A Better Way To Volunteer Abroad

How many of these questions do you answer YES! to?

  • You’re a business professional who has learned how to do one or more things pretty well.
  • You want to travel abroad for awhile, to discover the world, and maybe shake up your career a bit.
  • You want to make a difference in this world, by leveraging your expertise in lower income communities.
  • While you travel, you also want to get under the “tourist layer” of Western hotels, ex pat tour guides, and congested tourist areas.   You want to immerse yourself in a local culture, learn how others live, and make some new fascinating friends doing it.
  • Maybe you’d like to enrich your leadership skills by working in radically different environments.
  • And…you want to have this amazing adventure in a way that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

If any of this describes you, then join us!   We’re a group of business professionals who donate our expertise to build the ability of small social enterprises (both non-profits and social for-profits) around the world, in return for an experience that no tourist agency can provide.

In 2014-2015 I took a year long tour around the world, 28 countries, and did pro bono business consulting for 7 non profits in 7 countries, all different kinds of projects.  The experiences were profoundly satisfying!  Small social enterprises NEED your business skills, they simply don’t have access to them.  And, set up properly, they will welcome you with lodging, local connections, friendships and the opportunity for you, alone, to have a big impact on the communities they serve.

Our community is dedicated to making that happen for you.  We will, together, gain and share the knowledge and resources you need to connect with important social enterprises around the world, in order to give you an adventure of a lifetime, and to give communities living in poverty a chance to live with more dignity.  We’re just getting started, so join us to stay informed as we launch this service.  (Your name and address will NOT be given or loaned to anyone or any organization other than us.)


Lean Volunteer Project: East Meets West Dental Center


The first Lean Volunteer project on my 2014 World Tour was with the East Meet West Dental Center, in Danang, Vietnam.   The EMW Dental Center had started as a dental outreach nonprofit, providing dental services to children living in rural areas of Vietnam.  Over time, the Center’s funding changed, and they decided to shift to a social enterprise by creating a for-profit dental clinic in downtown Danang.  We discuss this case in much more detail in the book, but here is a quick entry I wrote on my travel blog at the time about what I learned during a piece of my consulting.

This particular effort showed off a Design Thinking approach method called Immersion.  By becoming a real patient, and going through a real procedure, and yes even paying for it, I got to see how they really treated customers.  This gave me much more richness than just asking or interviewing.  It also had the side benefit of creating a richer and more trusting bond with the staff.

Danang Outreach 1

First outreach project, 40km west of Danang.


October, 2014:

As part of my consulting plan in Danang, Vietnam, I decided to look at my client’s processes to see if we can do some redesign.   Tooth whitening has always had an allure to me, for some reason I really don’t want to get into here, so I signed up to get my choppers whitened as a way to learn the process.  The idea of Medical Tourism has also intrigued me too.

What did I find?

Finding 1:  The East Meets West Dental Center staff, all Vietnamese, provide as skilled and modern dental service as my dentists in the U.S.  They took the same care, used the same instruments, went through the same processes, and had the same results as I’d get in the US.  Nothing in the staff’s service, other than the fact that their first language is Vietnamese, was different.   And the customer facing nurses and dentists spoke good enough English to make it a non issue.

Finding 2:  Since this is a mostly nonprofit social enterprise, nearly all of their equipment is second hand (my chair came from a donor in China, the one next to me came from a donor in the US).   But…..a chair feels like a chair, regardless of how many people have sat it in, right?  Lights lit, trays held stuff, instruments intruded in my mouth as usual.  No differences.  Supplies such as gloves, sponges, etc. were, of course, new.  Who wants to re-use a pair of gloves??? Not me!

Finding 3:  It’s a LOT cheaper!  This office did a process called Vital Whitening, which cleans your teeth, applies a powerful peroxide gel on the teeth, and then uses special lights to activate the gel and increase the bleaching of my nasty coffee stained teeth.   Took about 2 hours.  In the US, and I priced it before leaving, doing this in a dentist office costs anywhere from $600 – $1,000.   Here, in lovely Danang Vietnam, I paid $85.  Me be happy.

 Finding 4:  I LIKE thinking about what to do with the $500-$900  I just saved!  And I’m happy with my treatment, my teeth are much brighter and all with no pain or suffering.  I just can’t have coffee, tea, coke, or curry for 10 days.


Local students took me out for series of excursions and meals.

To get early access to the upcoming book, The Lean Volunteer, please sign up here.