The EVMP and the Plataforma del Voluntariado de Espana hosted a workshop on March 28 in Madrid that brought the leadership of the volunteering community in Spain together with government and Statistics officials from Spain’s National Institute for Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, INE) to discuss the measurement of volunteering, and explore possibilities for implementation of the ILO Manual in Spain.
This workshop was as part of a pre-conference event of the Service Innovation Summit which was hosted by Meridian International Center’s Global Service Leadership Initiative, the U.S. Embassy in Spain, and the Rafael del Pino Foundation. The Summit was designed to present innovative solutions to addressing social challenges in Spain through service and volunteering, surface collaborative opportunities, and call participants to action. The importance of having better, more reliable and comparable data on volunteering came up throughout the Summit and was highlighted in the conclusions as one of the concrete recommendations made by the Summit working groups.
In his opening remarks at the Summit, His Royal Highness, Felipe, Prince of Asturias, recognized the EVMP saying, “I want to thank the European Volunteer Measurement Project that was a product of the European Year of Volunteering 2011, which provides a new tool to share more and better information on what is done in this area and to help more effective management.”
Moving toward implementation in Spain. Representatives from INE’s Labour Statistics Department eagerly endorsed the ILO Manual as the “ideal tool” to measure volunteering and agreed that the “labour force survey is the ideal platform” for measurement. They described current and past efforts in Spain to capture data on volunteering and concluded that “we have a methodological chaos.” The austerity measures brought on by the economic crisis in Spain prevents INE from taking on the ILO Manual immediately, but INE officials have taken steps to seek a path towards implementation and have requested that a module on voluntary work, based on the ILO Manual methodology be included in the Eurostat’s Working Programme for the upcoming years because “it is important to harmonize our approach now and it needs to be implemented.” INE officials stressed the important role of statistics offices across the EU in expressing support for this initiative to Eurostat to include the module in its Working Programme.
The economic climate in Spain is putting the volunteer community under enormous pressure. In advance of the workshop, some in the volunteering community had expressed concern about how the Spanish government would use the resulting data—concerns that were discussed and debated at length during the workshop. In the end, most volunteering community participants found their concerns alleviated, and agreed that while the measurement of volunteering is not a panacea for addressing the many challenges facing the volunteering community in Spain, it does promise to provide the volunteer community, policy-makers, government officials, and business leaders with objective information on which to base their discussions, and agreed to support its implementation in the country.
Sharing experiences and strategies. Tania Cappadozzi, from the Italian National Institute for Statistics (ISTAT), which is preparing to implement the ILO Manual in 2013, highlighted ISTAT’s successful collaboration with Italian civil society groups in forging a strategy for the Italian implementation. As an example of that collaboration, SPES (an EVMP partner) translated the Manual into Italian and triggered a wide-ranging working group of volunteering sector representatives which is working with ISTAT towards the implementation. This civil society partnership secured support from a local foundation to help cover the costs of implementation, reviewed the questionnaire with a “volunteer’s eyes,” is helping to test the module, and will be training the interviewers and helping to disseminate the results.
Liliana Fernandes from the Catholic University in Porto described similar efforts taking place in Portugal, where INE is seeking the means to implement the ILO Manual. One important formal step that has been taken is that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Catholic University in Porto and the Portuguese Confederation of Volunteering (CPV) on February 14, formally sealing their cooperation to move ahead together in all future matters dealing with EVMP.
This workshop provided an opportunity for an open exchange if experiences and strategies between Spanish and Italian officials, members of Spain’s volunteering community, and those pursuing implementation of the ILO Manual in Portugal and Italy. As a result, momentum is growing to find a way to see the Manual implemented in Spain despite the current economic difficulty. Volunteers have a vital role to play in such times, and the importance of establishing a system to better understand that role and to maximize their impact is being recognized by government, statistical officials, and the volunteering community. The EVMP partners hope that these sorts of cross-national exchanges will help to make Europe-wide implementation of the ILO Manual possible despite hard economic times.