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Your Voice Goes Here! A Call for Discussion about this Issue

Every article in this issue of e-Volunteerism looks at the subject of Volunteer Centers and, as always, readers can post responses to each article. But the editorial team wanted to include an area where readers could expand the conversation beyond the particular subjects presented by individual authors. Because Volunteer Centers are important to the volunteer community, we encourage you to comment on the entire Volunteer Centers theme, raise issues not already covered in the articles, and share your vision of the future of this volunteering infrastructure. Debate welcomed!

So this is a call for your voice. Through this Voices, you can submit your thoughts as text, audio, or video. Join in!

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Justin Davis Smith

From Justin Davis Smith, CBE, Executive Director of Volunteering and Development, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, England (and former Executive Director of Volunteering England)

In December I wrote a blog posting about the ‘Volunteering for Stronger Communities’ project report. The project ran for three years and has been a real eye opener to people about the value of Volunteer Centres in helping those furthest from the job market find work and increase their employability through volunteering. Here’s the link to the post, ‘Volunteering works’.

The project also produced an animated video which just went live on YouTube in March.

Christina Rigman

From Cristina Rigman, Executive Director of Pro Vobis, the National Resurce Center for Volunteerism in Romania, and Vice-President of the European Volunteer Center

In 2003 I have started to work in Pro Vobis, an organization that grew from a social services organization involving volunteers into the National Resource Center for Volunteerism in Romania, as it is called today. I was employed to coordinate a project focusing on the development of the national network of local volunteer centers in Romania (12 at that time) and have been working for and around the volunteer centers ever since. What I like about volunteer centers is their brokerage role which I think is quite a unique feature that singles them out from any other type of volunteer involving or volunteering development organization. At the same time, this unique feature is also their main challenge, as it cannot be fulfilled unless there is the supply of volunteers within the community and the demand for volunteers from other institutions and organizations of the community. This makes the local volunteer center an indicator of an active, mature, and healthy community.

After over 10 years of promoting and supporting the creation of local volunteer centers in Romania I am not sure this is a viable model for our country. Regardless of how much I like the basic concept of a volunteer center and especially its brokerage role, there are very few successful examples in the country that I can reflect to. Most of the local volunteer centers in Romania are actually volunteer involving organizations, implementing volunteering programs for the benefit of the community. This is very much needed, helpful, and appreciated. But it is not exactly the basic function of the volunteer center as I have learned about it and as I hoped we will be able to create in Romania. Maybe the context was not right or the communities, let alone the nonprofit sector, were not ready to embrace and make this idea work. Maybe we did not promote and implement it right. Or maybe our local communities needed something else and that is what the local volunteer centers actually became.

Regardless of the reason for not achieving volunteer centers by the book, I am quite proud of our achievements. Volunteering is promoted and developed in all the communities where a volunteer center (however imperfect according to the basic concept) exists and this is great. People can become volunteers and beneficiaries are served and this is all that matters. Whether the practice will come any closer to the definition from the book remains to be seen, but continuing to play the card of furthering the development of volunteer centers in Romania will only help us get one step closer to our mission of developing and promoting volunteerism in Romania.