • Accepting
  • Profile translations
  • contacts managment

Ads were introduced by mid-february

  • March 2007 : Several people have subscribe to BeWelcome, layout is improved (Orange layout), Maurizion improved the cities/countries pages
  • April 2007 : Work on search page is started, in parallel, a real collective developement environment is setup by Hannu, based on SVN, Philip start to organize programmers team.

At end of April:

the translations are well advanced (627 sentences in each languages!),

  • English 100.0% achieved
  • French 99.7% achieved
  • Dutch 99.4% achieved
  • Italian 97.3% achieved
  • German 95.4% achieved
  • Spanish 81.1% achieved
  • Lithuanian 79.2% achieved
  • Turkish 73.3% achieved
  • Finnish 71.4% achieved
  • Russian 71.2% achieved
  • Catalan 56.6% achieved
  • Danish 51.5% achieved
  • Polish 50.2% achieved
  • Portuguese 23.4% achieved
  • Hungarian 17.6% achieved

346 members have subscribed, in 49 countries, 418 messages have been exchanged with the BeWelcome system.

3.2. The teams

Many teams make sure that the organization is functioning smoothly and most of them are managed by a duo of coordinators. The following list introduces the teams in alphabetical order and outlines their main activities.

  • Abuse

(Stefan, Claudia, Frank, Maria, Irina, Matthias)

The abuse team ensures the security of the network, prevents the abuse of it and deals with cases of abuse. Until now its work mainly focused on establishing legally binding and efficient rules to avoid future abuses of the network. This includes development of the association's policy regarding the privacy of member data, the comment system, and the protection against spam.

  • Acceptation of Members

(Ieva, Pierre-Charles, Claudia)

This team suggests and establishes processes for application to BeWelcome and makes sure all applications comply with the rules and security concerns applied by BeWelcome.

  • Design

(Micha, Malte, Matthias, Sune)

An active team of graphic designers, doing graphical and programming work to implement a good design to the tools of BeVolunteer (BeWelcome website, newsletters, other communication). This includes permanent discussion with all the volunteers since the graphical surface is key to attract members.

  • Forum

(Frank, Peter, Radek)

The forum team has the role to manage the forum of BeWelcome, i.e realizing its moderation. It's first task consisted in designing the rules of the forum, based on freedom of expression and fair moderation.

  • Geography

(Frank, Patrick, Pascal, Ralf)

The geography team deals with the structure of the geographic database, its organization and errors occurring. It adjusts errors happening throughout the registration process of new members i.e. dealing with locations which are not yet in the database.

  • Groups

(Fabian, Patrick)

Thematic or geographic groups have an important role in the network, providing an important tool for cultural exchange. Groups will strengthen the community by building links between people. The groups team is going to manage the creation of groups, their functioning and moderation. Some tests have been implemented, as basis for future development.

  • Legal

(Pierre-Charles, Anja, Claudia)

The legal team has had a high responsibility in this period of setting the basis of our organization, especially in designing the statutes, internal rules, disclaimers and Terms and Conditions. The lack of competent persons was met with the involvement of all the volunteers in the reflexion process and with external consultations.

  • Local Volunteers

(Patrick, Kjell, Florian Fischer)

This team will take a very important place in the life of our project but is still in the stage of development. Once implemented it will enhance participation of all the members of BeWelcome into cultural exchanges, focus on promotion, and creating member exchange on a local basis all around the world.

  • Media and Communication

(Florian Kaefer, Sebastian, Natàlia)

At this early stage of the project the media and communication team focused its activities on finding suitable team members, setting work routines and communication steady progress to the members in form of a newsletter. Although real media work will only start within the next year the basis for clear structured and comprehensive press information is being worked on. Communication - be it internal or external - is a key for participation of people and promotion of our ideas. Therefore the team's focus will be on public relations and sustainable stakeholder communication.

