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Universal Basic Income: Universal Access to Volunteering?

Universal Basic Income: Universal Access to Volunteering?

Words 'basic income' being underlined in red

The proposal of a universal basic income (UBI) – the provision of unconditional cash payments to all citizens of a given society – is neither new nor unproblematic. The idea has, however, enjoyed a wave of renewed interest in the wake of the pandemic and its social and economic disruption. 

This Engage feature article by Nicky Forster is not an advocacy piece for UBI. Instead, Forster asks how UBI and similar policies might relate to volunteerism. She reviews what the potential impacts of UBI look and feel like at a program level – in both positive and negative ways. And finally, she contemplates how volunteer leaders could look to respond to the idea in terms of socio-economic inclusion. 

As Forster points out, this article picks up the thread from an Engage feature article from April 2020 about volunteer financial disbursements, which closes with this quote: “Volunteerism should be an option for everyone.”

To read the full article

Fri, 05/14/2021

Great article Nicky! I've just read it now but it's one of those articles that I need to come back to and digest in pieces again. I am a Noam Chomsky fan myself! This is great food for thought and I hope we hear more from you on this topic. Thank you! 

Sun, 05/16/2021

Agreed DJ.  This article has broaden my knowledge and really made me consider some questions I had never considered before.  I particularly love the further emphasis on how we can make volunteering truly inclusive... we shouldn't really be waiting for a UBI to implement some of these things!  I need to go back and read it again... and probably a few more times after this.  Thanks Nicky.  What an amazing contribution to the knowledge and practice of our profession.

Mon, 05/17/2021

Thanks so much, DJ and Tracey, glad to hear you both enjoyed it.
I learned a lot in the writing as well - if you get the chance to read back over it, there are some great links to explore throughout the text for further reading. Plenty more food for thought to enjoy! 


Thu, 06/10/2021

Very interesting article, thank you. Some level of payment for volunteers may be possible for those organisations who are well-endowed, have a high profile and therefore strong public support, or who enjoy a good level of government funding. I volunteer for a low-key mental health charity which has no government funding and struggles for every bit of money needed for basic operational costs. And ours is not the only charity in this precarious position. It seems to me that unless and until governments recognise the true value to the economy of volunteers, there won't be even the beginnings of a conversation on UBI for volunteers. How do we get that conversation started?

Fri, 08/13/2021

Thanks so much for this comment, and apologies for my very belated reply!

I think you’ve got to the heart of the issue in some ways, that socioeconomic policy makers do not recognise the value of volunteering and the informal economy to any meaningful extent.

How do we raise this conversation? Pursuing research partnerships to develop evidence basis is a good start. What we mightn’t have is funding, but we can offer is coalface access to fantastic research settings. 

A recent example of research conducted by Anglicare here in Australia provided a great opportunity to raise the public conversation. Their survey found that a surprising 77% of Australians support the idea of basic income, and that when asked what they would do with this support, “aside from paying down debts and saving (38 per cent), the most common behavioural changes in response to a UBI would be volunteering more, spending more time caring for others, spending more time on sports or hobbies, and doing further education.” 

We should be putting our programs in front of researchers, reaching out to academics in social impact and economics, and building the data, then finding the storytellers in the media, and of course our Volunteering peak bodies.

What other ideas do you have?


 Link to that research story here: