VISION 21: Volunteerism and Social Services in the 21st century


  



Summary

This two-year project is designed to facilitate cross-national exchange and dissemination of good practice in the cooperation between social services institutions and voluntary organizations. It will focus on ways to effectively recruit, train and supervise volunteers for the purposes of social work Teaming up with the voluntary sector can substantially increase the capacity of social work bodies to cater for the needs of disadvantaged groups (the poor, the disabled, the elderly). This, in turn, should aid social inclusion and improve quality of life of the socially marginalized, thus contributing to greater social cohesion. First, partners will hold meeetings at country level to pool local knowledge and prepare contributions to the main seminar. Then, representatives will hold a preparatory meeting in Warsaw to thrash out the programme of the main seminar. Next, the main international seminar on good practice in volunteer-aided social work will take place in Warsaw. In the second year partners will develop a new handbook for social workers on how to work with volunteers. The handbook will be drafted in English and subsequently translated into the languages of project participants. Another end product will be a web portal bringing together social workers and voluntary sector activists.



Topics

  • Pooling knowledge and experiences in cooperation between the social services sector and voluntary organizations;
  • collecting and disseminating good practice examples;
  • strengthening the capacity of social work bodies to deliver quality assistance for disadvantaged groups (the poor, the disabled, the elderly, ethnic minorities);
  • facilitating social inclusion and an improved quality of life for marginalized groups to achieve greater social cohesion.


  • Aims and objectives

  • The global economic slowdown is forcing European governments to cut social spending, even though the number of social assistance recipients has swollen due to rising levels of unemployment and poverty. In these unfavourable conditions, it is imperative that social workers are able to mobilize alternative resources, in particular to harness voluntary effort.
  • Teaming up with the voluntary sector can substantially increase the capacity of social work agencies to deliver quality assistance for disadvantaged groups (ie the poor, the elderly, the disabled, ethnic minorities).
  • In light of the above, the general, longer-term aim of the project is to strengthen the capacity of social work agencies and voluntary organizations to tackle social exclusion, in the face of adverse macroeconomic conditions.


  • Objectives

  • Cross-European exchange of experiences and good practice in setting up successful cooperation between social services institutions and the voluntary sector.
  • A comparative assessment of volunteer-aided social work in countries representing alternative social policy models (post-communist, Mediterranean, Northern European).
  • Developing a new handbook for social workers on how to recruit, train and supervise volunteers, encompassing good practice examples from the participating countries.
  • Setting up an international web-portal for a day-to-day exchange of ideas between social workers and voluntary sector activists. It will feature, inter alia, articles, reports from interesting events, a discussion forum, links to social work agencies and voluntary organizations in the participating countries etc.


  • Impact

  • By confronting their own experiences with those of their counterparts from other countries, social workers and voluntary sector activists will become better equipped to successfully tackle social exclusion and other problems facing the clients of social work agencies: the poor, the disabled, the elderly, ethnic minorities. A new handbook and a web-portal will provide valuable reference tools, and ensure a lasting impact.
  • Providers of social worker training will have an opportunity to enrich their course programmes with good practice examples and experiences from abroad. This will improve course quality and, consequently, boost the prestige and popularity of these institutions.
  • Volunteer organizations will get a chance to develop valuable links with social services institutions, and therefore to extend their sphere of activity and broaden the range of volunteer placement possibilities.
  • Research bodies will gain valuable insight into the practicalities of volunteer-aided social work in different countries, which may prove an interesting object of study for social policy and volunteering research.