Written by Oonagh Aitken, president of Volonteurope

Volunteering Matters and Volonteurope have not been represented at the IAVE bi-annual conference for many years. When we saw the call for presentations this year, we thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase the work of our charity and our European network.

I was privileged enough to go to Augsburg from 17 to 19 October to take part. It is an enormous conference with 95 countries represented. Some of our Volonteurope members were present – Perdita from Gemeinsam Leben und Lernen and Maria from the Tulip Foundation – to name just two. Our colleagues from the European Volunteer Centre were also well represented and some other UK organisations were there – VSO for example.

I met some very interesting people and made some great contacts over the few days.

Volunteering Matters was invited to make a presentation about our Full-Time Volunteering programme – thanks to Gethyn who supplied me with great slides. I also showed our Revolution You video and our film of full time volunteers talking about why it is important to them to volunteer. I was presenting with a number of other organisations who do similar work to us from the Philippines, Hong Kong, Ecuador and Germany.

On the second day of the conference, I should have been moderating a session on voluntary sector leadership but late on the first night, I had an email asking if, at short notice, I could speak on a panel about impact evaluation and measurement. Christina came up trumps as usual and sent me a pile of material from which I quickly pulled out the key aspects both of our own framework and from the report that Laura and Louise co-authored on work around the Volonteurope network. It went down really well with the audience; especially the Volonteurope report which contains all sorts of downloadable tools. I was on a panel with VSO, an academic from Syria and a representative of a corporate from Germany.

I only managed to attend one of the break out sessions and I chose well. I was thinking about the work we are hoping to do with Vinspired around promoting volunteering in health settings with young people so I chose to go to a session on ‘Leadership for volunteering in delivering effective health and social care’. The speakers were from Canada, Peru, Finland and the US. The Canadian experience was particularly interesting and I’ve already been in email contact with the two speakers to organise a zoom call when they are back in BC. I think we can learn lots from their structures and experience.

Of course, there was a social side to the conference and lots of traditional Bavarian music and dancing and for those who like it, lots of typical Bavarian food and beer!

I certainly think we should keep in close contact with IAVE and their activities – it seems to me a great meeting point both virtually and at conferences to exchange good practice and ideas about volunteering and its crucial role in promoting solidarity, active citizenship and social justice.

The next host city of the IAVE Global Conference is Abu Dhabi in 2020.