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Europe faces an abundance of challenges which erode the values upon which the EU was founded. Inequality and social exclusion are some of the issues European communities and societies are facing on a daily basis. Faced with increasingly rigid labor markets and growing risks of economic and social exclusion, young people on the continent find themselves in particularly vulnerable situations. In this context, civil society organizations are the trailblazers that have committed to addressing those challenges and finding ways to strengthen social cohesion and inclusiveness in Europe. One such CSO-driven initiative is the European Voluntary Service for all (EVS4ALL), a two-year project aiming to demonstrate the need to make mobility programmes such as the European Voluntary Service (EVS), focusing on bridging economic, human and social capital in Europe, more accessible for young Europeans, regardless of their educational level or social status.
Conference: “Volunteering for Social Change” | 20-21 March 2017
Allianz Forum Berlin | Pariser Platz 6, 10117 Berlin
Photo courtesy: Alexander Neofitov
The EVS4ALL project consortium spent a few days in Paris in the beginning of October 2016 to discuss the progress of the European Voluntary Service for All – a two-year civil initiative striving for more inclusiveness and flexibility of the European Voluntary Service. The latter, a European programme that has been running for twenty years and one of the undisputable successes of European integration, has built many of the social, professional and cultural ties, necessary for nurturing a healthy European citizenry. The EVS4ALL project partners, on the other hand, have made a substantial contribution to the practical and policy aspects of extending the programme’s benefits to each and every European citizen. To learn more about the challenges addressed by the project, its conceptual underpinnings, structure and results follow the link.
The group who met in Berlin to launch the EVS4ALL project
At the end of April 2015 the Allianz Cultural Foundation welcomed a variety of different groups from across Europe to their Berlin headquarters to launch the EVS4ALL project. As one of the media partners of the event, E&M’s Chris Ruff was there to witness two days of knowledge sharing, diligent planning and infectious optimism for the future of Europe.
"We are Europe!" was the rallying cry of the late, great German sociologist Ulrich Beck as he, with his close friend and fellow European titan, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, sat down to write a manifesto for the future of Europe.
What they envisaged was a Europe built "from the bottom-up". A Europe far removed from the technocratic elites who so often dominate the news. A Europe "for taxi drivers and theologians, for workers and the workless, for managers and musicians, for teachers and trainees, for sculptors and sous-chefs, for supreme court judges and senior citizens, for men and women".
In order to disentangle ourselves from the clutches of the euro-crisis, we must re-build our civil society and rediscover those traits which bind us together, instead of those which tear us apart.
But how, I hear you ask, is this wonderful Europe of people supposed to happen? And haven’t we been moving precisely in the other direction in the years since the great crash of 2008?
E&M: open call for new editors (special spot for IT skilled applicants)
E&M is Europe's first online life magazine produced by young Europeans for young Europeans.
After winning the European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2011, we are looking to recruit up to three new editors to join our editorial board as we expand into exciting new activities. One of the positions is reserved for a person with good knowledge of web administration technologies, who will become the administrator of E&M’s online platform (experience with Joomla CMS would be a plus).
The editor role comes with immediate opportunities to realise your own ideas and develop yourself and E&M together with us. You should be highly motivated and passionate about Europe. In return, you will work in a fun team of brilliant people from across the continent – and beyond! All academic (and non-academic) backgrounds are welcome and work will be diverse.
For more information and the online application form please visit www.europeandme.eu/apply.
Applications to this special call should arrive no later than 2nd August 2011.
We are looking forward to hearing from you and would be very happy to welcome you to our team soon.
Make E&M your project!
A handful of artists make enough money to live solely off their art, but most can barely survive. And in an economic climate that has led almost all EU member states to cut back on arts funding, volunteers in cultural activities are left high and dry. The financial struggle is exacerbated by a problem with public image - volunteering in the arts is often not seen as "worthy" as, say, caring for the elderly. Delegates expressed their frustration at this lack of recognition, arguing that people volunteer in the arts with the same motives as those who volunteer in other areas of society.
The overwhelming consensus, though, was that creative pursuits are good for the individual and good for society as a whole, and they are likely to rely more and more on the third sector for support. So the group's report left volunteers with a desperate plea: "keep creativity alive".
What do you think? Should artists and not-for-profit cultural organisations get state support? Do they deserve the same financial contributions that we might give to charities? And can volunteering carry European arts through an economic downturn?
Volunteering and Integration: Building Bridges From Below?
Have you ever thought of volunteering in Africa, Asia or the rest of the developing world? Motivated because you don't know what to do after graduation and volunteering makes your CV more impressive? Maybe you are eager to learn a new language, a new culture while doing something good and finding a sense of belonging?
Whatever reason it is, many young Europeans plan to volunteer in developing countries. But here comes the question: are their motivations good or bad; selfless or selfish?
In the workshop led by Maaret Jokela from Finland, an experienced volunteer to developing countries, around 20 participants from Europe reflected on their own motivations and explored ways to make volunteering in developing countries sustainable.
Sitting in the inner courtyard of the Frank-Loebsche Haus, the former residence of Anne Frank's grandfather Zacharias Frank in Landau, volunteers from Romania, Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Hungary and the UK were divided into small groups to discuss their own definitions of good and bad motives for volunteering. And the (un)surprising result is, of course, that it is impossible to define good or evil.
Where should the welfare state end and the third sector begin? It's a question being asked across Europe as governments make cutbacks to beat the recession - and it's a question that casts something of shadow over volunteering. Are volunteers being exploited to fill the gaps in state provision?
Delegates at the Citizens' Convention all agreed that volunteering is not just a "repair mechanism" for the welfare state, but something that satisfies a human desire to help others and belong to a community. The personal benefits of volunteering are undeniable, and many of those I spoke to said they would still be involved in the same activities even if their country had unlimited funds for welfare.
But what about when governments openly ask the third sector to bear the burden of what has previously been the responsibility of the state? The UK government, for example, has introduced the concept of a "big society", but this is coupled with huge reductions in state funding for the arts, charities and other NGOs. This means that volunteers are dealt a double blow: greater responsiblity and less support.
The relationship between the state and volunteers has always been a complex one - and there was much heated debate about how integrated or separate these two things should be. Those wishing to make volunteering a more unified, sustainable movement expressed the need for regulation, including a legal framework to protect the rights of volunteers, and training to provide necessary skills. But concerns were raised that too much state involvement can lead to volunteers having to compromise their original aims in order to get funding. It was even suggested that avoiding a welfare-dependent state through volunteering was "empowering".
So between the need for state support and the desire to maintain a sense of independence lies an inescapable confict for volunteers. Where would you draw the line?
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