This year’s Annual Conference saw the first of our new ‘Innovation in Volunteering Awards’ recognising projects that promote solidarity, democracy and social justice.

Above all the projects needed to demonstrate innovation and inclusivity and show a clear impact in citizen participation.

Of the many entries, three were shortlisted and each presented a short video and explanation of their work; SAFE Project (Sexual Awareness For Everyone), RUTIS the Portuguese Network of Senior Universities and Solidarity Bread by Sofia Bread House, Bulgaria.

As the award judge, Gabriella Civico, Director of CEV European Volunteer Centre, chaired the evening with Volonteurope President Oonagh Aitken.

Gabriella praised each project for its remarkable innovation saying:

“We often wonder what innovation means and it’s very subjective, but when looking at these projects I thought about what we can learn from each entry and what could be replicated in Europe or indeed around the world.

“With RUTIS I was impressed by the use of existing resources so the knowledge of people, the professors, the teachers in the universities, that fantastic resource is being used and along with the educational establishments is adding real value.

“It has a big impact on older people who are often neglected in public policy and especially European policy, despite this group of people becoming an increasingly large percentage of our populations. It’s really important that we don’t forget about those people and what they can contribute and give and share across Europe.”

Talking about the SAFE project, she said:

“It was so nice to see a project where it’s difficult to tell who is the volunteer and who is the beneficiary and vice versa as this is not usually the case. Typically, there is a very stereotypical and pigeon-holed belief of who is what and how roles are divided so this was an excellent example of a project with no preconceived, stereotypical divisions about who is what. Hence there is a real sense of ownership across the project.”

Gabriella then went on to talk about Solidarity Bread, she said:

“I saw with this project how interwoven the different aspects of the project are, coming together as volunteers to bake bread together, to talk, to listen, to exchange, but always that that goes forward onwards into meals together and all the other activities that are done together in the community.

“The project also involves people from all different backgrounds and different realities. And flour is not so expensive so it is an easily replicable project across the world and is innovative in its simplicity in a way.”

In front of a large crowd at Solidar’s offices in Brussels, Gabriella then announced the winner as Solidarity Bread and presented the awards to each project.

 

Collecting the award Atanaska Terziyska, said:

“I’d like to thank the other projects who presented themselves as I actually feel that we share the same values and I actually think that’s the whole thing about it. And I guess everybody in the room shares these values and that’s the beautiful thing about it. We see that doing simple things and doing what we are good at is actually what we need to proceed with in order to have social change and continue to make society better.”