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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) include:
- Public Benefit Committee responsible for coordinating and monitoring of governemntal interactions with the non-governmental sector and other organised forms of civil society - i.e. social economy actors or social cooperatives;
- relevant departments within ministries of the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, while the Team for Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Ministry of Development is responsible for the development of employee volunteering;
- 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:
- schools: since 2017 volunteering activities can be implemented based on the school statute. School council in cooperation with the headmaster can carry out volunteering activities;
- education sector at large: at national level, the Ministry of National Education announces the “Volunteer of the Year” (Wolontariusz Roku) competition, which aims to spread the idea of volunteering among young people and popularise positive attitudes and actions of school youth. The school year 2016/2017 was announced as the Year of Volunteering by the Ministry of National Education. 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 (or implementing the “Volunteering in School” (Wolontariat w szkole) scheme), but also by involving pupils in nationwide events of such as The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation (Fundacja Wielkiej Orkiestry Świątecznej Pomocy), 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;
- The Ministry of National Education published School Volunteering Guidebook dedicated to parents, teachers, pupils and headmasters.
- dedicated non-public youth organisations and schemes, including Scouting Associations, the “Equalising Opportunities” (Równać Szanse) scheme of the Polish Children and Youth Foundation, the “Youth and Philanthropy. Active Youth – Engaged Citizens” (Młodzież i filantropia. Aktywna młodzież – zaangażowani obywatele) scheme of the Foundation for Poland, the “Act.pl” (Działasz.pl) scheme of the Civic Education Centre, the “Older Brother, Older Sister” (Starszy brat, starsza siostra) scheme of the Sursum Corda Association or the “Magnificent Eight” (Ośmiu wspaniałych) competition organised by the World Foundation.
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. According to a document entitled the “National Action Plan for the 2011 European Year of Volunteering in Poland” (Krajowy Plan Działania dla Europejskiego Roku Wolontariatu 2011 w Polsce), “systemic solutions, which are a good example of volunteering legislation in Poland, are contained in the Act of 24 April 2003 on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work” (the provisions of this Act are discussed in Section 2.4 Laws and regulations on Youth Volunteering).
A network of 16 Regional Volunteering Centres 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.