“I need to do something!” Spanish social entrepreneur Yolanda Rueda said to the U.S. Ambassador to Spain after meeting him at a volunteer award conference. “I want to visit other organizations in the U.S., explain what I do, and look for partners,” she said. Yolanda continued to explain the mission of her organization, Fundación Cibervoluntarios, which is made up of social entrepreneurs and is focused on eliminating societal gaps through increasing access to technology. The ambassador, taken by Yolanda’s passion to help others, recommended her for a VolVis International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Just a few months later, Yolanda came to the United States on a volunteerism and social innovation-focused IVLP with another Spanish colleague.
Yolanda’s IVLP included learning about the U.S. government and meeting with fellow innovators she previously met at the Service Innovation Summit in Madrid. Yolanda met with various government and non-profit organizations to hear about ways that Cibervoluntarios could form partnerships with U.S. organizations. Additional meetings with organizations, large and small, gave Yolanda new ideas for Fundación Cibervoluntarios. For example, her visit with United Way sparked fundraising and co-branding ideas for both Spain and Latin America, and at a meeting with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), she discussed remote training of volunteers via webinars and digital training.
While all of the IVLP meetings arranged by the State Department and its implementing partners really helped Yolanda gain new ideas, she believes one of her most insightful meetings happened by chance from a conversation on the train to New York City. Through this conversation, Yolanda discovered the person sitting next to her worked with an organization that assists low-income schools in creating expanded learning days. Their discussion on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) opened new ideas for Yolanda to connect it to IT non-profit work with her organization.
Yolanda used her time in the United States in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City to significantly expand her professional network to the point that organizers of the Points of Light Conference asked her to return to the United States to talk about her organization. The conference allowed her to share ideas with people across the Americas, from Argentina to Ecuador.
“We do not know what the future will bring,” says Yolanda, “but we discovered this is the way.”