Should volunteering be part of students’ education
The Forum “Social Responsibility: Challenges of our Time”: Participants discuss the question of whether, for students, volunteering should be closely tied in with the education process itself.
MOSCOW: Within the framework of Moscow State Institute of International Relations’ (MGIMO’s) Fourth International Forum “Social Responsibility: Challenges of our Time”, participants discussed development of the volunteer movement among the student population. Specialists advocated the full integration
of volunteering into the education process itself, while at the same time they considered it a very controversial move to accept the new proposed law on volunteering as being essential.
As recently as 2009, no one in Russia knew what volunteering was or what it was concerned with. This was an observation offered by Anton Lopukhin, Director of the Department of Work with Volunteers of the Autonomous Non-Commercial Organisation “Sochi 2014”. But today, according to Lopukhin, any higher education establishment ought to have a long-term programme for work with volunteers. Furthermore, he considered that volunteer programmes in educational establishments would be developed well if they become integrated into the education process. What is necessary, he felt, is to adhere to a project-based approach to the organisation of volunteering; secondly, to analyse the results obtained from such an approach; and, thirdly, to make active use of higher education establishments specifically as intellectual centres of activity.
In Lopukhin’s view it would be very controversial to regard a separate and specific law on volunteering as being essential. Member of the Russian Federation’s Social Chamber Elena Topoleva, reminded participants that the topic of a law on volunteers had come up for discussion when the newly-constituted Social Chamber had a meeting with the Head of State. On that occasion Vladimir Putin declared that this particular topic had to be approached very cautiously. Topoleva underlined the point that excessive regulation carried the risk of doing damage to volunteering.
Vladimir Filippov, Deputy Head of MoscowCity’s Department of Culture expressed his own conviction that the word ‘volunteer’ no longer frightened people; rather, it had become fashionable and part of a trend. “It is important to us that Moscow’s students get engaged in volunteering.” When emphasizing that point, he further added that volunteering is one of the chief means for socialising people. His argument was that Moscow is a very dynamic city, but people there do not as yet express their concern for one another adequately. With the support of the volunteering movement, it would be possible to raise the level of good-neighbourly relations in Moscow. In his capacity as a representative of the city’s official structures, Filippov emphasized that it was for the City administration to provide the impetus and initiative regarding ways to work effectively with volunteers. He told participants about a number of forms of support that voluntary organisations themselves need so as to render them effective, including matters of their image, financial support and also property or accommodation for them.
Filippov put forward the idea that not a single large event in the city should go ahead without some volunteer input. According to him, that position was also supported by the city’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin. Filippov emphasized that volunteer support for initiatives* and projects had to be organised by professionals.
Yulia Sytenko is the Deputy Director of ‘Mosvolontyor’, the Resource Centre for the Support and Development of the Volunteer Movement. She remarked that now the image of volunteers is closely linked to the Olympiad. She supports the idea of integrating volunteering into the education process. Also, she considers it important that student volunteering be geared to enhancing their CVs, i.e. that student volunteering should enable young people to enhance their own professional skills. In her words, volunteering could provide young people with an enhancement of their own social status and, at the same time, could serve as a means of establishing good-neighbourly relations at regional level.
By Georgiy Ivanushkin