Youths discuss on “bathtub volunteerism”

Inculcating correct values, understanding the purpose of volunteering and building habits are essential to sustaining volunteerism beyond school days.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Chan Chun Sing, said this at a youth dialogue session on Saturday.

About 80 university and polytechnic students attended the session.

The dialogue session, co-organised by the National Youth Council, comes at a time when surveys have found a “bath-tub” effect in the volunteering trends among Singaporeans – that is a high level of volunteerism during their school days, a period of decline in their mid-20s, and then back up in their mid-40s.

One of the key points discussed was about changing youths’ mindsets by igniting new perspectives on volunteerism in today’s context, such as offering pro-bono legal or financial management advice.

They also discussed ideas on reducing perceived barriers to volunteerism by making it more accessible, such as having more ad-hoc opportunities for volunteers who have time constraints.

Suggestions varied from setting up a centralised platform highlighting volunteering opportunities to providing some radical incentives.

By encouraging greater uptake of corporate social responsibility in the private sector, there can be more volunteerism opportunities created in the workplace. This would hopefully, among other ideas, help to address the bathtub effect in volunteerism.

Youths also got a chance to debate with journalists who first penned an article about the bathtub volunteerism situation in Singapore.

Bathtub volunteerism illustrates the situation where people tend to give up less of time volunteering once they graduate from school.

One area Mr Chan focused on was the Community Involvement Programme (CIP), which is compulsory for secondary school students.

“CIP is a means to an end. Even if we bring hundred people through, ten, twenty fellas continue the journey, it’s still alright, because we have catalysed something in some people, and through this, it will spread,” Mr Chan said.

But after the session, Mr Chan also acknowledged the concept of incentivised volunteerism.

“We would like people to come forth without any material pursuits, or any sense that they want to get something tangible in return, but that is idealistic. We know that many of the volunteers, even among the participants today, many of them started off on a structured programme, with some kind of incentive but actually from there, they have graduated from truly volunteering their time without incentive structures in place, and I’m actually open to having both approaches tried out for different parts of the sector, because I don’t think it’s a one side fits all, and I’ve seen both approaches work in different sectors as well,” he said.

The “Am I a Bathtub Vounteer” Social Narratives 2012 Dialogue is supported by the National Youth Council as one of the key events within the SHINE Youth Festival.

This article is an adaption from news articles published in CNA and Asiaone

Photos credited to National Youth Council’s Facebook