Clarity about volunteerism ( Part I)

Full Text Sharing

The growth and prosperity of the volunteerism  in Nepal, referring here to the those individuals, groups and organizations actively involved in acts of solidarity and altruism without expecting anything in exchange, will depend on addressing multiple and complementary issues that can make or break the entire sector.

In particular two major issues, clarity on its domains and boundaries and the establishment of an adequate volunteering supporting system, if properly addressed, will lay the foundations for an increased role and recognition of volunteerism within the society.

It remains vital to determine the different meanings and perceptions people and stakeholders in general have on volunteerism in the context of Nepal.

To help bringing clarity on this regard, it will be paramount to first reach a new understanding on the different dynamics related to volunteerism. Secondly and consequentially we need to reach a common position on the key ‘differentiators”, the unique attributes that make a volunteering organization different from any other social organizations active in the country.

Moreover any discussion in this matter should take into full account the vast and reach heritage of traditional and local volunteering that Nepal boosts.

Let’s start with two important dynamics characterizing the volunteering sector:

-formality versus informality

-fluidity of the concept

In the first dynamic, formality versus informality, the western paradigm that has heavily influenced the discourse around volunteerism in emerging countries like Nepal tends to consider it in a very “structured” way with organizations equipped to mobilize, in the most professional way as possible, their volunteers to achieve their goals. Procedures and policies are envisioned from the outset of the volunteering cycle with clear modalities to select, train, retain and evaluate the volunteers.

The approach implies a strong emphasis on the outcomes stemming from volunteering actions with a great deal of importance attached to the issue of measuring the achievements of volunteers.

While a new emphasis on measurement is certainly welcome also in the field of volunteerism, it is equally important not to neglect the informal dimension of volunteering that includes also traditional forms of altruism and solidarity.

A country like Nepal, with such high level of social capital spread across the communities all over the country, should strongly encourage a serious discussion on the importance of traditional forms of self help as the country should be able to better harness its long traditions of service and volunteering.

Undoubtedly the fact that these more traditional forms are more difficult to measure does not mean that informal volunteering actions are less valuable or less important than organized and formal ones.

While it is important to have a serious discussion to better understand and quantify the impact of traditional volunteering with innovative and pragmatic thinking, informality is and will remain one of the cornerstone of volunteerism in Nepal. It should be a matter of pride for the country to safeguard and protect this important untangible heritage.

Moreover we should not forget that volunteering action does not necessarily imply only group based activities, acknowledging that many individuals on their own are doing their bit in terms of contributing to the development of the society.

In relation to the second dynamic, the fluidity of the volunteering concept, we should all be clear that one of the strengths of volunteerism is its ability to adjust and adapt to different circumstances and situations.

That means the way volunteerism is experienced in Nepal can be different from other forms of solidarity that are carried out in other parts of world.

Moreover while we should acknowledge a certain degree of overlapping between concepts like volunteering and service, with the latter including different levels of full time activities with a monetary compensation, here it is important to highlight the most important features of any volunteering action: the motivation and the desire to help out someone or get involved in a cause out of any personal advantage and without any financial rewards.

Issues related to the allowances or living stipends have too often dominated and sometimes misled the discourse around volunteerism in country like Nepal while helping neglecting more important issues affecting the sector.

( to be continued)

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.