Changing the World: With Global Volunteers

–with Bud Philbrook & Michele Gran

As Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of this award-winning global media platform & Chief Encouragement Officer of our affiliated pro bono social impact enterprise; GoodWorks 360°, I was delighted to have the opportunity to get better acquainted with Bud Philbrook & Michele Gran, Founders of Global Volunteers, a worldwide network of local people, community leaders, volunteers, staff and board members committed to genuine human and economic development. Global Volunteers is dedicated to helping build a foundation for world peace through mutual international understanding; recognizing that the mere absence of war is not peace and peace without justice is no peace at all. Learn more as you enjoy our inspiring Interview below ⤵︎

We’d like to hear about your professional journey(s) before Global Volunteers.

Bud:  I earned a BA in political science from the University of Minnesota, an MA in public affairs from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, and a JD (cum laude) from Hamline University School of Law.

I got involved in politics early and served on the presidential campaign staffs of Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Sen. George McGovern, initially in Minnesota, then Illinois and California.  I first ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1970 and was elected in 1974.  Gov. Rudy Perpich appointed me Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in his first administration.

I worked for Sperry Univac (now Unisys) for six years where at 21 I was the youngest supervisor in the company, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) for two years as director of finance and communications, and practiced government and business law for 12 years.  In 1984, Michele and I cofounded Global Volunteers.

Michele:  I was always drawn to the public/non-profit field, first working for the United Way after college, then a small Minneapolis non-profit, the B’nai B’rith Society until I started my Minnesota State Government career with positions at the Minnesota State Council for the Handicapped, the Minnesota Shade Tree Program and the Minnesota Soil and Water Conservation Board. During this time, I earned my graduate degree in International Communications. In a two-year period between two state government positions, I was a marketing account executive for a Minneapolis-based Public Relations agency.  After my second son was born, I worked free-lance jobs for non-profits until I became pregnant with my third son.  By that time, Global Volunteers was nearly five years old, and I had been serving as a volunteer media relations consultant with the organization, and when my third son turned one year old, I joined the Global Volunteers full-time staff of five.  That was in 1989.

Tell us about your nonprofit and the inspiration behind it.

Our vision is simple: To wage peace and promote justice worldwide through mutual international understanding by uniting short-term volunteers and local people on community service programs.

We recognize that that the mere absence of war is not peace and peace without justice is no peace at all. As volunteers, we follow the lead of local people to create, nurture, and sustain the well-being of the world’s children and their community. Our dedicated community partners ensure volunteers’ assistance is appropriate, meaningful, and measurable.  Volunteers serve in two primary program areas:

  1. Helping deliver the United Nations prescribed 12 Essential Services focusing on children – eradicating hunger, improving health, and enhancing cognition.
  2. Teaching conversational English, the international language of opportunity, to children and adults.

Our experts in human and economic development guide short-term volunteer abroad opportunities:

  • Country managers who are highly educated local nationals and fluent in English.
  • Senior executives with advanced degrees in International Development, Law, International Communications, Public Affairs, English, Finance, and Business Administration.
  • Management team embodying 100+ years of international living, academic, and career expertise.
  • Global staff sharing a broad vision of comprehensive community service.
  • Co-founders with five decades of executive expertise in business, non-profits, law, and federal and state governments.

We’re privileged to work with devoted hosts and community partners who guide short-term volunteer abroad opportunities.  They are local, tribal and national governments; local non-profits and NGOs; crisis centers and shelters; hospitals and health clinics; preschools, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities; orphanages and children’s homes; elder-care facilities; and faith-based institutions and organizations.

It was as much an experiment for our hosts as it was for us, as before that time, they had never welcomed short-term volunteers such as us into their demonstration project.

Over 37 years, we’ve collaborated with more than 200 development partners in more than 150 communities in 36 countries on six continents.  But, the vision was formed on our “volunteer honeymoon” with an international development organization in January 1980 in Conacaste, Guatemala: where we spent one week helping in our respective areas of expertise. It was as much an experiment for our hosts as it was for us, as before that time, they had never welcomed short-term volunteers such as us into their demonstration project.  We didn’t mess anything up, and in fact, made a bit of a contribution – but more, we learned a great deal about the practical work of development on the ground level.  The experience motivated Bud to imagine a non-profit organization that could mobilize a “mini-peace-corps” type cadre of other short-term volunteer generalists that could be helping hands worldwide.

Global Volunteers officially launched in January 1984 with a Board of Directors and two trips to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica where Bud led small “teams” of friends and relatives to put into practice his graduate-school philosophy of development.  The rest is, as they say, history.


Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitocco
DENNIS is the Founder & Chief ReImaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —the award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via blockbuster global events, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Collaborating with his Chief Inspiration Officer (and wife), Ali, everything they do is "for-good" vs. "for profit". Their mission over the past decade-plus has been to rediscover humanity at its best, influencing and showcasing it every step of the way. Together, they do their very best to figure out what the world is trying to be —then using all their resources to help it to be better every day in every way. They understand and embrace the notion that it’s not about me or you; it’s about caring for the people we serve and more responsibly stewarding the precious resources in our care. And they believe it’s about showing up, being present, and intentionally giving our invaluable gifts of time, talent, and treasure "for good". Dennis is a contributing author to these Best-Selling Books ♦ Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational ChangeJourney Well, You Are More Than EnoughThe Four-Fold Formula For All Things Wellness: True Stories of the Heart, Spirit, Mind, and Body Voices of Strength Win the Wellness W.A.R. We Are Responsible

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