VOSESA launches its
information network node
By Joy Oba
Volunteering and youth service programmes are growing rapidly in
Southern Africa. But what contribution are they making to development?
And how much do we really know about them?
Service and volunteering are important strategies for increasing the
participation of young people and poor communities in social, economic
and political life. However, information about these programmes
in SADC countries (see map on right) is hard to come by.
Volunteer and Service Enquiry Southern Africa (VOSESA) was set
up as part of the Global Service Institute (GSI) network to address this
lack of reliable, up-to-date information on service and volunteering activities
in the region. VOSESA is a non-profit organisation that will profile,
link and add to the growing knowledge base about service and volunteering
programmes in the region. This involves documenting existing
information, generating new and valid information, and enhancing
the exchange of information between individuals, organisations and
governments that are involved in service and volunteering.
The three strategies through which VOSESA intends to achieve its
goals are: functioning as an information network node, conducting research,
and assisting in capacity building.
Information network node
Despite the fact that there is a great deal of volunteering and service
activity in the SADC region, these activities have either not been documented,
or the documentation process has been ad-hoc and unsystematic.
The information network node will actively source, collect and
organise information, research, data and activities; store this information
in a database and then publicise and disseminate the information (via its website) to improve the availability of data, developing the knowledge base, and contextualising information.
The launch of this first issue of VOSESA Focus marks a major
step forward and establishes VOSESA as a support base for volunteering
and service in southern Africa. VOSESA Focus will be published
on a quarterly basis on the website www.vosesa.org.za. It
aims to fulfil the information and network objective which is to
inform, influence, modify, strengthen and promote the use of civic
service as a tool for democracy, development and transformation.
VOSESA will actively support and conduct research on service
and volunteering in the region and analyse data that is available
through other research projects. It is presently launching a five-country
study on service and volunteering in SADC which will
explore the nature and scope of service and volunteering in Botswana,
Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Research projects will help make the full extent of service and
volunteering more visible and foster a better understanding of its
role in development.
According to an UN Volunteers article Volunteerism and Capacity
Development (2002), capacity development captures the concept
of enhancing local capacities through external input. The article
argues that further steps should be taken to ensure that the contributions
of volunteers are more explicitly factored into capacity
development programmes. There is an urgent need for non-profit
organisations to focus on capacity enhancement for the individuals
and communities involved in service and volunteering to ensure
that the gains that flow from these programmes outlive the
At present, there is no indication of what the capacity building
needs in the SADC region are. In order to gain a better understanding
of what the needs are, questions about capacity will be
included in the five-country study that VOSESA is embarking on.
Workshops will be held with the research teams in order to synthesise
the information, identify priorities and strategies for a way
forward, strengthen the research capacity, and build the research
agenda for the field of service and volunteering.
MDGs and Nepad
Through research and capacity-building, VOSESA is working in
support of the Millennium Development Goals. There is, for
example, a growing interest in youth service and volunteering for
development as a strategy for achieving the goals. VOSESA also
aims to support the goals of NEPAD which aims to put countries
on a path of sustainable growth and development.