Last week I took part in the Service Innovation Summit (Madrid, March 28-30, 2012), which brought together more then 150 service leaders from the corporate, government, non-profit and community sectors mostly of Spain, the U.S., and other countries to look for areas of synergy and cross sector partnership in promoting volunteering. Summit was organized by Meridian International Center, the United States Embassy in Spain and the Rafael del Pino Foundation. For three days we talked about innovations in volunteering and community services. It was very inspiring to listen to so many outstanding speakers whom Summit brought together.
“Life is changing when we serve others”
Many leaders started their carrier from volunteer experience. Quite often volunteering gives a ticket to life. It is true. I know it from personal experience and again received the evidence during the Summit. “Life is changing when we serve others”, - that was one of the massages of Ambassador Alan Solomont, U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, who shared with us his personal experience of serving in Massachusetts State.
Volunteering is a tool of civil society and democracy development. It is an instrument for active and responsible citizenship. Today we live not only in economical and political crisis time, but as well in crisis of society and community values. This crisis gives us as a first generation an unique opportunity to work together on global challenges. Modern circumstances demand innovations and new approaches to the problems solving, the promotion community values.
“I do this because I am committed to the course, I can’t live without it but I am not a volunteer” – how many times we have heard this phrase. To serve, to be involved into good courses – is a need of every human being, but sometimes we are not ready to talk about it, share own experience and don’t understand that our story can inspire others. More we practice the values of serving more they are developed in us. Everything is connected. “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something” – I so much believe in this phrase.
How to measure the impact of volunteerism? We used to talk a lot about statistics. Yes, numbers are important but more important are qualitative information, which help to show added values of volunteerism and services. How can we create world were volunteering become a habit? How can we up bring our children that they feel responsibility not only for their personal life? These are - questions which the Summit has raised up, and which are required an innovative approach to get answers.
Is it possible to apply American model of community services in Europe?
During three days of the Summit I heard a lot from Summit’s participants, that American model of community services and volunteering is unique and is difficult to be applied to European counties and especially to Spain. Americans are proud to be involved in the community problems solving and citizen services. 75% of Europeans used to rely on a state when 75% Americans feels responsible for their communities and are ready to act for changing the world for better place. This way of thinking is a part of the U.S. traditions.
Let me tell you a story…
I live in the country which has learned, what volunteerism and community services are, less then 20 years ago. At the beginning the volunteer initiatives were perceived by Ukrainian society something like “Subbotnik” – communist’s action when everyone should devote one of his or her Saturday to community services (the main difference between volunteer actions and “subbotnik” was the absence of voluntary choice for participation ).
The process of volunteer movement development started 20 years ago in Ukraine and now we can see the changes. For instant 2 years ago World Giving Index launched by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) – is the first report of its kind looking at charitable behaviour across the world – put Ukraine on 150 place. But in 2011 my country have moved already on105 position. What has influenced on such significant change only within a year ? One of the three Index criteria is volunteering (how often people give their time for serving their communities). In 2011 people indicated that they started to volunteer more… Why? 2011 was European Year of Volunteerism and my organization (Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum) conducted 2 international conference on volunteer issues (“Volunteering is a path to philanthropy for everyone”, 18 February 2011, Kiev; “Corporate volunteering: 3D”, 13-14 October 2011, Nikolaev). As well in 2011 Ukraine has stepped into the active preperational phase for European Football Championship which is taking place in Poland and Ukraine in summer 2012. Championship Organizational Committee has called for volunteers and they are appeared... I think it is an example of how the concrete initiative can promote volunteering.
There is no need for comparison; every country, every nation has its own way. But there is a need for discussions what we can do together for community development, which tools we can use in order to unite communities and spread the idea of services and volunteerism. It is time to act.
Two years ago when I participated in IVLP “Volunteerism: United We Serve”, which was organized by US Department of State I was so impressed by the role of USA Presidents played in national and community services development. Each President was giving the special message to American nation on volunteering. Each message not only contained the words, behind each message there was the concrete act, the step forward… Thus, the President John F. Kennedy announced of the establishment of the Peace Corps, the President Lyndon B. Johnson created VISTA or Volunteers in Service to America, the President George H. W. Bush started Points of Light, the President Bill Clinton created AmeriCorps, the President George W. Bush called on all Americans to serve their communities and created USA Freedom Corps, and finally President Barack Obama launched initiative “United We Serve”…
At the same time I know when idea is coming from a bottom, there is no reason to wait until the top will see the need for this idea. We should create a demand and act.
What is next?
I came back home and was very happy to heard that my colleges has applied to Innovation Lab with one innovative idea. We would like to develop an electronic resource that would allow to each Ukrainian Internet user in 5 minutes to understand how he or she can become a philanthropists. There is not need to be a rich guy or a pop diva, it is just enough to have free time and desire. And then you can choose the most convenient ways. In order to realize this idea, we need to get “likes” through Facebook. If we take the first place through “likes” we receive recourses for it and more Ukrainian will become aware how they can be involved into good courses. And therefore I appeal to all with a request please “like” our project. Here is a link: http://innovationlab.com.ua/ideas/view/40
(the “like” bottom is in the upper right corner; the project is in Ukrainian, you can read it though Google translator). We would appreciate your comment as well. Our deadline is midnight o fApril 4!
The Summit made me to dream. And now I I have a new dream… I would like Service Innovation Summit will take place in Ukraine in some years, so Ukrainian service leaders will learn the best and inspiring practices from American model of services. I do believe it will make our civil society stronger and volunteering will become the same habit as brushing teeth.
I would like to thank to Meridian International Center for giving me this exciting opportunity to participate in the Summit.