International Toolkit - Measuring voluntary workIn September 2000, Jowie Mulaudzi traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a two-day meeting bringing together researchers and voluntary work practitioners from Canada, China, Egypt, India, South Africa, Slovak Republic, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The meeting was organised by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), and hosted and funded by the Independent Sector.
There main purpose of the meeting was to contribute to the international year of volunteers by developing a survey tool to investigate and measure voluntary work throughout the world.
In terms of existing infrastructure, clear differences between developing and developed countries emerged. The developed countries already had an established infrastructure and tradition of conducting voluntary sector surveys. These range from measuring the extent and types of voluntary work to attempts at quantifying its impact on the countryís social life and the gross domestic product. In contrast, developing countries still need to engage with the concept of surveying voluntarism.
There was consensus on the need to document voluntary work and measure itís impact at a macro-economic level. Notably, certain cultural and religious sanctions in some countries make it impossible for people to divulge information on voluntary work that benefits their communities. For example, Muslimís believe that such details should be kept between the individual and his/her creator. Whether the generic toolkit should incorporate such sensitivities was an important question for the meeting. Ultimately the meeting conceded that the toolkit should rather provide general guidelines, and researchers should be given the prerogative on how best to deal with cultural and other specifics.
The meeting also addressed two potential barriers in developing countries: A lack of research infrastructure including unreliable national population data as well as a lack of financial resources.
Whilst the meeting was fruitful from a research point of view, we also needed the perspective of a practitioner from the voluntary sector in South Africa. Someone that would be able to lobby and drive the process with relevant organisations as well as mobilise support from relevant quarters.