In 2019, the rate of young people aged 16-29 years at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 25.1%, or 18.6 million young people, with women at slightly higher risk than men. The EU Member State with the highest levels of young people (aged 16-29 years) at risk of poverty or social exclusion was Greece (38.1 %), while in the relevant rates in Ireland, France, and Cyprus were 23.2%, followed by 20% in Austria. Among non-member countries, high rates were also recorded in Turkey (40.6 %)
At the same time, 16.4 % of the 20-34 year-olds in the EU in 2019 were neither in employment nor in education and training (NEETs).
It is evident from the above analysis that young people in the EU face the risk of marginalization and social exclusion, with the countries involved in this project being on the top of this list. With regards to the needs of the target groups and following the above analysis, different studies made at EU level have pointed out that the skills and qualifications of the volunteers do not always match with the needs of developing countries nor volunteer organizations. Indeed, as volunteers, advocates and practitioners of volunteering affirm, specific attention must be given to young people as agents of change, providing volunteer opportunities for civic participation and life-long learning through formal but also nonformal education. At the same time, professionals working with youth and particularly with disadvantaged youth, do not have the necessary capacities and tools required for effectively promoting them towards volunteering in a sustainable manner that will enhance their participation, civic engagement and active citizenship.
In the European Union, almost 100 million citizens of all ages invest their time, talents and money to make a positive contribution to their community by volunteering in civil society organisations, youth clubs, hospitals, schools, in sport clubs, etc. However, volunteering is far from having fulfilled its potential, and the gap between actual and potential volunteers is even more significant among young people: although only 16% of young Europeans are engaged in voluntary activities, almost 3 in 4 are in favour of making more programmes encouraging voluntary work available. Big differences between countries also prove both the need for and the potential of mutual learning. Civic engagement is also lowest amongst disadvantaged groups. As such, young disadvantaged people have the most to gain from volunteering aimed at active citizenship as they are the group which claims that it has the least influence on public policy and could profit from learning active engagement.
The 2018 recommendations of the EU council concerning the 2019-2027 Youth Strategy also go in this direction by recommending enabling access for all young people to volunteering in the civil society sector, by eliminating obstacles and implementing support measures with special attention to young people with fewer opportunities The above considerations have therefore been the cornerstone for identifying the main target group of our proposal: Young adults, including those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, willing to be involved in volunteering activities (also end beneficiaries of the project).
The value of voluntary activities for young European was further stressed in the 2007 EC Communication on promoting young people’s full participation in education, employment and society. As stated in the document, voluntary activities provide a valuable non-formal learning experience enabling young people to acquire new skills and competences such as organisation, leadership, team-work and specific practical skills facilitating their social inclusion as well as their transition from education to employment, which is particularly useful for young people just starting out in their professional life at this time of economic crisis, and which also strengthens common European values such as solidarity and social cohesion. Based on this context, we have identified the secondary target groups of our proposal: Professionals working with volunteers, policy makers and civil society. The aim of the Project has also been defined as: Developing a sustainable mechanism for building the capacities of young adults wishing to take part in volunteering activities. This will be achieved through the following objectives:
- Creating an environment that accelerates the access to high quality informal training for youth volunteers, locally and globally;
- Exposing youth volunteers, educators and professionals working with volunteers to high quality preselected informal learning content for personal development;
- Preparing youth volunteers for professional skills through electronic and physical informal learning materials; online discussion boards, and webinars by well-known influencers and specialists.