Building Equal and Inclusive Societies


Date of Publication: December 2021

Authors: UN Volunteers

Produced by: United Nations Volunteer Programme

Volunteerism plays a central role in strengthening people–state relationships. Increasingly, volunteers across the globe are forging closer partnerships with state authorities to address urgent development challenges, from climate change, to ecosystem and biodiversity loss, to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This report discussed how to investigate the potential contribution volunteerism can make to building equal and inclusive societies. It included two quantitative chapters: one on global volunteer estimates and the other on a volunteer perception survey on volunteerism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trends show the dominance of informal volunteering (14.3%) compared with formal volunteering (6.5% of working-age people worldwide). Despite the disruption it has caused, the COVID-19 pandemic has not dampened people’s interest in volunteering as most people who engaged in volunteering during the pandemic plan to continue volunteering.

Key Messages

  • Volunteerism can promote a culture of collaborative decision-making by contributing to shaping and prioritising issues that are important to them, and by working collaboratively with state authorities.
  • Volunteerism can alter unequal power relations: through collaboration with state authorities, volunteers have the capacity to reconfigure unequal power
  • Volunteerism offers diverse pathways to civic participation but remains unequal: volunteers have diverse causes to volunteer for and use various channels and approaches for
  • Volunteers build bridges: volunteers are often in the unique position of brokering relationships between service providers and

 The report shows how volunteer–state partnerships can redefine power relations to create societies that benefit all. When governments collaborate with volunteers from marginalised groups, these relationships foster new ways of working that engage volunteers as key partners in the creation of development solutions. By drawing on the creativity and energy of volunteers, the foundation for a better future that is more inclusive and responsive to the needs of communities will be laid.

The overview of the report is available here.