The UN General Assembly’s concept of volunteerism insists on: Activities undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor . The UN Volunteer Programme outlines four types of volunteerism: Mutual aid/self-help; philanthropy and service to others; civic participation; and advocacy and campaigning . Not all activists are volunteers, many activists are volunteers and many volunteers are activists. To further explain this, Naidoo contends that:
“…the word volunteering can conjure up negative connotation for some in the civil society, particularly those in activist quarters. Instead of addressing the root causes of social problems, volunteering is sometimes seen as humanitarian action which alleviates the daily suffering of the poor and marginalized by providing direct services, but falls short of producing real change. Activism on the other hand is associated with advocacy, campaigning and social disobedience undertaken with the explicit aim of systemic social, economic and political change….It is increasingly being recognized that a key question facing civil society is how to foster greater respect and dialogue between these two worlds so that they might find new ways of engagement around shared goals of development and justice…”
Volunteerism provides a moment for a fuller commitment of people in the course of development of any state, this is similar to the efforts shown by the civil society organizations across the world through activism. At the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid effectiveness in Busan it was recognized that the guarantees made by states are not being converted into reality at the community level . This is despite the interest in citizens to be a part of delivering the development goals and holding governments to account . How best can these efforts be harnessed to realise the community welfare?
Volunteering involving advocacy to bring about change in governance and that which promotes civic engagement naturally merges with social activism in purpose and strategy. In this era of technological advancements especially in social media, these avenues have been expanded and people have been voicing out their cries and concerns whilst providing help through these channels. Online activism and online volunteering have become powerful weapons of change in various communities. Are you involved?
“Social activism starts at exactly the same premise as volunteering – people giving time who want to make a change in their community”.