Measuring the Invisible Work: Tools and Approaches for Measuring Volunteering


Measuring the Invisible Work: Tools and Approaches for Measuring Volunteering

International Labour Organisation, United Nations Volunteers
70 minutes

Measuring the ‘invisible’ work of millions of volunteers worldwide is challenging yet critical to help us understand the value of volunteering for volunteers and their communities.

In this interactive webinar attended by over 182 participants from various sectors, we discussed the different approaches and tools for measuring the scale and scope of volunteering. Our speakers also shared experiences across different countries on the challenges, lessons learned and ways forward for improving the data collection, comparability and overall approaches for measurement. 

In his framing presentation (ppt), Vladimir Ganta, a Statistician at the International Labour Organisation outlined the working definition of volunteer work. According to ILO, volunteer work consists of "activities or work that some people willingly do without pay to promote a cause or help someone outside of their household or immediate family.” He further outlined the different tools and approaches for measuring volunteer work (pdf)

Sharing the experience of Italy, Tania Cappadozzi,  a Statistician at the National Statistical Institute of Italy highlighted the importance of collaboration (ppt) between official statistics and the third sector representatives in order to combine the scientific rigour on international standards with direct knowledge of the world of volunteering in the local context. Tania argued that this would also make it possible to preserve the international comparability of the volunteerism data in compliance with local specificities.

In South Africa, Malerato Mosiane, a Chief 
Labour Statistician of Stats South Africa shared the experiences of South Africa in measuring volunteer work using Labour Force Survey (ppt).  Malerato pointed out that assigning an economic value to volunteering can help people better understand its important contributions. South Africa uses the replacement cost method in estimating the economic value of volunteer work. In terms of future innovations, Malerato talked about having a regional and/or global database for volunteering to be able to measure the scope in real-time. 

Finally, Yiannis Yiannaki, Presidential Volunteering Commissioner of Cyprus talked about the policies around volunteer work in Cyprus and some initiatives in valuing and measuring volunteering in his presentation (ppt), including the: recognition of informal and non-formal learning and certification of skills gained through volunteering; introduction of tools that encourage the active participation of citizens, targeting the young generation; and the nationwide public consultation for the National Strategy for Active Citizenship.

Following the presentations, we had a rich discussion around how the global pandemic is impacting the work on measuring volunteering. Vlad provided some tips in measuring work during the pandemic including using digital means in lieu of other face-to-face survey methods. Participants also questioned the current definition of volunteer work, whether or not, protesting is counted as volunteer work and other efforts for extended family members, as well as financial support/rewards for volunteering. These issues are all outlined in ILO's Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work. Finally, participants raised some important points on the need to go beyond measuring volunteering numbers to measuring the social and economic value of volunteering at the individual, societal, national and global levels.  

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