This article is brought to you thanks to The European Sting’s collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
Author: Malak Yacout, Curator, Beirut Hub, Global Shapers
- Volunteering is a powerful tool in times of technological change because it can help address skills gaps and support workforces in adaptation.
- Volunteering presents a unique opportunity for people to leverage their experience to diversify their workplace skills for the future.
- Such attributes of design thinking and soft skills are also invaluable for entrepreneurship, which is an important driver of economic growth.
Entrepreneurship has long been recognized as an important driver of economic growth, job creation and innovation. In today’s rapidly changing world, the importance of entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly evident.
With the increasing pace of technological change, there is growing concern about skills gaps and the ability of the workforce to adapt to new realities. Volunteering has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing these challenges, particularly in terms of employability and entrepreneurship.
Nearly six in 10 (58%) the global working-age population volunteer, according to the UN Volunteers’ World Volunteers Report 2022. Volunteering is not driven by hidden agendas, and is thus one of the most prominent sources of universal free will.
Volunteering also presents a unique opportunity for individuals to leverage their volunteer experience to diversify their skillset for the future, innovate and shape a renewable resource for job creation.
Volunteers play an important role in the global economy
Volunteers keep our economy running, improve our lives and accelerate the development of our nation. Their output contributes more than $11 trillion worth of services to the global economy. Volunteering also saves local authorities millions, making volunteers a productive workforce that should not be overlooked.
The traditional way of opening organizational doors to find a suitable volunteer environment is out of date and is not coming back.
Today’s young population is taking a voluntary form, with new businesses and techniques being learned online. With the digitization of the process, a volunteer market has emerged, allowing more people to join, especially those who find volunteer work inaccessible.
Skilled volunteerism presents an opportunity to address universal challenges of sustainability and innovation. It also serves as the initial foundation for a successful social enterprise that addresses real problems.
Based on a survey of 7,000+ existing volunteers between the ages of 15 and 35, for every volunteer who preferred to offer their time to do a variety of volunteer activities, another seven preferred to use their real skills, according to The Volunteer Circle’s Impact Report 2019-21 .
As part of the #GiveLoveWinACareer campaign by The Volunteer Circle, we found examples of volunteers turned entrepreneurs such as Samer Sfeir and Maryam Shaar in the Arab World, TOMS Shoes Founder Blake Mycoskie in the US, and many other entrepreneurs who turned from service to a career.
“Volunteering is what made me choose a career with social impact. It brings growth to my social enterprise. My volunteering experience led me to create a social enterprise that empowers thousands of people with disabilities to find jobs as part of our mission.””— Samer Sfeir, Founder of Shareq and M Social Catering
Today, volunteering is a means to learn real-world knowledge needed for career advancement, whether this means creating new impactful businesses or enhancing existing ones, while meeting the needs of local and global communities.
While becoming a skilled volunteer doesn’t contribute to making you a better entrepreneur, it does make you a talent that is more relevant in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
If you want to build your next big innovation, start by volunteering in a new place. Here are six reasons why:
1) Volunteering puts you at the forefront of issues, with key design thinking principles to launch any start-up. While some may see a problem from the outside, as part of their mandate, volunteers must understand the problem in depth, usually from within and, through personal experience, direct observation or field research.
With persistence, they spot faulty assumptions and can develop an entrepreneurial spirit to correct them. For example, a volunteer for a food security project is likely to have amassed insightful data evidence that allows them to develop sustainable solutions to end hunger.
Because of the relevance of their volunteer experience to a particular solution, volunteers can identify new contributions that can turn into effective impactful company founders with a deep understanding of their target audience and mission.
2) If you have an existing project or company, volunteering at the frontline can help you identify communities to enhance your business, diversify your audience, or grow your community base.
3) Volunteers have greater access to social capital for entrepreneurship. According to World Bank research (2018), young citizens in the Middle East and North Africa region who volunteer are more likely to plan to start a business, find someone to partner with for their next impact venture, or meet someone who can mentor or invest in a company that they just built.
Thus, the social capital generated from volunteerism becomes a driver of entrepreneurial activity, especially in developing countries. Volunteering also provides a risk-free environment for individuals to explore new fields and develop skills that the job market requires.
4) At the employment level, volunteering provides a risk-free environment for individuals to explore new fields and develop new skills that the job market requires.
In 2019, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Report highlighted that 41% of hiring managers found volunteer experience as valuable as professional experience. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of candidates who demonstrate a commitment to social impact.
5) Volunteering brings you together with people who share your interests in the areas you volunteer for.
Meanwhile, sharing and exchanging skills gives you access to people who are already successful in your area of interest, providing experience, networking and credibility for your talent.
These people prove to be important connections for future job opportunities, partnerships, mentorship, or investment.
6) Soft skills are becoming increasingly important in the job market, with 93% of global hiring managers saying they are looking for them in hiring. Volunteering is a great way to acquire the timeless soft skills that employers are looking for, making it an asset for future hiring.
When volunteering for missions where lives, animals, plans or policies are at stake, the soft skills you develop are self-discipline, empathy, effective communication, proactive to solve complex problems, inspiring leadership, networking and pitching, teamwork , and emotional intelligence.
Volunteering can promote economic growth
Intrinsic growth is highly dependent on a country’s potential for local entrepreneurship and job creation. Volunteering may be particularly important for countries wishing to boost their economic growth without benefiting from large oil revenues or relying too heavily on large international aid flows, by supporting entrepreneurship and job creation.
Measuring the impact of volunteerism on well-being, employability, innovation, entrepreneurship and gross domestic product is critical to maximizing its benefits.
However, the economic and social value of volunteering goes beyond the labor provided and the services provided. Volunteering is an important channel for people to shape the country’s path out of pandemics, wars and other crises.