Utilizing email, websites, blogs, and discussion forums. Electronic media can be an excellent tool for determining the needs and desires of the volunteer sector as part of a participatory law or policy drafting initiative. Continued use of these tools after a law or policy is passed allows for knowledge-sharing and improvements in implementation based on experiences in the field.
Use of the print and broadcast media. Strategic use of the media can lead to enhanced public awareness of volunteerism laws and policies and their goals.
A participatory process adopted at the outset of a volunteerism initiative can help to ensure its success because stakeholders will feel ownership over the laws and policies that result. The continuing use of participatory processes after laws or policies are passed will have a similar effect, helping to ensure successful implementation in the years to come.
Participatory processes that engage all stakeholders – including civil society, individual volunteers, academics, and government officials – promote a sense of ownership and a commitment to the success of volunteerism initiatives by those most likely to be affected by new laws or policies. Government officials should embrace and encourage participation by stakeholders at all stages of a reform initiative – in the design, drafting, and implementation of a law or policy. Promoting public participation increases the likelihood of successful volunteerism initiatives.
III. DRAFTING AND ADVOCACY
Once the goals of a volunteerism law or policy have been articulated and the potential obstacles to achieving those goals have been considered, policymakers, civil society representatives, and other stakeholders are ready to take the next step and begin drafting a new law or policy.
LAW, REGULATION, OR POLICY?
A preliminary question concerns whether volunteerism initiatives should be made through a law, a regulation, or a policy. Laws, which are enacted by the legislative branch, and regulations, which are adopted by the executive branch, are rules which can be enforced by the government. Thus, laws and regulations are normally needed to address the legal issues that affect volunteerism – for example, by removing obstacles that might be present in existing legislation or by clarifying the legal definition of volunteers and their rights and responsibilities.
Policies, on the other hand, explain the government’s preferences or attitudes toward a specific topic. So, for example, policies may be used to inform the government bureaucracy and the public of a commitment made by the executive branch to support volunteerism in the country. Because they can be adopted relatively quickly and easily through executive branch action, volunteerism policies may precede and lay the groundwork for laws. Policies can also be used to educate the public about volunteerism and generate support and political will for more far-reaching reforms. However, policies can also be implemented after volunteerism laws, for example, to instruct the government bureaucracy how volunteerism laws should be implemented.