Free Will? Volunteers Vs Voluntolds
19 September 2014 at 9:28 am
Forcing high school and university students to work in the Not for Profit sector as part of their education could turn them away from volunteer work in the future, an expert has claimed.
Speaking at the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) World Volunteer Conference on the Gold Coast Dr Patricia Nabti also said that people that did not freely choose to take part in volunteer work should not be called volunteers.
Dr Nabti is the founder and director of the Learning to CARE institute and has spent years studying the social sector of Lebanon.
The name of her own institute is an acronym for what she says makes a good volunteer; the need to be capable, available, reliable and engaged.
Dr Nabti said that forced community service was common in the United States where it makes up part of students’ curriculum.
“Mandatory school service programs, I’ve looked at them worldwide. They’re either imposed by local, state or national governments, or they’re imposed by private schools or school networks. It depends on where you are,” Dr Nabti said.
“Mandatory service requires all students to engage in community service to graduate or be promoted to the next level, and I call it the stick method.
“You know the story of how to get a donkey to move, you either need to dangle a carrot in front of it or you beat it with a stick and that gets it going.
“In a sense, mandatory service is a stick method because noncompliance has consequences.”
Dr Nabti said forced community service was not volunteering because it did not meet all the three criteria of the classification; that it is done for the benefit of society, that it is done for free and that the person doing it has freely chosen to take part.
“I think we need to be really clear about this. I don’t think you should ever use the word volunteering when it doesn’t meet all of these criteria because it gives a misunderstanding of what volunteering is,” she said.
“I think it’s really important to protect the word volunteering.
“I think it’s really important to say you did you’re 50 hours, but that’s just your 50 first hours. You graduated into being a volunteer because you now chose to do it because you wanted to do it.
“There’s nothing wrong with being required to do something. There are schools that say they have to do community service for its educational value, but it’s better not to call it volunteering.
“Usually it’s called community service and I think that’s a really good term for it.
“Someone who is doing it because they want to is a volunteer, someone that is doing it because they have to is a voluntold.
“I thinks its really important to save the world.”
Dr Nabti said Not for Profit organisations also had to think before they took on forced volunteers.
“From the NGOs perspective you’re doing it for free, you’re doing it for good and you’re freely choosing to come to my NGO,” she said.
“In a sense for you they are volunteers but be really careful about the difference because there is a difference in how they deal with you, there is a difference in how you deal with them and there is a difference in how you deal with the schools.
“Be a bit careful about the word volunteer. They are essentially like volunteers but they are not volunteers in the full sense of the world.
“Because if they don’t come to you then they’re going to go to someone else to fulfil their hours.”
Dr Nabti said schools and universities risked pushing people away from volunteering in the future.
“There are legitimate reasons for school to require mandatory service” she said.
“Are those objectives best met by a mandatory service program? I think for those that want to volunteer, no.
“I have a strong personal view as a parent that schools should never require anything of students for which it is not willing to impose consequences for noncompliance.
“But make a consequence that you’re willing to impose. If you don’t impose it doesn’t count.
“They may never want to volunteer when they finally get the freedom to volunteer. The experience should be a positive one. That doesn’t mean it needs to be easy.
“In my view it should not be the first service program available in schools.”
The 23rd IAVE World Volunteer Conference is organised by the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and hosted by the National peak body for volunteering,Volunteering Australia.
This is only the second time in 44 years that Australia has hosted this international event.