Depending on the intended goals of a volunteerism initiative and the potential obstacles and challenges that may stand in the way of those goals, government officials may choose to enact volunteerism laws, policies, or both. Laws and policies can be targeted at the national, local, or regional level. The drafting of a law or policy is often best handled through a working group made up of stakeholders from government, civil society, and other community representatives. However, even as new laws or policies are being drafted, working group members should give thought to the decision-making framework and develop an advocacy plan that will enable them to begin lobbying for adoption of new laws or policies in a strategic and targeted manner.
IV. IMPLEMENTING VOLUNTEERISM LAWS AND POLICIES
Implementation of volunteerism laws and policies is equally important to adoption of the documents themselves. Without clear plans for sustainable and effective implementation, laws and policies will remain no more than aspirations. Plans for effective implementation should be part of law or policy drafting initiatives from the very first step.
The most successful laws and policies are those that are accompanied by operational plans which detail specific activities, goals, responsibilities, and deadlines and provide for continuous monitoring. The use of monitoring and evaluation systems as parts of these implementation plans is also advisable as these help to measure progress and challenges in implementation. Well-crafted results indicators will allow implementing bodies to take necessary actions to address the problems that arise. Finally, a clear set of responsibilities and timelines ensure that individuals take responsibility for implementation. Estonia’s National Development Plan for Volunteering proposes several specific implementation and monitoring actions, including the gathering of case studies on the impact of the policy from volunteers, CSOs, and local governments, organizing volunteer management trainings, establishing an internet portal for volunteerism, and organizing a national volunteer forum. A common mechanism to promote sustainable and effective initiatives is the establishment of new national coordination bodies or implementing agencies responsible for carrying out a given volunteerism law or policy. These bodies can help with coordination of activities in the field and provide a permanent line of communication with stakeholders. Such bodies are generally organized by the government, but are sometimes independent or quasi-governmental organizations. Almost all such bodies, regardless of their status vis- à-vis government, include independent representatives of civil society as well as government officials.
Once laws or policies have been enacted, government officials and other stakeholders should work together to develop an operational plan for effective implementation that provides clear and detailed activities, goals, responsibilities, and deadlines. Doing so will ensure that individuals and organizations take responsibility