Today marks the ten year anniversary of the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer and the release of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program’s very first State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR). The report, coauthored by Benjamin Lough and seven other scholars, is unprecedented in its scope, comprehensively documenting the contributions of volunteers to economic and social development throughout the world.
The report, “Universal Values for Global Well-being,” asserts that volunteerism is a critical, but often undervalued, tool for social development. Noting that volunteerism remains largely absent from the peace and development agenda, the report encourages greater strategic thinking and action to incorporate volunteerism into mainstream policies and programs in these areas.
“The report is quite novel,” says Lough. “It attempts to assert that development is more than increasing income, assets, and market growth. In some ways, it is a radical departure from traditional UNDP publications in that it emphasizes the importance of human relationships and well-being in social development.”
Lough, now an assistant professor of social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a CSD Faculty Associate, was a doctoral student at Washington University’s Brown School and a Research Associate at CSD when he completed five months of work on the report in 2010-2011 at the UNV headquarters in Bonn, Germany.
The UN will hold launch events today in New York City and other cities around the world. At the Ottawa launch event, Lough will present the SWVR and participate in a moderated discussion about the Report with Canada’s Governor General, the federal representative of the Canadian monarchy.
”As a nation, Canada is viewed as a frontrunner in acknowledging the importance of informal volunteerism, or volunteerism outside of formal organizations,” says Lough. “The SWVR widens the lens on the definition of volunteerism, and validates Canada’s longtime efforts to measure the impact of neighbors helping neighbors.”
Just two days later, Lough will represent CSD at a roundtable on the Report at the Brookings Institution. Participants in the roundtable will include representatives from the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program and the Brookings Initiative on International Volunteering and Service, among others.
CSD and the Brookings Institution are partners in the Initiative on International Volunteering and Service, which aims to create avenues for meaningful participation in international volunteering and service and to ensure long-lasting value for volunteers, sending and hosting organizations, communities, and countries.
“Our joint research and field building activities over the last decade suggest that volunteerism and civic service is at a turning point, domestically and internationally,” says Amanda Moore McBride, Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Social Work at the Brown School, who leads CSD’s research on international volunteering and service. “The State of the World’s Volunteerism Report is a rallying call for civic action, informal and formal, domestic and international. The role of international volunteering to promote cross-cultural understanding and peace is fundamental to this agenda.”