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Promoting volunteering activities is a a recurrent measure of youth policies especially because the NGOs that allow the development of volunteering are considered as both the “leaven of the social cohesion” and “major economic actors”*.
There is no strategy specifically dedicated to the involvement of young people in community and volunteer work as such. However, in 2018 the French government set out a roadmap for the development of community work that includes measures for growing involvement. Furthermore, it aimed to strengthen the civic service, which is one of the main institutional measures for involving young people in volunteer work. Lastly, in 2019 the government launched a forerunner to implementing the Universal National Service (SNU) for young people between 15 and 25 years old. One of its objectives was creating a culture of engagement. The intention was to gradually roll out this measure to an entire age group over the next few years (see 2.5).
The roadmap for the development of community work.
This roadmap consists of 15 measures, organised around three axes, to promote the development of community work.
1. “Structured and improved support for associations”.
2. “Enabling lifelong involvement for all”.
3. “Community development is everyone’s business”.
Site: “the government’s community policy”: https://www.associations.gouv.fr/la-politique-associative-du-gouvernement.html
The development of civic service
Civic service is an important policy tool for engaging young people in volunteer work (for more information see 2.5). Since its implementation in 2010, this programme, which allows young people to get involved in general interest projects, has continued to gain momentum and visibility. In 2021, 20,000 additional civic service projects will be implemented.
The objective of “the roadmap for community development” is to create an “involved society”. While the measures outlined in the strategy may also relate to young people, they cover a broader spectrum. These measures are organised around three axes:
(List of indicative measures)
- 1. Structured and improved support for associations
_Continuing the development of digital services to simplify approaches for non-profit organisations, such as being able to submit volunteer declarations as part of the civic engagement account, to fill out your financial report online or to request a multi-year subsidy, etc.
- 2. Enabling lifelong involvement for all
_Enabling a larger number of volunteers to take on additional loans to earn training credits through the civic engagement account.
This account “aims to map and highlight civic activities” and also provide access to training under certain circumstances. As an example, people who carry out voluntary work (in civic service) or are heavily invested in running non-profit associations (more than 200 hours per year) can receive 20 hours of credit towards a course.
_Updating all measures for volunteer sabbaticals in order to make it more comprehensible and accessible for those who want to be more involved in volunteering.
_Working with companies and civil service employers to extend measures that encourage ways of reconciling paid work and volunteering.
- 3. Community development is everyone’s business
_Developing relationships of trust between associations, companies, government and citizens through, for example, signing a charter of mutual engagement. _Developing a “French model of philanthropy”.
National (central) authority
Although the authority responsible for definition of volunteering and bénévolat policies is the ministry in charge of youth policies, such policies are not drafted within the same administrative framework according to type of commitment: bénévolat "policies" are not necessarily drawn up by the public authorities, which, out of respect for non-profit organisations’ independence, only intervene to support them (financially) and promote bénévolat through various initiatives. “The State certifies, authorises, provides expert advice, accompanies, monitors and evaluates the action of non-profit organisations” .
The situation is different for the volunteering policies, which are supported, defined, managed and controlled by the State and various ministries.
The DIJ is also the Director of the DJEPVA- Department for Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organisations, under the aegis of the ministry in charge of Youth. In the commitment field, the Department (DJEPVA) develops and coordinates youth commitment (volunteering/bénévolat) projects, ensures they are properly implemented, and monitors various schemes.
The DJEPVA itself includes two sub-directorates responsible (among other things) for management of actions promoting bénévolat and volunteering:
- The Sub-directorate for Cross-Ministerial Youth and Voluntary Organisation Policies
It manages actions targeting youth when they fall within the scope of several ministerial departments. It coordinates actions in favour of voluntary organisations, European and international youth mobility, volunteering and bénévolat work, and is also responsible for strategic supervision of the Civic Service Agency
As such and in the field of volunteering and benévolat:
- It ensures in conjunction with the ministries concerned (finance, Interior,labour, ...) the development and monitoring of the regulations for NGOs;
- It follows and it implements the Government's policy on the development of associations and volunteering;
- It ensures the strategic supervision of the civic service agency, the main vector of volunteering in France.
- The Sub-directorate for Non-Formal Education (Sous-Direction de l’Education Populaire)
This sub-directorate promotes and monitors non-formal education. It contributes to the development of educational practices and coordinates the network of decentralised services in the areas of youth, non-formal education and volunteer organisations. In the context of volunteering and bénévolat policies, its role includes:
- Ensuring recognition of prior experience and development of the economic facilitation sectors;
- facilitating relations with federations and national organisations for youth and non-formal education as well as with correspondents in decentralised networks;
- providing the Minister with a list of national organisations likely to obtain youth and non-formal education approval;
- and managing, negotiating and assessing partnerships and objectives agreements with national youth and non-formal education federations and organisations.
Furthermore, as with other youth policies, implementation of youth policies on volunteering and bénévolat is based on partnership and cross-ministerial work. Other ministries contribute to the development of youth commitment, including the ministry of the Interior for firefighter volunteering and the Ministry of National Education and the ministry in charge of higher education which promotes youth commitment of young people through a range of schemes (including the National Education Civic Reserve ( Réserve Citoyenne National Education) and educational validation of prior bénévole experience.
Among these ministries, the ministry in charge of foreign affairs plays an important coordinating role in implementation and management of international solidarity volunteering (VSI) and international administrative volunteering (VIA). It is responsible for issuing authorisations to organisations implementing volunteering missions (Law no.2005-159 of 23 February 2005 bearing on the contract for international solidarity volunteering, and as such works in close partnership with the DJEPVA.
Youth policies including those promoting commitment are also implemented by local authorities, which contribute to the development of volunteering and bénévolat by promoting them via such local structures such as local missions, youth information offices and information points. Some local authorities, particularly regions and départements, have their own international volunteering schemes. They play an important role in mobility within a non-formal educational framework.
Promoting engagement remains a strong focus of youth policy, which can be seen in the creation of a new system of engagement in 2019, the “Universal National Service” (see 2.5), during which young people carry out volunteer work, and the strengthening of the civic service that took place in 2020 and 2021.
In fact, the French government announced a target of 100,000 additional civic service projects, or 20,000 in 2020 and another 80,000 in 2021. This increase is explained by the government’s desire to promote the social significance of this measure, which encourages diversity and social solidarity, as well as the acquisition of informal skills among young people in circumstances where their access to the job market is complicated by the impacts of the health crisis. This increase is in line with the government’s youth plan, which was unveiled in July 2020.