September 11, 2011

IYV+10: The Year That Got Lost

Posted in Recognition of Volunteering, Valuing Volunteers at 5:12 am by Sue Hine

Back in 2001 we had a year that had us singing and dancing in the streets, metaphorically at least.

Back then, the International Year for Volunteers brought the New Zealand community and voluntary sector important gifts, like:

  • A government office dedicated to our sector (OCVS), and a Minister to champion our interests
  • A government statement on intentions for volunteering
  • A new organisation dedicated to advocating for and promoting volunteering and the community sector – Volunteering New Zealand.
  • A “Support for Volunteering Fund” (SVF), administered by the Department of Internal Affairs
  • A national conference on Volunteering

Ten years on United Nations Volunteers proclaims 2011 the year to celebrate IYV+10:

We call upon all leaders in Governments, volunteer-involving organisations, civil society, private sector, non-governmental organisations, the United Nations system and from communities to recognise and celebrate the achievements of volunteers by actively engaging in the marking of IYV+10.            

(From the Vision Statement drafted at the consultative stakeholders meeting in October 2009)

There are grand aims:

  • to promote the values of volunteering;
  • to recognise the positive impacts of volunteering;
  • to build and reinforce volunteering networks; and
  • to facilitate people’s contributions to peace and the Millennium Development Goals through volunteering.

The International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) kicks off the Year with a conference in Singapore.  Europe declares 2011 their own Year of Volunteering, and there is a wide range of activities on offer.  Volunteering Australia celebrates early in the year with a public launch hosted by the Governor-General, and now has a dedicated website to publicise events and activities, both local and global.  The international website offers a huge array of events and information.  The last entry made under New Zealand’s name is dated February 2009, recording events around International Volunteers Day in December 2008.

In effect, New Zealand has fallen off the bottom of the world map of volunteering, and has been absent for nearly three years.

This year we could have been reporting on:

  • OCVS workshops on public sector relationship-building with community organisations.
  • The Kia Tutahi project which translates government intentions into an accord between Government and Communities of Aotearoa New Zealand to strengthen their relationship, and to promote a development programme.
  • Volunteering New Zealand’s decision to embrace the Programme for Management of Volunteers in their work

None of these developments were designed to be part of an IYV+10 programme.  The calendar that might record Kiwi events and activities for IYV+10 is singularly blank.

Of course we have other things on our mind, like earthquake recovery in Christchurch, like the Rugby World Cup, just the biggest-ever event involving volunteers.  In effect, these events have given us our own year of volunteering – one demonstrating the impact of community solidarity during a civil emergency and the other showing how ‘getting involved’, in belonging, and in offering service is part and parcel of citizenship.

But these are time-limited events.  Those of us who volunteer throughout the year, and those who develop and manage volunteer programmes, who recruit and train volunteers and provide on-going support and recognition for volunteer work, are looking for some real acknowledgement that goes beyond a pat on the head.

There is still time to plan significant events, or to deliver a grand gesture for our sector.  November 5 is the occasion for International Day for Managers of Volunteers, and International Day for Volunteers will happen on December 5.  Usually we organise the flag-waving and blow up the balloons and bake the festive fare ourselves, within our organisations and local communities.  How good would it be to find the flag-bearers are from outside our sector?  How good would it be to find our funders and supporters and other sector agencies want to mark IYV+10 with a bit more than lip-service?

That would keep Volunteers, and their managers and leaders, going for another ten years.


  1. Tricia C said,

    I couldn’t agree more – As Christchurch and The rugby world cup demonstrate volunteering is an inherent part of our civic mindedness”” However a little public acknowledgement of the million plus vounteer hours given by so many would be a wonderful motivation to those who manage train and support the work done by volunteers


    • Sue Hine said,

      Yes, a boost to motivation would be grand Tricia, to feel we are not doing something for nothing….


  2. Absolutely (and unfortunately) on target, Sue! The only minor solace I can give to my Kiwi colleagues is that the United States is even less engaged in IYV+10. I doubt 5% of volunteer managers know about it here, and even fewer members of the general public. Despite all that, however, I still urge individuals to “make hay while the sun shines” and find ways to integrate this international effort with local volunteering. The logo is free for anyone to use. If you attract some local media attention by proclaiming something an IYV+10 celebration — go for it! If you are given time at a board meeting to explain how the volunteer involvement in your agency fits into the international picture — go for it! Meanwhile, you have plenty to be proud of in New Zealand volunteering for this year, so happy IYV+10, whether formally or informally!


    • Sue Hine said,

      Thanks Susan. Good to know we are not the sole drop-outs of IYV+10. I’ll pass on your suggestions. And we’ll be working to make a splash on IMVDay, November 5.


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