Measuring the Unmeasured; Volunteers’ Secret Commitments and Visible Action

This blog post is written by Muna K C, Governance and Accountability Task Team Member, Restless Development

14th April 2015 marks the first day of the Nepali New Year (2072). This New Year, let’s think about the value that volunteering brings to their communities and how we can truly recognise the contribution of volunteering. Since I was child, I have volunteered in my local community in Nepal and, last month, I had a fantastic opportunity to speak on Measuring Volunteering in New York and influence decision-makers on the importance of measuring volunteerism.

Volunteerism is ‘the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community‘   I believe volunteerism can do a different job to others. It does not have a defined economic-value and is sometimes seen as unsustainable. However, some people work voluntarily because they love doing so and it is this motivation that can drive real change. Social and community-focused programmes are more likely to be successful when volunteers want it to happen and are involved.


During the first week of March 2015, I was a panellist speaker in Measuring Volunteerism at the Lowest Possible Level, convened by UNV and United Nations Statistical Commission. My visit was arranged and coordinated by Restless Development and Plan International.

My presentation largely focused on what I have been doing since my childhood ages. During those days, through the local child clubs, I started my engagement as child rights activist because I saw children and young people forcefully engaged in conflict. The local authority did not support us in the beginning. Later when I joined a Youth Club, we organized social auditing at the Village Development Committee (VDC) level. Through the volunteer work done collectively with this group of young people, we slowly started to see changes and be invited to participate to planning at the local level.

It is a pity that volunteers in Nepal are little acknowledged. They are considered and called jobless people yet often their work could be compared with those that receive an income.

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Above: Muna  speaking with the Nepali Chief  Statistician

Volunteer work should be documented and measured.

Many organizations promote volunteerism and engage them in social activities. However, it is a pity that the number and actual social contribution is not described anywhere. As a volunteer, I have contributed five years of my life by now. And I do not know if my volunteer contribution is counted anywhere. I am also aware that there are thousands of volunteers who are selflessly contributing at the grassroots level.

Muna - Radio

Volunteer work has contributed heavily to the MDGs, and should be a key part of the Post-2015 development agenda.

My visit to the event gave me an insight into the global perspective on youth and volunteerism. Volunteering plays an important role in the implementation of the MDGs and their efforts should be recognised and documented. Youth are at the core of development; however their contribution is little acknowledged by governments of the developing world. Publicity campaigns should promote volunteers and their value, communities should motivate and support volunteers but crucially, by measuring volunteer work, we will be able to understand, appreciate and support the actual contributions that volunteers have given to various sectors.

We should recognise that volunteer work is essential to monitoring and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. So far, young people and youth organisations have been very involved in the Post-2015 process, ensuring their voices are heard at all levels. By ensuring youth organisations and volunteers are able to access and monitor good quality and open data, the SDGs will be owned by the next generation.


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Measuring the Unmeasured; Volunteers’ Secret Commitments and Visible Action

by wearerestless Reading time: 2 min