India is one of the youngest and most rapidly growing economies in the world. With an estimated workforce of 250 million by 2030, its’ growth objectives can be realized by harnessing the immense potential of its youth. While the Government of India has introduced multiple programs to boost socio-economic development, the inequality amongst communities, between the rich and poor still prevails with increasing poverty and climate change.
According to the ‘2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report’ by the United Nations, 109 million full-time workers add to the worldwide volunteer workforce. Only 30% of the volunteering happens officially through organizations, groups, associations, affiliations, and gatherings; the rest 70% is attributed to informal engagements between people.
The Government of India, since 2016, has identified and empowered its entities that would help in achieving these goals. Engaging youth to meet India’s developmental challenges through volunteerism is an achievable goal, considering the concept has been part of the culture and value system.
However, the lack of clarity and knowledge about what constitutes community management acts as a barrier to attracting new young talent to the field. These challenges create a mismatch of expectations between the community managers and the organization they are affiliated with. As a result, it is imperative to increase the acknowledgment of volunteerism and support individuals and communities.
Dalai Lama once said, “It is not enough to be compassionate – we must act”. Volunteerism is one way in which India can foster as a universal social behavior for community resilience. It guides the youth to overcome developmental challenges, while enhancing individual skills, social participation and inclusion. Volunteering is an integral part of humanity that enables the transformation from the grassroots level. Additionally, it will aid to work together, shaping collective opportunities for dealing with risk and connecting individuals and communities with wider systems of support.
The launch of India’s Youth Policy 2014 is a testament to the government’s efforts to put in place a framework and create an ecosystem that will empower volunteers while laying down guidelines for their benefits. The volunteers must be seen as drivers of change rather than deliverers of services. Processes need to be set in place to set expectations, match priorities and highlight the role of volunteers in building the community and enabling India’s social and economic transformation.
For instance, NITI Aayog in collaboration with State governments are taking measures to municipalize the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Through such elaborate mechanisms, the government is able to identify challenges and work with corporates and NGOs to create communities, that has become agents of change themselves; learn to be self-reliant, empower communities to take ownership and become active partners in the effort.
There are many corporates that have been relentlessly working towards setting up Self Help Groups (SHGs) within communities and handholding them to enable individuals, especially women to work together towards economic wellbeing. Community managers are assigned by corporates directly, who work at the grass-root level with the communities in rural areas to provide assistance to ensure that individuals are empowered and independent through the SHGs and avail their entitlements from the government.
In addition, there is multiple awareness programs conducted to benefit the communities including vocational training, skill development training as well as ensure job opportunities. They also provide support to government departments and financial institutions to enable them to connect to the SHGs and monitor the progress made by the beneficiaries from the communities.
The support from the corporates also helps to nurture the confidence to carry forward development work on their own and making decision for their family’s health and wellbeing, children’s education etc.
One such success story through corporate intervention is that of the community members from Madathukuppam village of Sirgali block, Nagapattinam district, which helped to empower the community.
As a result, the private Anganwadi at Madathukuppam, which was run in a dilapidated building, was bereaved with better infrastructure and suitable facilities to keep away children from floods during monsoons. With the guidance of the corporate, the community could avail the government scheme and contribution from the corporate, which they were entitled to rebuild the facility and also a new Anganwadi, was co-constructed for children.
The efforts of the corporate has enabled to increase more effective teaching programs as well as it has led to the villagers and SHG members taking a more active part in restoring the community.
As one of the largest and fastest-growing economies in the world, India needs to take up the challenges of inequality and uneven human development, with volunteers playing a critical role in ensuring that neighborhoods, villages, and communities become a little better every day.