2.2 Administration and governance of youth volunteering
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In Estonia, no distinct governance system exists for youth volunteering. There is no legislation on youth volunteering as such, but the volunteering has been described in the fields of rescue services. The European Solidarity Corps (previous European Voluntary Service) is organized by the Department of Youth Programs of the Agency of Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps (until 31.12.2020 the Youth in Action National Agency Foundation Archimedes Youth Agency).
Instead, two other structures are being used for this purpose. On the one hand, youth volunteering takes place within the legislative and administrative framework for volunteering in general. This aspect of youth volunteering is structured by general civil society regulations and organizational practices. On the other hand, youth volunteering takes place within youth work settings (e.g. youth organizations, youth centers, youth projects, etc.). This aspect of youth volunteering is regulated by youth work regulations and organizational practices.
Supporting and organizing youth work is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Research, more concretely the Department of Youth and Talent Policy.
Supporting and organizing the development of volunteering, in general, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Interior. At the ministerial level, themes and issues related to volunteering are addressed in the Cohesive Estonia Strategy 2030. In the strategy, volunteering is seen to be an integral part of civil society and the NGO movement in the country. Youth volunteering is mentioned in that document but is not set as a specific goal, volunteering is being addressed in general.
The programme „Community Estonia 2023-2026“ (programm „Kogukondlik Eesti 2023-2026“) is the follow-up for the Civil Society Development Plan 2015-2020 (Kodanikuühiskonna arengukava 2015-2020). The main difference between the program and previous development documents in the field is the focus on the activism of people and communities instead of participation in policy making. The program focuses on increasing the influence of civil society and supporting development. The general goal of the programme „Community Estonia 2023-2026“ is a strong civil society, and it underlines the importance to increase the proportion of residents participating in voluntary activities, support community initiatives, increase the capacity of non-governmental organizations to act and improve the general vitality of Estonian civil society. The programme „Community Estonia 2023-2026“ implements the goals of the Cohesive Estonia Strategy 2030.
For the period 2021-2024, the Ministry of Interior set up a collaboration agreement in the field of active citizens, which includes the development of volunteering, with Network of Nonprofit Organizations and County Development Centres. This collaboration agreement sets the increase of volunteering as one goal and indicator of partnership. Furthermore, the list of organizations in the Volunteering Network, which is comprised of 59 organizations by the end of 2022, includes also youth or youth work organizations (Youth in Action National Agency, The Foundation Domus Dorpatensis, Association of Open Youth Centres in Estonia, Estonian National Youth Council). Young people volunteer through these organizations as well as through other organizations, for example, Estonian Food Bank, Estonian Fund for Nature, Estonian Society for the Protection of Animals, village movement Kodukant and others.
As no distinct governance system for specifically youth volunteering exists, volunteering is a topic in the civil society strategic planning that is being coordinated by the Ministry of Interior. The main cross-sectoral cooperation in the field of youth volunteering is being done between the Ministry of Education and Research and Ministry of Interior.
Cohesive Estonia Strategy 2030, which is implemented together with the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings the attention to the volunteering as a part of development of communities and civil society. One of the aim of the strategy is to raise the awareness and activity of the population, including young people, to take more part in volunteering. One of the indicator for that aim is the participation rate in volunteering, measured by survey (proportion of the population who have participated in volunteering in the last 12 months).
The new youth sector development plan for the years 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035) brings attention to youth volunteering with different activities and one youth-specific indicator regarding youth volunteering: the ratio of 15–26-year-olds participating in organized volunteer work.
The implementation of the state-level strategies and development plans goes through programs. The program „Community Estonia 2023-2026“ (programm „Kogukondlik Eesti 2023-2026“) brings out important results that also contain the youth field as an important partner. There are 3 results that are concretely connected to the Education and Youth Programme 2020-2023 (Haridus- ja noorteprogramm) (not specifically to youth volunteering, but connecting to that) as following:
- the activities of youth work, NGOs, schools, and universities are connected with civic society;
- the Community Practice program is distributed in schools all over Estonia;
- youth participation is being developed on the local level.
One more result that mentions young people:
- there are development programs for social entrepreneurship targeted at young people.