Volunteerism & well-being

People engage in volunteerism for a great variety of reasons: to help to eliminate poverty and to improve basic health and education, to provide safe water supply and adequate sanitation, to tackle environmental issues and climate change, to reduce the risk of disasters or to combat social exclusion and violent conflict. In all of these fields, volunteerism makes a specific contribution by generating well-being for people and their communities. There is a widespread view today that gross domestic product does not provide an adequate picture of a society because it does not account for the well-being of individuals and their communities. Nor does it include activities that have an economic value but that fall outside the market and therefore have not, traditionally, been reflected in national accounts.

Where mainstream economics fosters values of self-interest and competition to achieve maximum satisfaction, a focus on well-being finds greater reason to value compassion and cooperation, both core values of volunteerism. The discourse on quality of life and well-being, and its place in the evolving development paradigm, must recognize the solidarity and reciprocal values of volunteerism as part of the dynamics that enhance human wellbeing.

A healthy society is one in which importance is given to formal and informal relationships that facilitate interaction and engagement and thus engender a sense of belonging. It is also one in which there is broad participation by all sections of the population. Communities with these characteristics do better in moving forward to meet common aspirations.

Volunteers must develop civic skills, to attach more importance to serving the public interest as a personal life goal and to be more politically active. Thus, in going about their voluntary activities, individuals should  also cultivate an outlook that contributes to a social environment that nurtures the the well-being of all.