Below are the 12 subject areas will be covered during the World Volunteer Conference. Click on the track titles to learn more about each topic:
Organized volunteering, like all sustained, high impact activities, requires strong, effective leadership and management. National leadership efforts for volunteering provide a focal point around which others can gather, offer strategic and operational leadership, and make the development and maintenance of volunteering their priority. We are going to look at what are the characteristics of national leadership for volunteering around the world and take a deep dive into exploring the different organizational structures for national leadership. We will examine the three functions (advocacy, development and mobilization) national leadership efforts perform and provide inspiring practices under each function. We are going to hear from representatives of national leadership efforts around the world about what are the key issues and challenges they face in their day-to-day work. And also look at what action can we take to strengthen and/or develop national leadership efforts in each country and worldwide?
Given that volunteering takes place at the local level, in the heart of the communities, local volunteer centers have traditionally been set up to help voluntary organizations with community shortage of volunteers. Over time, local volunteer centers have evolved to meet the unique needs of their countries and communities. We now want to explore issues related to the future of local volunteer centers such as: the persistent dilemma of whether they are a matching agency or a development agency (bringing about innovation and change in and through volunteering); how volunteer centers define and execute their functions; the current context in different countries; how do volunteer centers secure their funding; what kind of professional development programs and training for the staff of volunteer centers is needed. Coupled with this, across the field, there is growing demand for demonstrated and documented impact – on problems, for recipients of services, for volunteers, for organizations served. How do volunteer centers demonstrate their value-add and impact? How do they report results and outcomes?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are for everyone everywhere, applicable to all countries and all communities no matter how “developed” they may be. This presents unique challenges to volunteering as a true emphasis on the SDGs might lead to a reduction of volunteering focused on other parts of community life. They also challenge us to determine whether our work will only fall within the broad reach of the Goals, or be more focused on specific Targets or even on the very specific Indicators of change. The SDGs offer the opportunity for new forms of collaboration across sectors and for the emergency of new forms of volunteering. As momentum for the SDGs grows, there will be greater pressure on national and local leadership for volunteering to respond. What issues will that leadership face and how will it handle them? What are emerging best practice examples of how volunteering already is engaged with the SDGs?
There is no lack of youth who potentially can be recruited to volunteer. But volunteer-involving organizations must be prepared to offer them meaningful work, to provide training that will develop their understanding of the world as well as their skills, and to document their work and their accomplishments in ways that help them build a demonstrable history of workplace competence. How are youth serving and youth involving organizations designing and offering sustained volunteer opportunities that explicitly include development of workplace readiness? How are volunteer-involving organizations taking advantage of young people’s comfort with being digitally connected – both as a way to recruit, organize and manage them and to create new virtual, mobile and micro volunteering opportunities? Are full time volunteer schemes, either national or cross border, for young people on the rise? How are schools and other educational organizations facilitating young people’s positive experience of volunteering? Does mandated community service result in an ongoing commitment to volunteering by participants, to a lifetime of service?
Corporate volunteering – the active efforts of employers to encourage and support volunteering by their employees – is now an established part of the volunteer community in much of the world. Now there are efforts, particularly by the global coalition of business and NGOs, Impact 2030, to target corporate volunteering on the Sustainable Development Goals. This likely will increase the opportunity for NGOs and governments to build volunteer-based partnerships with the private sector. Beyond that, companies will be challenged to balance the desired targeting with the sustained expectation of employees for opportunities to engage in a broad range of volunteering. How can those two forces be balanced? Companies also will be expected to invest in documenting and assessing the impact of their volunteer contributions to the SDGs? How will both the corporate and volunteer communities respond to these new realities?
Perhaps the single greatest challenge to the global volunteer community has been issued by the governments of the world in their approval of the Sustainable Development Goals: prove to us that volunteering can make a significant, demonstrable contribution to global peace and development. Often discussed, research on and measurement of impact now must be front and center for the volunteer community, whether undertaken at the organizational, local, national or global levels. Why should we measure the impact of volunteering? How exactly do we do it? And what should we do with the information once we are finished? These are some of the questions that we regular encounter when talking about measuring the impact of volunteering. In a special set of sessions, the conference will bring together those working on these issues to educate, to encourage and to assist in making this a priority for all of us.
