Our Perspectives

Volunteering the future: A call to arms

by and

Photo: Zaven Khachikyan/UNDP in Armenia

How does volunteering make a difference?

These days, we are trying to do development differently: to partner with less usual suspects for outside insights, and tap into local energy and initiatives.

The ethos of volunteerism is exactly the same – it is not a supplement to the work we do; it is a natural component within it.

And with whom do we partner up to do this? The answer, of course, is young people. They are the natural choice.

To be truly inclusive though, we have to work harder to reach women, minorities, and other vulnerable groups.

Volunteerism can be an essential part of that reach.

Today, we have the largest cohort of youth in human history. Fifty percent of the population is below the age of 30. We cannot shape an effective response to youth matters if we do not include the voices of young people themselves. 

We see ample evidence of this already happening in our region.

In Belarus, young people volunteer to give free city tours to blind children; others provide orphans with clothes for harsh winters. They don’t see themselves as volunteers per se, but as citizens passionate to create infrastructures for resilience in their communities.

So how do we tap into this momentum and energy to address major development issues such as social exclusion and unemployment?

Here are three ways that we believe we can work together:

1.     Volunteers providing next-generation social services

This informal sector, people helping people, is worth 34 billion pounds annually  in the UK alone. With the Spot the Future campaign, UNDP has figured out how to engage those who may feel alienated to join the development conversation. We know these groups are out there.

What if we figured out a way to partner them with our corps of volunteers?

2.     New data for development

With the organizational push for data innovation, UNV and UNDP have a complimentary set of skills.

Having a network of quick-to-deploy corporate volunteers would really bolster our work in big data for development.

3.     Social innovation camps 2.0

Through social innovation labs, UNDP has been successfully tapping into local energy, and empowering people to come up with solutions to problems they face daily. 

Having UN Volunteers embedded in communities, taking forward the projects that filter through these camps and labs, could provide the crucial, longer-term support needed to ensure these ideas really take off.

The bottom line is these groups are already out there.

Like the citizen solutions happening every day that we try to tap into - people are already volunteering: they just don’t think of it that way.

Up till now we’ve spotted them. Working with UN Volunteers, we can take this further. We can link them on the ground and make that future happen.

Let’s figure out solutions together.

*Read the full article in the regional blog Voices from Eurasia.

partnerships Europe & the CIS Innovation Capacity development Gender equality Youth Women's empowerment Belarus

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