European University for Voluntary Service

Project at a glance

Dates and Place

31 August - 03 September 2011, Switzerland
University of Basel


Centre for Philanthropy Studies der Universität Basel (CEPS), Christoph Merian Stiftung Basel, Röm.-kath. Kirche Basel-Stadt (Roman Catholic Church Basel-Stadt), Evang--ref. Kirche Basel-Stadt (Protestant Church Basel-Stadt), Gesellschaft für das Gute und Gemeinnützige (GGG) Basel, Präsidialdepartement des Kantons Basel-Stadt, ICVolunteers

Project details

"Volunteer work between freedom and professionalism"

The International Year of Volunteers 2011 marks the end of a decade during which a lot of progress has been made in the field of research related to volunteerism. Particular progress is related to the variety of research disciplines looking into issues connected to volunteering. In particular, the statistical assessment of volunteer work has been significantly improved and thus a basis for further research has been created. In addition, both state and private initiatives have contributed to the promotion of volunteerism and sharing conferences have led to an increased exchange between research and practice.

Likewise, the perception of volunteers and their management has changed within non-profit organizations. Frequently expressed reasons for this are professional trends, recruitment difficulties, increased expectations of volunteers and changed service offerings. While many places complain about a decline of volunteers, there is an increase in commitment elsewhere. Tensions arising between paid staff and volunteers, especially in the social care sector (and elsewhere) were studied, looking at fears of employees with regards to the reduction of jobs, on one hand, and overload of volunteers, on the other hand. These have both been identified as challenges for the successful design of volunteer programs. There are fears among employees to be replaced by "cheap" volunteers. These were in the past encouraged by government initiatives, in order to stimulate the labor market through volunteer work or even mandatory volunteering. Volunteering is identity-fostering in society and is seen as a way to promote cohesion and exchange in a multicultural society. In the last ten years, the economy has appreciated volunteer work as a valuable means in various business areas, such as personnel management, corporate communications or corporate social responsibly. What used to primarily be the responsibility of individual employees and their free will, is today – at least in big companies – used as a strategic means for staff retention and values or the local community. Corporate volunteering therefore appears at first glance to be a win-win situation for companies and NPOs. However, this affirmation still largely lacks scientific evidence.

These developments make it clear that volunteering is today in a tension field between professionalization, on the one hand, and freedom, on the other hand. The European University of Voluntary Service (EFU) in Basel continues the tradition of previous Voluntary Service Universities in Barcelona (1995), Lyon (1997), Santiago de Compostela (1999), Freiburg (2001) and Lucerne (2005). The aim of this conference is, on one hand, to map the current state of research on voluntary work, especially but not only in Europe and also to contribute to knowledge transfer and exchange between theory and practice.

Volunteer opportunities:

ICVolunteers is looking for volunteers to assist with the following responsibilities:

  • Welcoming services & registration; setup up and clean up of meeting/session rooms; room supervision.
  • Simultaneous interpretation from German into English, English into German, German into French, and French into German: Experienced interpreters needed.
  • Photographic documentation of the conference: Amateur and experienced photographers needed. Please submit samples to volunteer [at]

External links

Short Term Projects

ICVolunteers promotes volunteerism and its recognition, by enhancing civic commitment and involvement, and by providing leadership and links between organizations, individuals and communities. With this perspective, ICVolunteers develops projects and leads initiatives.

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