Virtually all religions have at their heart a call to service by their followers, to serve the poor and to work for justice. By extension, virtually all religious bodies are volunteer-involving organizations. Because their volunteers are overtly motivated by their faith, are there special issues or different dynamics that arise in managing their volunteering? Is it desirable or feasible for FBOs from different faiths to cooperate in joint volunteer efforts? How do current tensions about religious differences impact the ability of people of faith to be active volunteers in their communities? How do FBO volunteers balance the imperative to “care for their own” versus broader community participation? What are innovative examples of faith-based volunteering that are specifically targeted on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
In our challenging economic climate, there are continuing calls for volunteer involving organizations to work with new audiences, diversify their income and adopt creative working practices. But what does this mean in reality? Does “new” always mean “innovative”? Where do volunteers fit into the quest for innovation and what does any of this mean to those who organize and coordinate volunteer efforts? How comfortable are we, as the volunteer community, with the risks and failures usually associated with trying new things? Does volunteering make us more innovative, as individuals? What is the relationship of volunteering to social and civic entrepreneurship?
People age 60+ will grow from 900 million to over 2 billion in the next 35 years. Less developed countries are facing aging challenges just as great as or greater than the more developed ones. More seniors mean more potential volunteers who can bring their life experiences, skills, time and energy to their work – but also mean more people who at some point will need assistance. Plus, volunteering is a critical factor in longevity, helping senior lead healthier, more productive, more fulfilling lives. But, volunteer-involving organizations need to be prepared for and willing to engage seniors effectively by understanding and meeting their needs. Why or why not engage elderly volunteers? What are the issues in managing older volunteers? How does one plan for engagement by the “young old” and the “old old,” recognizing that seniors are not a homogeneous population? What are best practice examples of how this is happening throughout the world?
Volunteering can open up powerful pathways by which people can find their way out of exclusion. Yet, too often, volunteering itself excludes people due to factors such as age (both young and old) economic status, gender, sexual orientation, lack of education, physical and mental health issues, disabilities, imprisonment, citizenship or unemployment that have promoted social inclusion. How can volunteering be made more welcoming? What are best practice examples of how that is happening throughout the world? How do you plan for diversity, build commitment to it and make it happen in your organization?
Volunteering presents itself as an untapped potential for integration of Immigrants and refugees. They find that their volunteer involvement reinforces their ability to act as members of their new host countries. What are some innovative ideas for integration practices that can inspire municipalities, individuals and civil society actors to improve the integration efforts in their communities?
Governments play an essential role in defining, resourcing and encouraging volunteering. That role includes ensuring a legal and policy framework that permits and encourages volunteering; visible leadership that creates an expectation that people will volunteer and that publicly recognizes participation; and funding support for national leadership and the broader infrastructure and capacity building in support of volunteering. There also are risks to government’s active engagement and support. As its investment grows, so too will its influence over volunteering, potentially to the point of positioning is as an instrument of public policy and as a demonstration of patriotism or loyalty not only to country but to the government in power. How does the volunteer community best engage with government, maximizing the benefits of government support while guarding against the negative potentials? How can the leadership organizations for volunteering both advocate for government action in support of volunteering and also support the civic engagement of citizen volunteers who may be advocates against government’s policies or on behalf of people who are left behind in society? We will explore issues like these from the perspective of both government and the volunteer community.
With the growing number of crisis around the world, either natural or man-made, the call for volunteer is greater than ever. In crisis situation, volunteers have proven to be necessary governmental and intergovernmental operational partners, providing material, medical and moral relief as well as care wherever it may be needed. From emergency to development, intervention by and from volunteers requires continuity. How are volunteers engaged in peacekeeping activities that address challenges that occur within failing states? How do we provide protection and security for those volunteers who are affecting real change on the ground? What can we learn from inspiring examples of full-time volunteer programs for humanitarian assistance and emergency relief? How do we maximize the effectiveness of emergency and disaster management by drawing on the immense knowledge, skills, resources, networks and enthusiasm of ordinary citizens? Globally, how does the international aid system recognize and engage with local grassroots groups and volunteers? How are government agencies integrating volunteering as part of their official development assistance policies and programs? All of these questions, and more, will be the basis for discussion during the conference.
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