  • New Features

Considering the high capacity of development of the project and all the fields which could be explored, a team is specially dedicated to reviewing new ideas and developing towards realization.

  • Server Administration

(Hannu, Jean-Yves, Marco)

The BeWelcome website requires professional server management, assumed by the members of the server admin team. They implement and configure the servers acquired by BeVolunteer for the realization of BeWelcome, they also assume their maintenance, management and evolution.

  • Software Development

(Dorota, Felipe, Hannu, Jean-Yves, Jens, Jonas, Malte, Marco, Markus, Martti, Maurizio, Micha, Philipp, Peter, Roberto, Sune, Toni)

The realization of the BeWelcome website is the main action of BeVolunteer. It goes through the work of programmers working as volunteers for us. Their permanent work implement the ideas developed by BeVolunteer volunteers, on BeWelcome platform. Some of the goals achieved in the reporting period:

  • design of a database scheme
  • adaptation of myTravelBook
  • release of the following features:
    • encryption and other core functionalities
    • various administrative tools
    • profile page,country listing, basic search, whoisonline, comment system, message system, forum (modiefied based on myTravelBook)
  • decesion on layout framework taken (YAML)
    • implementation of layout
  • setting up development enviroment based on SVN and flyspray
  • establishing routines and working out coding guidelines (to be continued)
  • Support

(Claudia, Laura, Carlos, Gerben, Trevor)

The Support Team set up (with the help of OTRS admins) the OTRS system for managing the messages sent to our organization, be it external contacts or feedback from our members. Templates and the pre-sorting of messages through the OTRS have been prepared and are ready to be translated. Offering high-quality support to our members includes a well-structured, easy to understand and up-to-date FAQs section(frequently asked questions), which has already been put up by the team.

  • Testing

(Peter, Martin, Philipp)

This specialized team works on testing all the technical problems detected so concerned volunteers can try to solve them.

  • Translation

(Irina, Natalia Merce Peter Frank Anna Gerben Steven Francis Irina Claudia Florian Hannu Pierre-Charles Natalie Malte Cristina Tiziano Rachele Ieva Romuald Maria Radek Agniezska Ricardo Miguel Marina Evgenia Carlos Natalia Merce Synnove Omer Alper)

The work of volunteers from all over the world already allows us to offer our services in 14 languages, and this number will keep on evolving with the time. We want to offer the best service in mother tongue of the members, so the cultural exchanges can happen in the most easy and natural way, without borders of languages and imposition of English. New tools are being developed further than the translation of the texts of the website: members can translate their profiles, or can allow other people to do it for them, so each time they design the way of an exchange with someone of other lands.

  • Volunteer Management

(Matthias and Claudia)

The management of so many volunteers in our association requires a special organization to allow their application and management. This team receives the first contact with future volunteers and directs them to the appropriated teams. It also looks for the best ways to keep volunteer motivation as high as possible, and work on developing appropriated tools for their work. So far templates have been written to make it possible to react very fast to volunteer offers.

4. Meetings

4.1. Board of Directors

The board of directors met 30 times between September 09 and April 26. Its members treated the weekly membership applications, the current topics, worked on the treatment and application of the decisions collectively taken during the week, and about strategies to follow and actions to take.

4.2. Special meetings

Heildeberg: 17th-19th November, 2006

Participants: claudiaab, coroa, duesseldorf, gotte, hkroger, jeanyves, junglerover, thorgal67

Topics: cooperation BeVolunteer - Travelbook; Membership issues (activity of members)

Main decisions: 1) Starting BeWelcome 2) open BeVolunteer to the volunteers of all the Hospitality Exchange networks

4.3. The GA

The GA taking place in Brussels the first weekend of May was considered a big challenge for us: because it's the first major step to prove that our democratically organized structure is actually working, but also to complement our "online" ways of working with face-to-face work. This GA allows legal common procedures to happen, but the assembly will also discuss the topics which are important for the future BeVolunteer; it is considered extremely important.