sustainable development, skilled volunteering, skilled impact, volunteer in india, making a difference, social impact

Does Volunteering Aid Sustainable Development?

Does volunteering actually make a difference?

Many people think about volunteering their time and skills to make a difference. But not everyone is sure that their effort can actually make an impact. In the end, the world is too big, the system too large, and the status-quo wins.

But is that true? What actually is the relationship between volunteering and sustainable development? And in what way can volunteers actually make a positive change?

Sustainable development is one of the key terms that is thrown around when speaking about making the world a better place. As a result, both the terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘development’ have been hotly discussed in recent years. But no universal definition has been found or agreed upon yet. The most generally used explanation is that of the UN, which first appeared in the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development – Our Common Future: “Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations.”

Recent Ideas of Sustainable Development

More recently the discourse has expanded. Now words such as ‘people-centred development’ and ‘inclusive growth’ have entered the stage. This shifts the focus of sustainable development from purely environmental sustainability, and adds the concepts of social justice and general social change into the mix.

How Does Volunteering Fit Into the Picture?

Unfortunately, volunteering has not been directly and specifically mentioned when it comes to discussing how the sustainable development goals can be implemented. But we believe that volunteering, and skilled volunteering in particular, deserves its own space in the journey to achieving sustainable development. And here is why:

Volunteering promotes….

…. social inclusion: it’s an activity that makes all people in society feel valued and important – especially disadvantaged communities that are often excluded from the system

…. community mobilisation: skilled volunteering supports local initiatives that try to solve the issues of local communities to eventually help themselves

…. local capacity: skilled volunteering builds local capacity through skillshare and cultural exchange, so that local changemakers have the tools and techniques to achieve their goals

…. social cohesion: skilled volunteering brings together people to achieve a common goal, building invaluable social bonds across cultural, economic and national borders

Volunteering is….

…. a means and an end to a harmonious, healthy and vibrant civil society.

…. building partnerships across borders – all kinds of borders

…. a reciprocal learning opportunity for everyone involved

…. the opportunity for everyone to participate in sustainable development

…. a foundation for solidarity and cooperation

Volunteering does….

…. strengthen active citizenship and good governance

…. improve health care provision and education opportunities

…. aid in the reduction of poverty and inequality through capacity building and skill transfer

…. contribute towards inclusive growth

…. support efforts of humanitarian aid and disaster relief

The above compilation of all aspects of skilled volunteering shows that it is indeed an essential part of sustainable development. The effects of volunteering are specific and incremental, as well as people-focused. Even if you might not be able to change the system, you are able to support local change makers and therefore local communities to work towards their own small scale sustainable development.

Are you passionate about sustainable development? Share your skills on a Skilled Impact placement to make a positive impact this year.

The article is based on a resource provided by the International Forum for Volunteering in Development.