Just got back from Istanbul (actually an industrial estate outside Istanbul) to take part in a regional meeting to contribute to the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report which is to come out next year for International Year of Volunteering.
The author, Robert Leigh, wants to expand the boundaries of the “dominant paradigm” of volunteering: to shift attention away from formalised volunteering, mostly conducted under the auspices of formal organisations like NGOs, to include other kinds of work, often more “bonding” than “bridging” such as mutual self-help in rural areas, further away from the current influence and interest of international organisations.
This is pretty much the same conclusion we came to in the regional report for SEE and CIS States - see another post on this site. One big motivation for wanting to make this paradigm shift is that if you look at formalised volunteering it seems to be massively more prevalent in Western Europe and North America and hardly to exist at all in most other countries, which just doesn’t seem plausible; and certainly, if you look harder, you will find other examples of less formalised volunteering in these other countries.
Wouldn’t it be nice if formalised volunteering in which the Western countries excel was neatly balanced out by these other forms of volunteerism in the rest of the world? Of course it would.
But do we know that these other forms of volunteering a) are really significant in magnitude b) make a really significant contribution to wellbeing and c) can be usefully labelled “volunteering” without overstretching our ordinary understanding of the word?
I fear we don’t.
Will there be time to gather evidence in support of this new paradigm in time for the report publication? Yes. Will there be time to make an overwhelmingly convincing case for it (or to reject or modify it as appropriate)? Let’s see.