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In Poland, there is no national strategy for youth volunteering, and the only document which contains elements of strategic solutions for volunteering in general is “The Long-Term Policy for the Development of Volunteering in Poland” (Długofalowa polityka rozwoju wolontariatu w Polsce) (see Section 2.5 for youth volunteering aspects of this document). Those provisions are a response to the need to develop a document of this kind mentioned in the “National Action Plan for the 2011 European Year of Volunteering in Poland”. The diagnosis described in the document mentions key challenges in this area, such as the fragmentary knowledge of volunteering in Poland; the low prestige of volunteering in the social consciousness of Poles; and the insufficient support for the development of volunteering. The document is supposed to correspond to the assumptions underlying such strategic documents as “The Long-Term National Development Strategy for 2011-2030” (Długookresowa Strategia Rozwoju Kraju na lata 2011-2030), “Mid-Term National Development Strategy for 2011-2020” (Średniookresowa Strategia Rozwoju Kraju na lata 2011-2020), “Strategy for Social Capital Development” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Społecznego), “Strategy for Human Capital Development” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego), “Efficient State” (Sprawne Państwo), and the Action Plans associated with those strategies, being the executive documents.
Regarding the development of volunteering in general, the assumptions contained in the document “The Strategy for Social Capital Development 2020” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Społecznego 2020) seem to be the most essential. The document was adopted in 2013 and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage was appointed as the body responsible for its implementation. There is currently no information on its implementation (the website of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage contains reports for 2013 and 2014, but neither is there any information about its discontinuation, therefore the document should be considered as still valid. Challenges related to the building of civil society and the development of social participation mechanisms are addressed by Specific Objective 2, which also includes provisions on volunteering: both personal and in the context of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Volunteering is defined as “the simplest form of action for the common good” and it is mentioned that “both its corporate and personal dimensions are a manifestation of civic activity, which promotes the attitudes of co-operation and increases mutual trust, thereby contributing to the growth of social capital. Volunteering also plays a significant role in fostering social inclusion and solidarity. Development of volunteering is an important challenge due to the growing weight of issues such as social exclusion or discrimination”. However, despite the declaration regarding “the need to develop a document constituting a draft long-term policy for the development of volunteering in Poland, which will lead to strengthening of the systematic approach to volunteering and its development”, this never happened. In the document, the only reference to age groups is to people aged 50+, but the mention of “initiatives for the promotion of new forms of volunteering, such as e-volunteering, or volunteering using new technologies being an expression of positive civic activity on the Internet” could potentially be seen as important from the point of view of development of youth volunteering.
Assumptions laid down in the following two documents should be considered of key importance when it comes to the development of youth volunteering:
- “The Governmental Programme for Young People’s Social Engagement for 2015-2016: Active Youth” (Rządowy Program Aktywności Społecznej Młodzieży na lata 2015-2016 Aktywna Młodzież). The document provides for a subsidy scheme complementary to the actions undertaken under the “Citizens’ Initiative Fund 2014-2020” (Fundusz Inicjatyw Obywatelskich na lata 2014-2020) scheme and in line with “The Human Capital Development Strategy” (Strategia Rozwoju Kapitału Ludzkiego). Most importantly, the scheme was intended as an introduction to designing a public policy dedicated to young people, referred to as long-term youth policy. The authors of the document pointed out that “in Poland, a support system for youth groups, including informal groups and youth organisations, is not developed”. From the point of view of development of youth volunteering, Priority 2 seems to be of key importance as it explicitly lists volunteering as one of many desirable forms of activity and describes it as a “form of involvement in community affairs, helping others, and enhancing personal knowledge and skills”. The scheme included educational and promotional activities aimed at present and potential volunteers, activities to integrate both the volunteers themselves and the organisations which benefit from their services, development of long-term youth volunteering, and taking measures to increase recognition of the skills acquired during volunteering in the labour market. As regards financing of the Youth Social Action Programme - “Active Youth”, the document points to national funds from the state budget amounting to PLN 20 million per annum (to be earmarked annually in the financial plan of the minister for social security) and introduces the principle of pre-financing the activities under competition-based grants ranging from PLN 10,000 to PLN 100,000;
