Trends, challenges and opportunities in volunteering: How will Australia compare?

kylee-bates Thank you to ACPNS alumnus, Kylee Bates for this blog.

Kylee is the volunteer World President of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and the CEO of Ardoch Youth Foundation

Trends, challenges and opportunities in volunteering: How will Australia compare?

Like many leaders in the volunteering sector I am eagerly awaiting the launch of the findings of the Giving Australia Research that has been funded by the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.

Like others, I’m keen to learn what the research tells us about the current state of volunteering in Australia that we feel we don’t already know.  Importantly, I want to see how government and sector leaders will choose to respond to in order to better support volunteering so as to be able to mobilise more Australians for greater impact in responding to some of Australia and the world’s greatest social, economic and environmental challenges.

As the volunteer World President, or ‘Chief Volunteer Officer’ of the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE) the state of the world’s volunteering is something close to my heart, and understanding Australia’s place in that global picture has the potential to be a source of personal pride (or disappointment), depending on what the research tells us.

I am particularly interested to learn what researchers have discovered about the trends, challenges and opportunities that have been identified for volunteering in Australia and examining how these compare to those that exist globally.

Throughout 2015 IAVE, as a global membership organisation that exists to promote, support and celebrate volunteering in all the myriad of ways it happens throughout the world, undertook worldwide consultations to develop our new strategic plan.   We asked our members and stakeholder to tell us the key factors that they believed were impacting on volunteering in their country or region and what challenges and opportunities they felt these presented for volunteering globally.

The views expressed were diverse.  Not surprising given the diversity of the IAVE network and stakeholders that span different regions, countries, polities and sectors around the world. 

We heard that there is growing concern about actions by government that suppress and control the work of civil society, actions that lead to increased danger to some volunteers especially those working on unpopular issues or with marginalised groups of people, or deny the right to volunteer.

We heard that with the greatest mass movement of people that the world has ever seen that there is greater need to mobilize volunteers to respond to immediate need as well as longer term relocation and resettlement challenges.  But that volunteer involvement by those displaced, migrating or seeking refuge provides an avenue to successfully integrate into new communities.

We heard that the SDGs provide a new framework for understanding development issues globally and can provide new motivation for volunteer action.

We heard that new expectations are being created for people and organisations to draw on global perspectives and connections to solve problems.  That with this there is more interest in cross-border volunteering, but a need to also foster ‘indigenous’ forms of volunteering.

We heard that the potential for everyone in the world to be connected by one degree of separation as a result of new technologies creates opportunities for new reach, forms of interaction, citizen engagement and volunteering, but that the effectiveness of these tools is the product of their users and tools alone cannot provide the solutions.

We heard that as climate change pushes us towards the limits of our planetary boundaries a high priority must be placed on building community resilience through volunteering at all stages of disaster preparedness and recovery.

We heard that that the private sector is seen as – and must be – a critical partner in finding solutions to the complex societal challenges that exist throughout the world and that employee volunteering programs are an important platform for engaging more people, more often, in the pursuit of these.

We heard that for all stakeholder groups that there is an increased need to measure the impact of the work that volunteers do, as well as ensuring that there is good global data about the size and scope of volunteer effort.

I can’t wait to hear what Giving Australia 2016 tells us about the issues, challenges and opportunities for volunteering in Australia and how this might inform our approaches to mobilising and increasing the impact of volunteers.

As a country with just a small proportion of the world’s estimated 1 billion[1] volunteers Australia is an active and well-regarded contributor to global discussions on volunteering so the opportunity to share the learnings of this research with others is significant.  As is the opportunity to further mobilise more Australians to volunteer.

I am looking forward to doing both.

[1] p.13 United Nations Volunteers State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015