Volunteering is not a new phenomenon, but has deep historical roots and this is proved by the continuity in voluntary work carried out across Europe since the last century and up to the present day. Naturally, the different historical, cultural and political backgrounds of each European State have meant that voluntary action has responded to problems in different ways.
It was this fragmented scenario in Europe that led an initial group of 14 people to form a European network of agencies in voluntary action. In 1981 Liebje Hoekendijk brought together representatives of Europe's major volunteering agencies.
They shared the same goals: encouraging co-operation between volunteering agencies, facilitating the flow of information between agencies and promoting volunteer work of quality in what was then known as the European Community. Their determination, energy and skills resulted in the foundation of Volonteurope.
It was decided that information about volunteering in different countries should be gathered, key people identified and organisations in Europe mapped. The newly formed network supported the launch of platforms and other networks, within each member country with the aim of promoting voluntary action.
In an attempt to tackle particular challenges faced by the individual members, conferences on specific themes are organised in each member state. The need to know more about successful projects, experiences and practices in Europe is the primary force behind the European Workshops which have become recognised as valuable training and development opportunities for those working in this important sector. In 1991, Volonteurope was recognised by the Council of Europe and given Consultative status.
Since its conception, eight conferences and workshops have been organised and a variety of themes discussed throughout Europe (Portugal, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium). The topics have included:The role of volunteering in the pathway to employment
Our seminars have become known as European Workshops on Volunteer Action (the 10th of which will be in October 2001) and they have increased considerably the international interest outside of Europe in the activities of the network. With an open membership of over 1,700 organisations and individuals in more than 30 countries worldwide, the breadth of Volonteurope is unparalleled.
The European Workshops are the only pan-European voluntary sector training opportunity and as such are unique. The number of themes discussed every year is on the increase; with an average of 120 participants per year attending since the first workshop in 1992. The organisation of the workshop itself, carried out from London with the collaboration of agencies in the country in which the workshop is celebrated, is an opportunity to promote cooperation.