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Measuring Volunteering: Why Wrong Conclusions Are Unacceptable

Measuring Volunteering: Why Wrong Conclusions Are Unacceptable

In a Research to Practice article in e-Volunteerism last year, Laurie Mook explored the Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work, a recent publication of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The manual was designed "to guide countries in generating systematic and comparable data on volunteer work via regular supplements to labour force or other household surveys." The European Commission and the European Volunteer Centre soon endorsed its findings.

Volunteer management representatives need to take another careful and critical look at what the ILO is really saying in the manual, which we aruge presents some faulty conclusions. Though most practitioners will not read this sort of academic tome, at least some of us must pay attention and speak out because government officials and funders will no doubt be guided by the Manual and its conclusions. In this Voices article, author Rob Jackson offers his personal opinions and encourages further exchange and perspectives from e-Volunteerism readers.

To read the full article

Mon, 01/23/2012
I am currently reading the UN's State of The World'd Volunteerism reported and noted this text in the first chapter: "Actions undertaken on full pay, such as when the volunteering takes place on company time, are also recognized as volunteerism, provided that the employee receives no additional financial incentive. It is understood that, in such instances, the company is voluntarily forgoing the employee’s work time, an aspect of corporate social responsibility." This would suggest that, in the opinion of the UN, employee volunteering done as time off during the working day is indeed volunteering. This is contrary to the ILO's position, despite them saying they worked with the UN in developing their methodology.

Sat, 01/28/2012
I want to echo your fourth point on the flaws of the wage replacement value (WRV). Supporting the ILO's methodology of measurement (and the wage replacement model in general) is akin to placing a value on a hospital (improved health, saved lives, etc.) by adding up the staff salaries and the WRV of volunteers ... or valuing a school system by the sum of the staff salaries and the volunteer WRV... or a water well by cost of digging it... or ... Sadly, the ILO's publication and subsequent calls for its adoption add to the inertia holding us all back. Thanks for another thought provoking article.

Sat, 12/29/2012
Thank you for providing a critique - it is difficult to engage at this level of discussion during the ordinary working week but none the less important. I am disappointed by the ILO proposed methodology although not surprised. It is absolutely limited by the view of volunteering as work rather than leisure and extremely outdated therefore. Far from embracing the Manual I think it should be challenged and rejected. As to who we should communicate our dissatisfaction to anyone and everyone thinking of using the Manual. Perhaps a discussion at any meetings of Volunteer Managers (e.g. AVM) would be a start? What do NCVO / Volunteering England think of the Manual I wonder? Also who paid for it- are they aware of its flaws?