Building Community Resilience Through Youth Volunteering: Towards a New Model


Date of Publication:    May 2022
Authors:                      Nursey-Bray, M., Masud-All-Kamal, M., di Giacomo, M., & Millcock,
Published by:              Regional Studies, Regional Science

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Australian regional communities are changing. The combined impact of out-migration and ageing populations means that the capacity of regional communities to function as they traditionally have is challenged. In this context, volunteer effort remains a vital part of building community resilience and social capital. Yet, volunteering per se is under threat, and encouraging young people to volunteer an even greater challenge.

The authors adopted a case study approach underpinned by mixed methods for data collection and analysis. They focused on three regional local councils in South Australia. The case study regions were all ones that were experiencing youth out-migration, economic decline, and having ageing populations.

Over a period of 7 months from September 2019 to March 2020, the authors gathered information in three ways: (1) conducted documentary analyses; (2) undertook 30 semi-structured interviews across key organisations and people in the three regions; and (3) implemented two online surveys - one for youth (36 responses) and another more general one on youth volunteering (48 responses).

First, they found that despite a popular conviction that youth volunteering is on the decline, it has in fact increased; the actual decline is with those volunteers who are within the 35 to 55 age group. Second, they found that two models of volunteering exist in the regions: (1) volunteering as an activity involving participation on committees or doing regular primarily public good group-based work (e.g., emergency services); and (2) event-based, one-off, fun activities (sometimes for the broader public good).

Volunteering per se, however, was considered by all participants as central to community identity. Culture, sports, and youth clubs emerged as important hubs for youth activity and potential volunteer recruitment. The authors suggested a new model for regional youth volunteering that prioritises fun, social opportunities, events, partnerships, and social media driven communications, as well as developing the role of volunteer involving organisations, schools and recreational institutions as bridging organisations.