Spotlight on research and policy for service and volunteering
By: Rejoice Shumba 
Volunteering and civic service in SADC countries came under the spotlight at a research, capacity-building and policy workshop held from 14 to 16 March 2007 in Johannesburg.
The workshop was organised by VOSESA and the workshop participants witnessed the launch of the joint special issue of the Social Work Practitioner-Researcher and the Journal of Social Development in Africa. The workshop was opened at a well-attended function addressed by four keynote speakers: Murphy Morobe (CEO of Kagiso Media and Co-Chairperson of the board of City Year, South Africa), Dr Rose Ekeleme (Vice-President of IAVE), Dr Mae Chao (UNV, Bonn) and Dr Russell Ally, Director of the Charles Mott Foundation.
The workshop was attended by delegates from different volunteer organisations including the International Association for Volunteer Efforts (IAVE) from Nigeria, Botswana, and Mauritius and researchers from Botswana, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Youth Desk in South Africa’s Presidency, the Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the Cape Town Volunteer Centre were also represented. The presentations were followed by discussions in which participants shared their experiences and engaged with the research findings.
The presentations at the workshop highlighted that civic service in the five countries studied was quite different from volunteering in industrialised countries where those who provide service tend to be more affluent than their beneficiaries. The programmes studied in the five countries showed that civic service and volunteering is the domain of the poor, is widespread, and is expanding rapidly as large numbers of people are volunteering in all of the five countries studied. Research findings presented at the workshop can be accessed at www.vosesa.org.za
The workshop delegates also had the chance to interact with Dr Russell Ally (Director of the Charles Mott Foundation) who shared his insights on funding and suggested strategies for making sure that funding proposals are accepted. Dr Mae Chao (United Nations Volunteers) gave a presentation which highlighted the important role that volunteering can play in development. She emphasised that, if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are going to be achieved timeously, volunteers will have to be utilised.
The workshop outcomes have significant implications for the way forward in the emerging field of research on civic service and volunteering. It was agreed that since service is an emerging phenomenon in the SADC region, it is necessary to undertake more research in order to gain a closer understanding of volunteering in Africa. The research agenda was set as follows:
The workshop ended with resolutions that each of the country representatives would take forward in their respective countries. A range of country-level strategies for doing so were discussed, and a number of international partnerships were identified. These include partnerships with United Nations Volunteers (UNV), International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE), Civicus and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
It was noted that discussion about the nature of voluntary service and its role in development would be promoted through the development of a discussion paper and dialogue on activism and volunteerism, and through conversations with international agencies and volunteering.
Regional strategies were also discussed, and a number of points of contact were identified to strengthen the relationship between researchers and policy makers. These include:
 Rejoice Shumba is the Project Coordinator at VOSESA.