Recommendations from the EVARS project
In order to support the continued commitment, support and learning among volunteers and professionals, it is important that those who are responsible for the recruitment, organization and training of volunteers, establish a framework, which makes it possible to follow up on the activities and training. It is also essential that they continuously monitor how the volunteers thrive, so that they have the opportunity to develop and strengthen the cooperation with professionals and citizens.
It is therefore important if there, even before the local authority makes the decision to conduct the recruitment of volunteers, is a strategy for how to maintain and strengthen the skills of volunteers (and professionals who are cooperating with volunteers). Network supporting activities, and other activities that can facilitate the experience within the volunteers, of meaningfulness and affiliation to a specific activity or area will also be of great importance.
Through the development, testing and adjustment of the EVARS course materials a number of factors have been identified that promote the implementation.
Factors which promote a broad implementation are all characterized, by the training being linked to existing agendas within the local and / or national context. Meaning that, the volunteer training is just one out of several activities, which focus on elderly, active ageing, social inclusion and volunteerism.
Some of the conditions listed below complement each other and others are interdependent. However, there will or course be differences in how EVARS is implemented and anchored, depending on the structural, political and cultural context. Approaches for the cooperation between elderly, local authorities and other public actors will vary, but a common condition is the setting and how the formal responsibility of given areas of the welfare service; volunteers shall not replace formal paid work but should collaborate and contribute to the cooperation with alternative skills, knowledge and additional opportunities.
There may be local variations in the organization which will call for consideration of other aspects of the implementation than those listed below. Please look at the EVARS web-page under the four EVARS countries’ actual use of the material for a description of these conditions and specifications.
Strategic factors which promote implementation
- There is a political decision to strengthen cooperation with elderly volunteers, for example by designing and adopting a voluntary policy, civil society strategy or similar initiatives.
- There is a broad consensus within the civil society and among volunteer associations towards the political strategy adopted. Maybe even citizens and organizations have contributed in formulating the policy.
- The local authority has designated a permanent contact person and/or professional unit that handles relations with volunteers and civil society and is responsible for the implementation of the strategy. The coordinator or unit coordinates activities with the volunteers in relation to the municipal strategy.
- A forum or framework has been established in which volunteers can get and give feedback and where they can share experiences.
- Clear objectives for the engagement with volunteers have been formulated, which are known both to citizens, professionals and volunteers so that the possible contribution of the volunteers, and how they can contribute, is clear to all.
- Recruitment of elderly volunteers, as well as professionals for the training activities, must comply with specific consideration of what the goal of the program is, for example, to promote social inclusion, strengthening of specific areas within the school system or supporting the solidation between generations.
- The course is initiated with a clear ownership – e.g. through representation by the management level of the local authority at the first and last module of the training course
Practical factors which promote implementation
- The trainingis carried out byprofessionalsandpeople who haveteaching experience, specialinsight intothe target group andsubstantial knowledge ofthe different training subjects.
- Upon completion of the training course, a plan must be available on howthe newvolunteerscan apply their skills
- Procedures and systems are established, which maintainand developthe volunteers’ skills
- The volunteers havethe opportunity toshare their knowledge in a network-taking into account theconfidentiality rules
For good practice examples of local ideas for organizing etc. please look at the EVARS web-page under the four EVARS countries descriptions.