AmeriCorps; (2) create new national volunteer programs; and (3) provide funding to help expand existing volunteer initiatives.xiv In the same month, the mayor of New York City announced a series of initiatives to “make it easier for tens of thousands of schoolchildren, professionals, and others to volunteer [so] that their efforts can mitigate the impact of the financial crisis on the city.”xv
COMMON CHALLENGES TO ACHIEVING VOLUNTEERISM GOALS
In addition to articulating the goals of a volunteerism law or policy, it is essential that policymakers consider the potential challenges that might stand in the way of achieving the goals of legal and policy reforms. Below we present several common potential challenges and obstacles to volunteerism laws and policies. As with our discussion of the common goals, this list is not definitive, and unique context-specific obstacles may arise in any country. Thus, policymakers should be sure to consider local issues that may not be discussed here.
LACK OF A CULTURE OF VOLUNTEERISM
Where a culture of volunteerism exists and flourishes, volunteerism law and policy initiatives can find rapid success as they are taken up by pre-existing volunteer constituencies. By contrast, where volunteerism is poorly understood or not embraced by the population, volunteerism laws and policies may fail to be implemented properly or may be ignored altogether. For example, in former Soviet states with a history of “mandatory” volunteerism in support of state priorities, volunteerism initiatives, no matter how worthy, have been hampered by negative public attitudes. In other contexts, such as the rural parts of many countries in the Arab world and Pacific Islands, assisting the elderly or disadvantaged may be seen as a religious or social obligation rather than a separate activity known as volunteerism, making it difficult for the government to expand and promote volunteerism outside of the family or village unit without first making efforts to connect to and build upon existing cultural practices. In all of these cases, the lack of a culture of volunteerism or confusion about the interaction between traditional practices and formal, organization-based volunteerism can be an enormous obstacle to the success of any volunteerism law or policy. In Lebanon most volunteerism is done through religious organizations. In an effort to create a culture of national, non-sectarian volunteerism, the Ministry of Social Affairs developed a policy to establish summer camps on volunteerism targeted at men and women ages 18 – 25. These camps promote non-sectarian volunteerism and encourage Lebanese youth to participate in volunteerism through national CSOs in addition to traditional religious or familial obligations. The Ministry of Education is now considering adjusting the national curriculum in order to teach Lebanese schoolchildren about the same topics