Cultural Playing Field

The Value of Volunteering by Robin Simpson
December 4, 2009, 3:24 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Thursday I was at the Volunteering Ireland conference, ‘The Value of Volunteering’, in Dublin where I met John Curran, the Minister of State for the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I spoke to the Minister about the VAI ‘Another Way In’ cross border volunteering project which his department is co-funding: he was fascinated to hear about the sofa our Project Officer, Isobel Cleary, had placed in the middle of a street in Enniskillen as a platform for artistic performance during our recent Up4Arts day. My short speech to the conference immediately followed the Minister’s opening address and gave me the opportunity to stress the scale and value of volunteering in the voluntary arts in Ireland. I then introduced the wonderful ‘Women Making Waves’ drama group from Fermanagh who performed their sketch about disability and prejudice, ‘Does She Take Sugar’. Their performance was extremely well received and lots of people came to talk to us about it during the coffee break. Many thanks to Eileen Drumm, Carmel Campbell and Liz McCord for helping us to demonstrate the value of voluntary arts participation and to Isobel for organising this. The Minister had spoken about volunteering as being “central to the goals of democracy, social inclusion and active citizenship”. Subsequent speakers, including Eilis Lawlor (from the New Economics Foundation), Elaine Bradley (Chief Executive of Volunteering Ireland) and the independent MEP for North and West Ireland, Marian Harkin, addressed the social, economic and political value of volunteering. There was much discussion of the problems of using gross domestic product as the only measure of a country’s success, the potential use of the Social Return on Investment model, the invaluable contribution of volunteers during the recent floods in Ireland and the opportunities presented by the 2011 European Year of Volunteering and Ireland hosting the 2012 World Volunteer Conference.

Robin Simpson.

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