Volunteers and their contribution to lifelong learning
Lifelong learning can have various forms.
Learning in both formal and informal settings will contribute to the creation of the life stories of individuals in an ever rapidly changing society.
In this, the learning guidance and support will sometimes be carried out by people who have been trained and are paid to do it, sometimes by volunteers (who may or may not have been trained), or else it may more under the control of the individual. The role volunteers take on here is an important one.
In this context we consider someone as a volunteer if he or she is not paid as “a professional” for their
contribution. According to the situation and local context, volunteers sometimes receive expenses or benefit
from a few little extras from the organisation that they work for. Their “work” is not seen as a job with all the legal aspects of social contributions and the building up of pension rights.
You can come across volunteers in formal learning activities in educational and training institutions, but certainly also in informal learning situations that are taking place outside the classical educational and training institutions. These may be courses given in the workplace or in civil society organisations and groups. They may also be provided by organisations or services which ave been established to supplement the classical systems (such as art, music or sports courses or private lessons to prepare for examinations).
In addition many volunteers are to be found in informal learning activities in daily life which are frequently not even recognised as contributing to lifelong learning.
The learning guidance given by volunteers can take on different forms.
- Some volunteers teach “real lessons” or guide activities for a whole group of participants. By creating a powerful learning environment with a range of working methods they try to guide and increase the participants’ learning.
- Other volunteers will rather support learning by personal contact and coaching. By giving someone individual guidance they stimulate that person in their learning and personal growth.
- Yet other volunteers support learning (for themselves and) for others by setting up or taking part in a learning network.
Sometimes they will take on or support the role of process coach.
Some volunteers have, as a result of their own professional experience(s) a range of competences which give them a firm basis in order to carry out their tasks as a volunteer. Others are naturally talented and find their way on their own. Yet another group will need some support in their task in order to optimise the learning of the participants. If a volunteer is to support the lifelong learning and development of others he or she is inevitably in need of lifelong in-service training and development of their competences. Organisations want to give their volunteers the tools to achieve the tasks they have taken on.
Through MAVEP we aim to offer opportunities to grow the competences volunteers need by supporting the development of improved learning processes; we offer a scheme for developing a powerful learning environment, a model for coaching others, opportunities for taking part in a learning network. In this context
we attach great importance to being open for a range of vulnerable target audiences. Clearly we have no wish to ignore the talents which volunteers already have. It is for this reason that we pay a lot of attention to the evaluation and appreciation of the personal qualities of volunteers.