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Working with volunteers

One of Green & Blue Futures key objectives is to trial and encourage greater involvement of volunteers by organisations and employers.

Some volunteers will of course just want to enjoy being outdoors in an environment they care about and helping a cause they believe in. Others see their involvement as a way of acquiring skills that will help them get work in the future. Some volunteers will be less willing but have been encouraged to participate in a programme. Just by stepping out of their routine they may develop a new set of skills. Some will be practical but others may be developed social skills and a team-working ethic - but all will help give them greater 'employability.'

There is of course a lot in it for those organisations taking on volunteers.

What has been done

The achievement of recognised qualifications is important for a lot of volunteers. G&BF investigates if a 'standard' set of European qualifications for those working in the social economy is possible. Can volunteers take part in such training schemes?

Transnational added value

The waterways in the UK have seen a range of initiatives aimed at bringing people along to the canalside. Volunteers can not only help waterway management organisations like Canal & River Trust and Scottish Canals with certain maintenance tasks and the like – but they can achieve a number of personal benefits as they do this. Canal & River Trust, Scottish Canals and the Scottish Waterways Trust aim to find ways to integrate volunteering with their core business and heritage strategies. Volunteer involvement helps build a core supporter base and community buy in to what they are doing.

In other countries the use of a volunteer work force is somewhat different. In Belgium for example they are taken on by organisations in the social economy and by social enterprises to carry out fairly basic tasks ('green maintenance' is an example). They are perhaps not volunteering as such, but participating in a course of work that exposes them to 'the real world' As a result and they become ready for full(er) employment elsewhere.

We have considered all these various aspects of volunteering and want to present our conclusions and recommendations as to how this activity can be extended more widely across Europe. Partners are very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about this - and the exchanges and joint learning throughout the project helps extend this much wider than if we were working alone.

View pilot projects on this theme