2.2 Administration and governance of youth volunteering
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If we assume that a system is a set of elements that form a relatively autonomous whole segregated from the environment, within which internal links and interactions can be identified and an overall function of that whole can be defined, it must be said that such a system with regard to youth volunteering exists only in a dispersed and uncoordinated form. This is due to at least two reasons relating to both constituent elements of this term: on the one hand, there is no specialised public policy dedicated to this specific age group in Poland, and on the other, there is no co-ordinated system for the development and support of voluntary activities.
The main players involved in the development of volunteering (without identifying young people as a separate age group except Public Benefit Committee – see below) include:
- National Freedom Institute – Centre for Civil Society Development (Narodowy Instytut Wolności – Centrum Rozwoju Społeczeństwa Obywatelskiego) with Public Benefit Committee (Komitet ds Pożytku Publicznego) responsible for coordinating and monitoring of governmental interactions with the non-governmental sector and other organised forms of civil society - i.e. social economy actors or social cooperatives and Solidarity Corps – a long-term volunteering programme. The Council for Dialogue With the Young Generation (Rada Dialogu z Młodym Pokoleniem) was established in 2019. The Council is an advisory body at the Public Benefit Committee. It was created as a response to the common demand to increase the participation of the young generation in governmental decision-making. In the second half of 2020, the position of the Government’s Commissioner for Youth Politics was created, with the Commissioner having the position of a Vice-Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister (Pełnomocnik Rządu ds. Polityki Młodzieżowej). The main duty of the Commissioner is to coordinate the dialogue between government agencies and other partners in regards to youth politics, and to create a strategic document outlining the national youth policy;
- local governments: Each local authority implements bespoke projects aimed at the development of community activity – they usually involve participatory budgets and co-operation with non-governmental organisations, but there are also schemes dedicated to the development of volunteering, and even specifically youth volunteering, such as the schemes operated by the authorities of Warsaw: Active Warsaw Youth (Aktywna Warszawska Młodzież) and Warsaw Volunteers (Ochotnicy Warszawscy);
- public institutions at the local level, such as Social Welfare Centres or Cultural Centres (within the framework of the projects implemented);
- non-state actors, including, in particular, Volunteering Centres and Non-Governmental Organisation Support Centres as well as large nationwide non-governmental organisations such as Voluntary Fire Brigades.
It terms of actions directed at young people, the following should be mentioned:
- education sector at large: at national level schools since 2017 volunteering activities can be implemented based on the school statute, as regulated under the act of December 14th 2016 on Educational Law (Prawo Oświatowe). School council in cooperation with the headmaster can carry out volunteering activities and establish a volunteering council from among themselves;
- activities for the promotion of community action among the youth are also undertaken by specialised units of local authorities and, of course, individual schools – by running volunteer clubs (eg. School Volunteer Club or E-Volunteering in school ) scheme), but also by involving pupils in nationwide events of such as The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation, the Spring Association and their “Noble Box” (Szlachetna Paczka) action, Caritas Polska and their “Christmas Children’s Aid” (Wigilijne Dzieło Pomocy Dzieciom) or the “Christmas Food Collection” (Świąteczna Zbiórka Żywności) by Food Banks (Banki Żywności);
- the Ministry of Education and Science published School Volunteering Guidebook (Wolontariat Szkolny. Poradnik) dedicated to parents, teachers, pupils and headmasters, as well as the publication titled Volunteer work in schools – legal considerations (Wolontariat w szkole – zgodnie z prawem);
- dedicated non-public youth organisations and schemes, including Scouting Associations, the “Equalising Opportunities” (Równać Szanse) scheme of the Polish Children and Youth Foundation, the “Act.pl” (Działasz.pl) scheme of the Civic Education Centre, or the “Magnificent Eight” (Ośmiu wspaniałych) competition organised by the World Foundation (Fundacja Świat na Tak).
There is no established cooperation with volunteering systems of other countries aiming at exchanging information and identyfying good practices. Nevertheless, Poland is a very active actor as far as European Solidarity Corps in concerned and the Polish National Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps (Fundacja Rozwoju Systemu Edukacji) has a well establised cooperation in this respect with other analogue institutions abroad.
As there is no nationwide, centrally administered and managed youth volunteering system, no planned and co-ordinated sharing of responsibilities takes place between the national and the local levels. Nor does any co-operation exist in this respect between agencies, ministries and departments.
A network of 16 Regional Volunteering Centres (Ogólnopolska Sieć Centrów Wolontariatu) across Poland, and their associate members – Local Volunteering Centres, are striving to build the foundations of a co-ordination system. All the networked Volunteering Centres in Poland work on the basis of common standards of action. However, they have a limited impact both territorially – at most to the province (województwo) level or regional level, and systematically – due to the lack of management competences and financial resources resulting from the fact that they are non-public institutions. They are not, of course, dedicated exclusively to the youngest age group among volunteers, although they sometimes undertake special activities in this area.