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Step Up a Gear blog

Setting the foundation for the Future of Volunteering in Europe

This year, #EYVPlus10, we will ‘Step Up a Gear’ 

European Volunteering had its year in 2011. This year, we’re celebrating its 10th anniversary.  If on the way we felt we were making advancements in developing a volunteering support ecosystem across Europe, 2020 has shown us that our work in that direction must continue. In Europe, we are not there yet, more can, and should, still be done. 

Volunteering has always held an important place in bringing solidarity in communities. In Europe, it is estimated that there are over 100 million  active volunteers. They are instrumental in maintaining the quality of life, wellbeing and solidarity across Europe. To create an environment in which volunteering can flourish and volunteers can fulfill their highest potential for their communities, CEV and its members across Europe work relentlessly with policymakers, supporters and enablers across sectors to move the needle. 

The European Year of Volunteering 2011 welcomed the foundation of the EYV 2011 Alliance, formed out of almost 40  European networks, with over 2000 direct members. Over 100 experts in the EYV Alliance, collaborating in 6 working groups, developed the European Policy Agenda on Volunteering (PAVE). For 10 years, this has served as the go-to policy document both for volunteering supporting organisations and for policymakers – it provides recommendations for a more efficient and effective European policy framework to support and promote volunteers, volunteering, volunteer-involving organisations and their partners. 


But the volunteering support history did not start there. 2011 was in itself an anniversary, that of UN’s 2001 International Year of Volunteers (IYV). On December 5th 2001 the UN General Assembly marked the closing of the International Year of Volunteers (2001) by adopting a resolution on recommendations for volunteer action, in which it commended the ongoing contributions of all volunteers to society and encouraged all people to become more engaged in voluntary activities.

Did we all live up to that? Or do we need a new, reinforced, updated and relevant declaration? Moreover, in practice, what is it we need to do in order for volunteers to be able to engage in our communities sharing their time and skills in selfless acts of solidarity responding to needs? Where are we still falling short? Who has the power to make a declaration of volunteering a reality? 

In 2020, during the Global Technical Meeting on Volunteering co-organised by the UN and IFRC, stakeholders around the globe gathered online to think ‘how to enable volunteering to be a transformative force for the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs’. The result was a global Call to Action which will refine the values, principles and behaviours around volunteering. The commitment from actors across all sectors and fields around the globe was a great step forward to volunteering globally. 

This year, in Europe, CEV, alongside its members and partners, sets out to make it happen. Following the European Year of Volunteering 2011 achievements, and building on the legacy of PAVE, CEV’s 60+ member organisations across Europe have now embarked on a journey to step up a gear in volunteering support. A commitment made in 2020, a year of global challenge, this will be a coordinated effort across Europe to re-define and re-develop a framework for volunteering support as an essential component in the Road to Recovery. 

This is where the focus lies now. Because another thing that became clear is that it is time to move to a rolling strategy, a medium-term approach, but for a long-term vision – and this requires constant commitment from key actors, such as volunteering supporting organisations and policymakers and the involvement from other key sectors. 

Thus CEV, bearing the torch of EYV2011, sets out to achieve new heights in volunteering support. With the help of an essential contribution from its members and partners, the goal is to build a new Blueprint for European Volunteering 2030. 

To get started on the road to recovery, 5 main areas have been identified as pillars for the blueprint:

  • Empowerment: enable volunteering supporting organisations to respond to crisis situations and ongoing needs, by strengthening their position as stable entities, well-established and well-regarded by community and, very importantly by local and regional authorities

  • Appreciation of contribution: volunteers are the living essence of solidarity and Europe must step up in acknowledging their invaluable contribution, with positive and appreciative discourse and appropriate funding 

  • Engaging new volunteers and methods: with many volunteers not being able to fulfill their previous volunteering activities due to pandemic challenges, enhanced efforts are to be made towards opening volunteering up through new methods, including through digitalization, and prepare existing and new volunteers for these new ways to make their contribution

  • Independent and inclusive engagement: this must come from the appropriate official, state and regional institutions, in order to mitigate the risk for abuse from groups with extremist and criminal intentions filling the gap to assist vulnerable people when the state and civil society cannot..

  • Coordination and resources: it is not time for isolated action. It is the time of coordinated, cross-sectoral action for volunteering support. Volunteers and volunteering resources should be shared and distributed where needed the most, at European level. We are in all this together. 


The approach that CEV will take on this journey will be complementary to the one 10 years ago. Back then, we needed to, and we did, focus on inter alia,  volunteer quality, volunteer management and volunteer infrastructure; that helped us all grasp what different countries and cultures at European level understand through different areas of volunteering. In 2021 and moving forward, at CEV we want to also place focus on the heart and soul of volunteering: what values are being expressed through volunteering; and how volunteering is an expression of democracy and solidarity. What we want to bring to policy makers is the vision that volunteers are not just a source of people-power for essential and meaningful tasks in society, but they play an important role in social cohesion, interpersonal relationships and paving the way to making European values a reality. 


As we develop our work on the Blueprint for European Volunteering 2030 at CEV, we will be keeping it open for contributions from all those who feel they can make a difference. Topics will be up for discussion online at #EYVplus10, and collaborative dialogue, as we are about to launch our ‘Let’s Talk Volunteering’ podcast. We wholeheartedly invite you all to follow our work in progress this year and share your thoughts, ideas and words of encouragement for all those volunteering, all those supporting volunteers and all those who hold the power to make volunteering maintain its role as the pillar of solidarity in Europe. 

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