International Volunteer Day 2018: Building resilience

Happy International Volunteer Day!

Today is the day to celebrate volunteering around the world. Led by the UN, this year’s theme is all about resilient communities. But what does ‘resilient communities’ mean to us here in the UK?

Volunteering makes resilient communities

This is a bold statement, but it’s a statement I believe. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year talking about the impact of volunteering. Sometimes we forget (or perhaps didn’t realise) just how much of an impact volunteering makes. We can clearly see the impact volunteering makes on services and organisations we use every day. We know volunteering increases the skills and wellbeing of volunteers as well as social connections. We also know volunteering helps bring together communities by developing our understanding of each other.

But does impact equal resilience? Well, a few years back, the Institute for Volunteering Research developed a toolkit which we still use today to measure that impact. The used the term ‘capital’ to describe the impact of volunteering. And what is capital? It’s the assets or resources which make us stronger and more resilient. If you’re not sure about the resilience your volunteering programme is bringing, why not get the impact assessment toolkit and find out for yourself.

Resilience in a crisis

As I write this blog, there is a lot of uncertainty across England, the UK and the world. Discussions on Brexit, climate change, terrorism, economic instability, food poverty, fake news and loneliness are dominating the headlines. While volunteering may not solve all these issues (that’s a topic for another blog), volunteering can help us get through these disruptions better. To see that kind of power in action, just look at the response from volunteers to recent tragedies such as the Manchester bombing and the Grenfell fire, or the support provided by food banks to people in dire need. Local volunteer centres and national organisations such of the British Red Cross play a particularly crucial role here.

Volunteering doesn’t just happen

In October, I was lucky enough to talk about some of these issues with volunteering leaders from across the globe at the International Association of Volunteer Effort conference, in Augsburg, Germany. One of the key things I learned was about the UN sustainable development goals. More so, that there is a huge role for volunteering across the globe in helping meet those goals, both home and abroad.

One thing that all nations seemed to have in common: volunteering doesn’t just happen. But in every region around the world, volunteering leadership is under-resourced and under-recognised. There is also one thing that all nations seemed to get from the conference: knowing what impact volunteering makes, and shouting about that impact, is so important.

So whether you’re building resilience ready for the next wave of uncertainty, or your volunteers have plans on how to tackle the next crisis, do take the time to celebrate the amazing impact volunteers make this International Volunteer Day.

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Shaun is volunteering development manager at NCVO, overseeing strategy for volunteer management and good practice. Previously, he was head of volunteering at Samaritans and is currently a volunteer trustee of Greater London Volunteering.

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