EMPOWERING CHANGE - INNOVATION AND VALUES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF 21st CENTURY VOLUNTEERING
MY World Mexico
Francia Serrano has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs. Her passion is focused on SDG 9, 13, 16 and 17, committed to the promotion of multiculturalism, global thinking and the development of local governments. She has done research work abroad, invited to international forums by the EU-LAC Foundation and collaborator in MY World Mexico, and Editorial TIP.
INNOVATION AND VALUES IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF 21st CENTURY VOLUNTEERING
Our world is constantly vulnerable and in need of assistance, and in recent years this call has become increasingly resonant. The complex challenges it faces, along with the limitations of the state apparatus, have propelled the figure of the volunteer, an actor who responds to the lack of empathy and solutions, promoting greater awareness and global solidarity.
In the context of the 21st century and the challenges it brings – such as increasing inequality, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and cross-border armed conflicts – volunteering has evolved. Although the volunteer is still perceived as a person who provides comprehensive support in various fields for the welfare of society and without economic motivation being the main driving force,  the form, scope, purpose and, above all, the role of volunteering in society has undergone a transformation.
The values of volunteering
"The new will to volunteer is characterised by being bold, proactive and capable of effecting changes in our reality."
The new will to volunteer is characterised by being bold, proactive and capable of effecting changes in our reality. Nowadays, the use of open source applications, platforms and social networks have not only boosted the scope of their activities, but have also helped to generate larger communities. Furthermore, since 2002, with the establishment of International Volunteer Day, the recognition and appreciation of volunteering have grown. And later in 2015, its importance in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  was underscored, fostering closer collaboration between governments, organisations and volunteers to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
|Traditional values of volunteering||Values of volunteering in the 21st century||Reasons|
|Solidarity||Digital participation||Use of technology to mobilize volunteers.|
|Selfless assistance||Social innovation||Focus on creative solutions|
|Commitment||Digital inclusion||Promotion of equal access|
|Empathy||Environmental sustainability||Greater environmental awareness|
|Community||Civic empowerment||Encouraging citizen participation|
The value and impact of volunteering
This change is reflected in the significant number of more than 862.4 million volunteers worldwide, with a strong focus on the local level. Let’s take, for example some of the winners of the National Award for Volunteer Action and Solidarity-Mexico: Carolina Candelario Rosales 2014 (medical volunteer and founder of Guimedic, a medical association that brings health services to hard-to-reach communities through mobile clinics); María Ortiz Sebastián 2017 (Outstanding Purépecha woman who, in addition to teaching indigenous communities to create their own fertilisers to eliminate dependence on the outside world, participated in the creation of a Youth Center for Ecotechnology, Ecology and Culture) and Domingo Negrete Martínez 2019 (engineer who has given workshops on waterproofing with cactus slime, provided training on how to ensure access to quality water through rainwater treatment in the community of La Rivera, Metztitlán)
They exemplify the positive impact that volunteering can have on communities.
Additionally, it is also important to recognise global figures like Malala Yousafzai, who in addition to her outstanding work in the defense of education and women’s rights, has shared her experience as a volunteer in the region of Swat, Pakistan, where she worked in difficult conditions with Taliban to promote education, demonstrating how volunteering can address complex challenges and transcend geographic boundaries.
Due to the above, and drawing on my experience as a volunteer at MY World México, I am convinced that:
- A volunteer, as a leader in their community, leads with empathy, inspires action and creates powerful change through their commitment and collaboration.
- Volunteers are powerful voices that elevate community concerns and advocate for meaningful solutions that enhance the lives of all.
- Volunteering not only builds bridges between people, but also between cultures and perspectives. Each volunteer act is an opportunity to learn and grow together.
- Volunteers not only transform the present, but also leave a lasting footprint in the minds of those around them. They motivate others to join in and lead the way to a future filled with empathy and collaboration.
- A volunteer’s impact multiplies as they inspire others to join the cause, creating a global network of solidarity and action.
Currently, volunteers face new challenges in their work. The incorporation of project management applications such as Trello and Asana, as well as the use of recognised volunteer platforms as Idealist and VolunteerMatch represent challenges that require constant adaptation and learning, for a more organised and effective collaboration.
A new philosophy of participation
On the other hand, in this new philosophy of participation it is becoming increasingly important for young people to join high-level forums like: the World Youth Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, the UNESCO Youth Forum, the Youth Forum of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), among others. These global engagement spaces offer young people the opportunity to advocate for meaningful change, influence policy, and work towards a more inclusive and sustainable world. Their active participation in these forums reflects the spirit of leadership that characterises today’s volunteerism and their strong commitment to creating a better future.
"in this new philosophy of participation it is becoming increasingly important for young people to join high-level forums"
"In this new era of volunteering, the potential for impact is limitless and the power for change lies in every action, no matter how small"
Finally, it is worth adding that despite the efforts made in recent years, volunteering remains a challenge. Volunteers often face a lack of recognition, large workloads with limited responsibilities, the absence of constructive feedback, and in many cases the absence of resources and support. However, ultimately, being a volunteer means being part of a global community that shares values of solidarity, empathy and cooperation. In this new era of volunteering, the potential for impact is limitless and the power for change lies in every action, no matter how small. It is essential to value their skills, level of expertise and their role as agents of change, as well as their initiative, inspiration and ability to collaborate.
Butcher J.et. Verduzco G. (2016) Voluntary action and volunteering in Mexico
National Award for Voluntary and Solidarity Action. Available here
UN Volunteers (2022). State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2022: Creating Equitable and Inclusive Societies.
- UN Volunteers (2022). State of the World's Volunteerism Report 2022: Creating Equitable and Inclusive Societies. p.16.
- Resolution 57/106 (2002) on Volunteerism: This resolution proclaims December 5 as International Volunteer Day to recognise and celebrate the contribution of volunteers worldwide.
- Resolution 70/129 (2015) on Volunteerism for Sustainable Development: This resolution calls for greater collaboration between governments, organisations and volunteers to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- These values of volunteering in the 21st century reflect the adaptation to new realities, such as technology and the increasing role of CSOs in promoting social issues. However, the traditional values of volunteering, such as solidarity and selfless assistance, are essential and remain valid.
- UN Volunteers (2022). State of the World's Volunteerism Report 2022: Creating Equitable and Inclusive Societies. p.37.
- More information here
- More information here