For more than a year between 2019 and 2020, groups of youth in the seven VOLPOWER countries conducted volunteering activities in the fields of sports and creative arts/culture within the VOLPOWER partner associations. The VOLPOWER research team has followed and analysed these volunteering experiences and now the results of the research have been put together in a report elaborated by the research teams of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Eurac Research entitled “The effect of volunteering on empowerment and inclusion among EU and third-country national youth: An in-depth mixed-methods research.”
The VOLPOWER project aims at exploring the role that youth volunteering plays in society and more specifically its contribution to processes of integration and empowerment of EU and third-country nationals aged between 18 and 27 years. For this purpose, the participating volunteers were interviewed and asked to fill in a survey prior to and towards the end of their volunteering experiences.
As presented in the report, volunteering in VOLPOWER activities, which took place in mixed-gender and intercultural settings, particularly affected the intercultural understanding and interpersonal contacts, skills, and processes of empowerment, as well as the sense of belonging of the participants, both with a migration background and without. Indeed, taking part in VOLPOWER positively changed volunteers’ perceptions of differences and intersected with individuals’ networks of social contacts, with the forging of new friendships. In addition, the VOLPOWER experience fostered the acquisition of various skills, ranging from more specialized ones to a broader set of abilities, particularly communication skills. At the same time, a process of empowerment emerged, particularly because people were made more attentive of their strengths and weaknesses. These dynamics allowed young volunteers to improve their access to the community in which they lived, contributing to a renegotiation of their sense of belonging.
The VOLPOWER research thus highlights how volunteering transcends social divisions and should be seen as a tool that has the power to help overcome the tensions, conflicts, and problems that persist in our society. Therefore, there is a need to further support the resources and tools for volunteering, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing have made volunteering activities more difficult to do, but at the same time even more important.
We invite readers to read the full report on the following link:
Andrea Carlà and Ursula Reeger