Volunteering: what are the latest trends in China?

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To record the development of volunteer work in China and promote policy advocacy and voluntary work though research, Beijing Huizeren Public Welfare Development Center started collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2013 to publish the annual China Volunteer Service Development Index (CVDI).

The CVDI measurement is a research project exploring the development of volunteering in China as part of the “Blue Book Report of China’s Charity Development”. The project uses the International Labor Organization’s “Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work” and related documents from the United Nations for reference.

Used to measure the development of services provided by volunteers every year, the CVDI Report is published as a section of the Blue Book, providing basic data for research on voluntary services and the development of urban voluntary services in China.

In order to truly reflect the level of volunteering in China, the researchers conduct quantitative and qualitative research on the four dimensions of volunteering: input, output, outcome and social influence.

A review of volunteering in 2021

Two major characteristics of volunteering in 2021 are the growth of volunteers directly from local communities and the rise of organizations combining to take action together.

Local residents across the country voluntarily participated in their communities’ pandemic prevention and control work. Meanwhile, the internet has facilitated more cross-regional, cross-field, cross-departmental and cross-professional volunteering, where volunteers collectively participate in social innovation and practice to form a resilient community.

In addition, the number of volunteers continues to increase especially in areas such as pandemic prevention and control, healthcare, disaster relief, emergency rescue, rural revitalization and community-level governance.

The institutionalization and regionalization of volunteer services has also been accelerated, along with the establishment of technical standards for the sector. China released a set of national standards titled the “Basic Specifications for Volunteer Service Organizations” in 2021, and eight provinces or municipalities including Beijing and Jiangsu Province have issued local regulations on the provision of volunteer services.

Restricted by various outbreaks of Covid-19, millions of volunteers participated in voluntary services online in 2021. The online actions of volunteers have become the new norm.

Five volunteering trends for 2022:

  • Serving the collective interest: Volunteers at the Beijing Winter Olympics and the Winter Paralympics have triggered a national upsurge in volunteering, with specially themed volunteer service campaigns involved with major events (such as the Winter Olympics), rural revitalization, the Belt and Road Initiative, and other international development projects. This is likely to be the main theme of volunteering in 2022.
  • Service donation: Voluntary services have become one of the main forms of “The Third Distribution”. Commercial profit-making departments and social institutions pay more attention to fulfilling social responsibilities and participating in public welfare undertakings, and they are investing more human resources and technological expertise in professional voluntary services.
  • Community-based voluntary service organizations: Over 80 percent of voluntary service organizations continue to exist as community groups without any corporate bodies, and they mainly carry out relevant public welfare services under the guidance of the Party and government agencies, companies and institutions, or urban and village neighbourhood committees. A combination of online and offline cooperation is becoming a more common way for these NGOs to carry out their work.
  • Urban and rural volunteering is becoming more and more popular. After the government strengthened the development of urban and rural grassroots governance and the normalization of pandemic prevention and control at the community level, tens of millions of volunteers participated in pandemic prevention, rescue work, and other social activities at their places of residence.
  • Insufficient investment: Volunteers still often lack basic training and require more funding from NGOs and foundations. The number of people formally volunteering for organizations is expected to remain at around 7 percent.