Tuesday, 4 January 2011

European Year of Volunteering 2011


I recently wrote about the opportunities afforded by small scale film projects, and how they can help to promote the role of volunteering and further help to develop the social capital of civil society. Since writing I note that the European Union has designated 2011 as the "European Year of Volunteering".

At a time when Europe is divided between economic recovery (Germany) and debt-driven cutbacks (the rest),  the demise of the the welfare state and the disappearance public services is more of a pressing reality than an ideological nightmare. Accordingly, the theme of stronger reliance on the goodwill of individuals and community groups cannot be underestimated. Sadly there does not appear to be any appetite for making the wealthy pay more, or for a significant redistribution of income or investment priorities. We are witnessing a resurgence of tough conservative values allied with liberal free enterprise. Technology marches on (creating the illusion of progress for all), but socially we are sinking back into a very nineteenth century environment; in which self-help and community organization may be the only safety net for the poor and needy majority of the population. Are we pragmatic reformers or reluctant revolutionaries?

How can volunteering making a difference? What is the European Year of Volunteering?

Here is the relevant information released by the European Union:


"In the European Union, almost 100 million citizens of all ages invest their time, talents and money to make a positive contribution to their community by volunteering in civil society organisations, youth clubs, hospitals, schools, in sport clubs, etc. For the Commission, volunteering is an active expression of civic participation which strengthens common European values such as solidarity and social cohesion. Volunteering also provides important learning opportunities, because involvement in voluntary activities can provide people with new skills and competences that can even improve their employability. This is especially important at this time of economic crisis. Volunteering plays an important role in sectors as varied and diverse as education, youth, culture, sport, environment, health, social care, consumer protection, humanitarian aid, development policy, research, equal opportunities and external relations.

Objectives of the Year:

The EU will use the Year to work towards four main objectives:

1. To create an enabling and facilitating environment for volunteering in the EU;

2. To empower volunteer organisations and improve the quality of volunteering;

3. To reward and recognise volunteering activities; and

4. To raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering.

The Commission expects that the European Year of Volunteering will lead to an increase in volunteering
and to greater awareness of its added value, and that it will highlight the link between voluntary engagement at local level and its significance in the wider European context.

The aim is to involve all levels – European, national, regional and local, but the emphasis is very much on a bottom-up approach. In this way the ownership of the European Year shall remain as much as possible with the volunteers and the volunteer organisations.

Activities:

There are many interested parties who are getting involved in the Year. The European Commission is also planning a range of activities. These include communication and awareness-raising measures (EYV Tour, EYV Relay, EYV Website, Thematic conferences).

Target groups:

- Volunteers (current and potential)
- Policy makers
- Civil society

What do you think? Are you involved?

Read my interview with the National Council of Voluntary Organizations ...

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