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Friday, 28 September 2012

Volunteering emerges as a strong community engagement factor for Sustainability

Volunteering is frequently underrated. Perhaps it is something to go on a CV that attempts to show 'you have character'; to get you into a better College/Uni (as well as grades) or move up the job ladder more quickly? Claiming to be a kind hearted person and will make sacrifices? These are actually clich├ęs that would put some regular people off volunteering as do-gooders are often infamous. It would seem volunteers have re-invented themselves as serious players in many fields hence the Government 3rd sector are embracing them and even making funds available to encourage furthering many of these volunteer organisations which are contributing significant improvements to your locality.

You'd be surprised how much volunteering begins with just one or two people attempting to contribute something in sustainability in terms of social inclusion (neighbourhood watch) local economy (maintaining stronger local links within businesses/commerce) or environmental terms (clean up the local streets/monuments/parks/rivers etc.). People notice something new is emerging and wish to partake – within a year these volunteer group numbers will expand. Word of mouth carries and local publicity will praise the work achieved through volunteering.

Some examples of volunteering show they engage industry; connecting the communities,highlighting to locals where all the local markets/local social/local greenhubs are - requires local businesses and organisations to become involved and this and several loyalty schemes with hundreds, even thousands of members grow – building local connections, keeping shops from shutting down by volunteers raising awareness that said shops exist and local services are available.
Volunteers who have begun greening the cities have to procure the specific indigenous wildflowers from local growers – this stimulates more local economic growth through volunteering; as they purchase seedlings and add thousands of beneficial plant species to urban areas.
Food growing co-operatives engage local markets and thus begins stronger social inclusion and local economy links. Another example would be river clean ups where thescrap recovered is procured by local scrap merchants and in all cases the funds are not for profit yet ploughed back into the volunteering operations.
General feedback from new and old volunteers has been that it’s important to actively be part of something – yet as a social bonus it should not be understated the important benefits of who you meet which may improve your quality of life. New friends, new local networks, new exchanges of skills. It may be business managers may attend volunteering days to see the raw talents that are out there and this may be a tool to find people jobs who would not otherwise be available to you through conventional channels.
This is not about opportunism though - it's just the natural flow. People meet, people talk, people learn to trust the genuine others they come across through volunteering activities. When one witnesses selfless acts taking place of people volunteering their time, their physical contribution (gardening, labouring, digging, clearing debris etc.) or their mental contribution (community support groups, neighbourhood watch.) you will see a pool of talents that will benefit other areas of your community. It is a human resource that is largely untapped – yet this should not be brutally exploited, rather appreciated that volunteer groups should be supported as inevitably they will benefit the social connections, local economy and improve the natural/built environment. Isn’t that what the triad of Sustainability is supposed to be all about?
A better network is grown out of this volunteering environment that appears to be making ground on a national level, even in the adversity of all of us suffering the blows of a global recession. Sustainability is continually emerging and the economy in one respect will re-invent itself - just as a lot of communities are as they link up through common goals and feelings of being isolated become rescinded. Local connections will inevitably be improved and with this other attributes in your area will follow in a positive direction.
Consider volunteering at a local group in your area - you may well be very pleasantly surprised at what you find going on. Build new associations all pushing for common good. Watch the links in your community build up! Watch your community begin to thrive again in urban and rural environments. Please – get involved.

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