- The Departmental Programme “Youth Joined in Action 2016-2019” (Młodzież Solidarna w Działaniu na lata 2016-2019), which, in spite of not containing any explicit reference, but due to its nearly identical structure (and extensively repeated passages) can considered to be a continuation of “The Governmental Programme for Young People’s Social Engagement for 2015-2016: Active Youth” (Rządowy Program Aktywności Społecznej Młodzieży na lata 2015-2016 Aktywna Młodzież) (this assumption seems also to be supported by the statement that “the programme will complement the actions of government administration related to organising and maintaining the positive effects of the World Youth Days (26-31 July 2016 in Krakow)”. This document too considers the development of volunteering and social solidarity as one of their main priorities (Priority 2). A significant difference is the inclusion of a table with indicators/measures for each Objective (in the case of the Objective “development of volunteering and social solidarity”, the indicator is the number of volunteers participating in the projects), their base value in 2015 (for the Objective in question it is 0), the estimated target value in 2019 (for the Objective in question it is 4000), and source of indicator data (for the Objective in question they are reports on the implementation of tasks subsidised through a competition). Because the Programme is currently in place, a more detailed discussion of the key objectives to be achieved through the actions planned (under Priority 2) seems justified here. They include: intra- and intergenerational solidarity; youth volunteering for those in need, excluded or threatened with exclusion; integration, education and promotion of volunteering; long-term volunteering; skill-based volunteering, particularly in rural areas and small towns and in social economy entities; increasing the recognition of skills acquired during volunteering; preparation of volunteers for giving first aid, including at state, historical and religious events. Crucially, specific addressees of activities within this age group (as discussed in Section 2.4.4) have been identified, including: young parents, youth with disabilities, youth from dysfunctional families, excluded young people or those threatened with social exclusion, persons gaining independence upon leaving a care institution, foster care, or prison. It is also emphasised that the Programme will contribute to promoting the need to increase the recognition of skills acquired through volunteering in formal education and among employers. The Programme also identifies entities entitled to use the funding, namely the non-governmental organisations referred to in Article 3.2 and the entities referred to in Article 3.3 of the Act on Public Benefit and Volunteer Work. The financial plan of the Programme has been described in the same way as in the previous scheme, but the maximum value of the grant provided through a competition has been significantly increased to range from PLN 20,000 to PLN 200,000.
The same institutions are responsible for the implementation, co-ordination and monitoring of both the “Governmental Programme for Young People’s Social Engagement for 2015-2016: Active Youth” and the Departmental Programme “Youth Joined in Action 2016-2019”. The Managing Authority is the minister for social security (currently the Minister of Family, Labour and Social Policy); who also oversees its implementation, while monitoring is the responsibility of the Managing Authority and the Board of Public Benefit Activity. Under both Programmes, the Managing Authority is responsible for the management and implementation of the Programme, including preparation of a competition for its Operator, acceptance of applications from beneficiaries, selection of projects to be co-financed and signing of contracts with beneficiaries, monitoring of the implementation of individual projects, reviewing of the beneficiaries’ use of funding, including on-site inspections, and retaining documentation in accordance with the procedures for archiving Programme-related documents.
The strategies described above were preceded by “The State Strategy for Youth for 2003-2012” (Strategia Państwa dla Młodzieży na lata 2003-2012), whose Strategic Objective 2 (“Creating opportunities for the development of the young generation’s own activity”) pointed to the need to undertake activities for the development of youth volunteering, including creation of a database on youth volunteering in Poland and abroad (to be implemented by the Ministry of National Education and Sport) and dissemination of foreign forms of youth volunteering (to be implemented by the Ministry of National Education and Sport, the Youth Programme, and the Polish-German Youth Co-operation). In summary, the most important differences in comparison to current schemes include: much less importance was attributed to the development of volunteering, a different institution was responsible for implementation at government level (Ministry of National Education), and – unlike the subsequent funding from the budget of a single ministry (Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy ) – financing (described as “potential” and estimated at approximately PLN 2 billion per year for all activities) was based on a number of sources, including the budgets of many ministries (Health, Sport, Culture) and local governments, special funds deriving from surcharges on State-monopoly games and from advertising of alcoholic beverages, Structural Funds of the European Union (European Social Fund under Priority 2: “Building a knowledge-based society”, and the Integrated Operational Programme for Regional Development). The Programme did not contain any mechanisms of control and evaluation of the manner of its implementation and of its outcomes, and it was also much more general in nature (for example, it did not contain a diagnosis of the initial state of affairs).