09 September 2004
Volunteering requires a make-over if it is to have wider appeal for young people, according to a new study published recently by the Institute for Volunteering Research in the UK.
The study, commissioned by UK’s Home Office to inform the work of the new Russell Commission on youth volunteering, found that whilst many young people have positive views of volunteering -- seeing it as an opportunity to gain skills and experience and put something back into society -- a minority dismiss it as being boring and "uncool".
The study found that many young people remain unaware of the opportunities for volunteering which exist and how to access them. Other barriers cited include lack of time, negative peer pressure, lack of confidence, and cost, which was held to work against the involvement of young people from less financially secure backgrounds.
On the issue of incentives, the view of young people was mixed. Most agreed that getting training, awards and certificates and working with friends would encourage more volunteering. But financial incentives were generally seen as problematic, with concern expressed that payment would undermine the concept of volunteering and attract people for the wrong reasons.
Flexibility emerged as a buzzword in the study -- flexibility in the types of opportunity open to young people and flexibility in the times they can volunteer. Another key guiding principle for the successful "re-branding" of volunteering was held to be "youth ownership", whereby young people were given responsibility for shaping and leading their own volunteering activities.
"There is a need to reclaim the concept of volunteering for young people", says Dr. Justin Davis Smith, Director of the Institute for Volunteering Research. "This reclamation should be peer-led, using young volunteers to show other young people the diversity of volunteering, its relevance to their lives, and the benefits it brings to them."
"This needs to be backed up by a re-examination of the ways in which organizations are seeking to engage with young people, with organizations being encouraged to provide meaningful opportunities tailored to meet the needs of young people -- opportunities that enable young people to engage with issues of importance to them, in ways which interest them, and which are flexible."
The study was based on the views of over 400 young people from across England. It was undertaken by the Institute for Volunteering Research in association with four youth-oriented organizations -- Kikass, Dubit, Youth Action Network and YouthNet UK. The research was funded by the Home Office Active Communities Directorate.
The Institute for Volunteering Research is a specialist research and consultancy agency on volunteering. Set up in 1997, it is an initiative of Volunteering England and the University of East London.
From: Institute for Volunteering Research