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A learning community can be driven by a strong focus on exploiting and valorizing community resources for volunteering, such as young people, unemployed and elderly – governed by suitable ethical and social principles.

Many emerging learning communities use volunteering as a driver of change. Such initiatives are often taken by groups of active citizens, such as retired persons, unemployed, migrants or citizens with strong social values.
As a genuine bottom-up strategy the volunteering approach can be very strong and include more and more citizens, even reaching out to so-called hard-to-reach citizens.
All involved persons and organisations feel that the activities and ideas are based on their needs and interests.
Such volunteering, especially when joined by many different groups if citizens can be one of the most solid and sustainable ways to a learning community; and often it is possible to establish the needed funding from public or private organisation, as volunteering is likely to be regarded very sympathetically.
The challenge for such volunteering drivers is to take the next steps, to approach professional organisations and to include public authorities and private stakeholders in the partnering.

Though offering solid learning community perspectives, serious threats might occur:

  • If isolated from professional organisations, such volunteering initiatives might not be able to take further steps towards the learning community
  • Volunteering can develop into a “Call” and a “Cause” and some volunteers so not wish to link this kind of work to professional organisations, especially not private ones
  • The outlook from small volunteer initiatives can be very limited

 Simple actions can help overcome these threats:

  • It is wise to link volunteer initiatives in the community to interested and reliable professional organisations (an education, a cultural institution, an NGO) from the early stages - for future communication, collaboration and outlook
  • Key volunteers should participate in community activities to open the doors to further steps
  • Along the way, it is possible to balance volunteering against professionalism and thus benefitting both the volunteers and the progression of the initiatives
  • Teams of volunteers should integrate training and inspiration in their activities

As a community driver, volunteering should not be isolated from professionalism.
Balancers between sustained volunteering and professionalism should be created all along the development process, and volunteering should be promoted as highly valuable in the learning community.
Volunteering should never replace professionalism, but add to the social capital.

  Supporting materials

Significantly, the Community Learning Champions initiative reflects the understanding that real change happens when the people themselves are in the driving seat; not the professionals, not the service managers, not the policy-makers, not the politicians.

Community Learning Champions Report 2011

CLC Report 2011

CLC Community Learning Champions

CLC Leaflet

  Xploit- Study visit Catania



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