Call for New Direction for Volunteer Peak Bodies
28 October 2010 at 12:38 pm
The focus of peak volunteering bodies needs to move away from brokerage and towards information sharing and capacity building, according to a European expert.
Speaking at the Volunteering Australia National Conference, CEO of Volunteering Ireland Elaine Bradley says that these organisations need to move away from ideas of ownership of volunteering and move towards a decentralisation of volunteering infrastructure.
Bradley urges a devolving of the volunteering infrastructure back into the community. She says most people in Ireland who
|Elaine Bradley addresses the national volunteering conference in Melbourne [Phote: Ryan Witcombe]|
volunteer find their own roles – they don’t go through a brokerage services.
Bradley says that setting up volunteering centres in Ireland hasn’t had the effect that is needed, with low rates of volunteer placements facilitated.
She says many people perceive the centres as creating an extra layer of administration between people and volunteer opportunities, rather than simply connecting the two.
She says the role of volunteer centres is to build the capacity of volunteer-involving organisations and information sharing.
She says the main role for volunteering peak bodies is to report on volunteering to Government, to provide information on the social return on investment.
Bradley also addressed the challenges faced by volunteer organisation in Ireland and other countries similarly savaged by the global financial crisis.
She says the implications of the recession means that volunteer groups needs to face up to the reality of having less resources. This means there is a need for greater collaboration, mergers, more resource sharing between organisations and new ideas.
Bradley says that today’s biggest challenge for volunteering in Europe is the impact of the recession.
She says that Ireland has gone from full employment to 14% unemployment in just a few years. She says Ireland stands on the brink of bankruptcy, with the costs of bailing out the country’s banks blowing out from an estimated 5 billion Euros a year ago to over 80 billion Euros today.
The recession has led to a roll back of state services in a time of increasing poverty, and Bradley says the social impact of this is what volunteer groups have to deal with. There are less people paying tax into the treasury, but more people need the social services that taxes have traditionally provided.
She says the economic migrants mobilised by the freedom to cross borders provided by the European Union means that the ethnic makeup of European nations is changing rapidly. In Ireland, Polish now ranks ahead of Irish as the most spoken language after English.
Bradley says volunteering plays an important role in expressing the values and culture of Europe, and European volunteering is a profound act of democracy and solidarity that contributes to the building of a European Identity.
However she says it is difficult to form a common volunteering infrastructure in Europe due to social and cultural differences.
Bradley says that with the reintegration of Europe under the European Union, huge differences in attitudes towards volunteering. She says that attitudes towards volunteering in Eastern European and ex-communist nations are often negative, as volunteering is a relatively new concept, especially for older generations.
Elaine Bradley is CEO of Volunteering Ireland and a board member of the European Volunteer Centre, the representative group for volunteering in Europe.
Pro Bono Australia is a media partner of the 13th National Volunteering Australia Conference in Melbourne with some 500 delegates attending. Follow the conference on Twitter at #VA2010.