The effect of volunteering on empowerment and inclusion among EU and third-country national youth: An in-depth mixed-methods research

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VOLPOWER WP2 Final Report

Heidi Flarer (Eurac Research)
Andrea Carlà (Eurac Research)
Marie Lehner (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Astrid Mattes (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Ursula Reeger (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

This report summarizes the empirical findings of some of the data collection of the VOLPOWER project, which took place over a period of 24 months, in 2019 and 2020, in participating countries/regions (Austria/Vienna, Croatia/Zagreb, Scotland/Glasgow, the Netherlands/Rotterdam, Slovenia, and the Italian province of South Tyrol). It presents the results of a survey, conducted with a group of young people, composed by EU nationals and third-country nationals, who became part of the VOLPOWER project and engaged in voluntary activity within the formal framework of an organization. The research project investigated the impact of volunteering on empowerment and inclusion through a mixed- methods approach that foresaw two instances of data collection, one before the young volunteers started their volunteering activity in the project and one towards the end of their activity.

Findings show that taking part in VOLPOWER volunteering affected the intercultural understanding of volunteers and positively changed their way of perceiving differences. Results confirm that specific consequences and effects of volunteering are linked to the type and characteristic of the volunteering experience and highlight the importance of volunteering settings that foster “bridging social capital”. In these cases, volunteering indeed broadens social networks and facilitates new relations, which are believed to last over time. The VOLPOWER experience also contributed to volunteers’ human capital, fostering the acquisition of various skills, in particular communication skills. Learning processes fur- thermore unfold through the social interactions that take place during volunteering and include pro- cesses of empowerment, in particular since people were made more attentive of their weaknesses and strengths. These dynamics allowed young volunteers to better access the community where they live, contributing to a renegotiation of their sense of belonging. This becomes particularly relevant for per- sons with a migration background, whose migratory experience might have left them with feelings of loneliness.

In their practical implications, our findings support arguments in favour of governments promoting volunteering among the youth, both EU and third-country nationals. They also would support bridging forms of volunteering that foster intercultural interactions and unfold outside of certain communities. The importance of providing tools and identifying measures to foster volunteering and support volun- teering associations to recruit youth volunteers with and without migration experience became evi- dent.

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