organizations actually benefit from written laws and policies, as well as make corrections to initiatives that may not be working in the way they are intended, thereby ensuring the continued success of their initiatives for years to come.
Two recent examples demonstrate the importance of a well-constructed process for developing a volunteerism law or policy. In response to the UN General Assembly’s designation of IYV 2001, the government of New Zealand convened a “Ministerial Reference Group” to develop and implement an “action plan… advocating and delivering a range of activities to highlight and promote the work of volunteers and encourage more people to volunteer.”iv As part of the action plan, the government of New Zealand consulted with NGOs, indigenous groups, academics, and government officials, and these consultations informed a Government Policy on Volunteering published in December 2002. In the wake of publication of the Policy on Volunteering, the government again consulted with a wide array of stakeholders to identify barriers to increased volunteerism, and then implemented new policies and amended several existing laws in response to the identified needs and requirements. In 2009, the government published a retrospective report, Government Support for Volunteering 2002-2008, that evaluated the effectiveness of its volunteerism initiatives over the six years and made several new recommendations for additional changes to further support volunteerism. This approach to volunteerism appears to have paid off, as a recent comparative analysis of 41 countries showed that “the volunteer share of the non-profit workforce in New Zealand,” at 67 percent of the population, is “unusually high *and+... easily outdistances the 48 percent average for the Anglo-Saxon country cluster, not to mention the 41-country average of 42 percent… In fact, 90 percent of New Zealand non-profit organizations employ no paid staff, and so rely on volunteers to function.”v
In Macedonia, beginning around 2003, CSOs began advocating for a more enabling legal framework for volunteerism. By 2005, a group of CSOs presented a Plan for Development of Volunteering in Macedonia to the government that analyzed domestic legal obstacles and challenges and outlined a specific plan of action.vi The Macedonian government incorporated the CSO plan into documents related to Macedonia’s candidacy for EU membership, thus generating substantial momentum and support for the proposals outlined by the CSOs. Several CSO/government roundtable discussions were held to identify needs and recommendations from the sector, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs convened a cross-sector drafting group of multiple ministry representatives, CSOs, and international experts to begin drafting a Macedonian Law on Volunteering. Roundtable discussions were further augmented by email and newsletter campaigns as well as meetings with members of parliament and journalists. With government and civil society working together to identify needs and obstacles before drafting the new law, the Macedonian Law on Volunteerism, passed in July 2007, became a symbol of cooperation that received substantial support across sectors.
Although the New Zealand process was initiated by government and the Macedonian process was initiated by civil society, both adopted a best practices approach that (1) carefully considered both the objectives and potential challenges of a volunteerism law or policy through a well-constructed needs assessment; (2) embraced a participatory and open process; (3) featured a thoughtful and considered drafting process; and (4) effectively implemented new laws and / or policies. In the sections that follow, we expand upon each of these four steps.