Measuring the SDG contributions of school-age volunteers

Practices & Experiences

Measuring the SDG contributions of school-age volunteers

Lead organization
Student Volunteer Army
Civil society organization
New Zealand
The Student Service Award was launched in New Zealand in March 2019 by the volunteer movement, the Student Volunteer Army, to create a tool to measure the national contributions of 12-18 year old’s volunteering against the SDGs. Over half of New Zealand secondary schools have signed up to the Award (200 schools) and to date, 45,000 students have received member badges and over 9,200 students have created profiles to collectively log over 500,000 hours of volunteer work towards advancing the SDGs in their community. The tool is designed to recognize all forms of volunteering done by all young people, with a particular emphasis on those living with disabilities, teenage parents, young people with behavioral issues and others most likely to fall out of education. The Award’s five-level badge system and CV builder helps students reflect on what they have learned from their volunteering and link it to a Sustainable Development Goal. Through using the platform, students are also able certify the experiences and skills gained through volunteering, downloading a pre-formatted report to use in job applications. Ongoing evaluations of the Award shows that awareness of the SDGs has increased through the use of the platform, often coming from a very low level of awareness.
SDG contribution highlights

Measurement is important to demonstrate the impact and added value that volunteering bring to the SDGs. However, certain groups of volunteers and types of volunteering are often not captured by traditional measurement tools. The Student Service Award tool helps to raise awareness and recognition of the efforts of school-age volunteers, particularly those whose efforts are frequently undervalued. One example of this is the Award’s recognition of traditional Maori forms of informal and community youth volunteering, including mahi aroha and ‘service of the heart’. To reach Maori young volunteers, the Award established a partnership with Carers New Zealand, an alliance of non-profits supporting home carers. Through including this group of volunteers in the scope of the initiative, the Award was able to increase recognition of the everyday efforts of volunteers who play an important role in their communities, while also helping Maori youth link their volunteering to the SDGs and enhance their employability.

Lessons learned and success factors

The Service Award deliberately recognizes all kinds of volunteer work, including in-school volunteering, organizational volunteering, micro-volunteering, online volunteering, and different forms of informal volunteering including care-giving, mutual assistance and ‘neighborliness’. This broad scope has helped to provide a fuller picture of the volunteering efforts of young people and provided new insights into youth volunteering in New Zealand. For example, it shows a progression from volunteering in a school setting, to volunteering on an individual basis in the community.