Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion of Volunteering in everyday life
How volunteering changes us as People
Diversity, Attention, Compassion


Much has been written about the potential for change that volunteering brings. This time we would like to draw your attention to aspects related to the issue of diversity. The Diversity Charter, whose Polish coordinator is the Responsible Business Forum, is a European initiative represented in 16 European countries, which has been under the auspices of the European Commission since 2010. It is an idea on how to support employers in creating an inclusive culture, open to diversity. And how does volunteering relate to diversity? Can it support this?

The first clue is quite obvious. While volunteering often brings together people who share certain passions, such as animal lovers, needs and beliefs. the desire to help children, the elderly, the disabled, and at the same time a certain need, e.g. sharing knowledge, can lead us to people we would not otherwise meet. For example, prisoners who we want to help to recover or to reconnect with their families. Volunteering is also often an opportunity to get involved in projects that differ from what we do every day. Access to completely unusual topics, people and groups that we would never have the opportunity to meet in real life.

Volunteers’ motivations are also twofold. A volunteer chooses to act because they want to share their knowledge and time or they want to develop and learn something new through this action. Whatever the conscious motivation, the effect of this decision is that the volunteer gives and receives at the same time. One cannot simply take or simply give. Providing one’s skills always opens the way to new, developmental experiences, while in the pursuit of one’s own development one has to engage in activities.

The process of volunteer development is always present in volunteering. Its effectiveness depends on the actions we take, but choices and decisions are most influenced by fears. According to the 2nd All-Russian Survey of Volunteering among Employees, 11% of volunteers express fears before volunteering about the preparation for volunteering and the help they offer. After volunteering, 13% describe contact with the direct recipient of help as a challenge. Although the study interviewed people who decided to volunteer, we do not know how many people decided not to volunteer due to their own concerns.

It can therefore be said that a common characteristic of volunteers is a certain openness and courage to participate despite fears.

When deciding to become a volunteer, people are in a zone of discomfort. They are exposed to new experiences, new surroundings and mechanisms of witnessing that they often do not know or understand. However, it is in this environment that they begin to develop through external stimuli.

If the stimuli are too strong, they may give way. They do not transfer to their development those that are too weak. Being in a zone of developmental discomfort forces the volunteer to assimilate and tame any stimuli. After a while, the environment becomes familiar and friendly and the volunteer begins to feel comfortable in it. However, the developmental incentives fade away. In order to get back on the path of development, the volunteer has to seek out and experience something new and unfamiliar, which again puts him or her in a zone of discomfort.

To what extent it is possible to create discomfort in the development of volunteers depends both on the coordinators who provide them with such opportunities and on the previous experiences of the volunteers themselves. However, these experiences do not always involve an openness to new stimuli. Equally important is the volunteer’s ability to know his or her limitations. Not everyone has to fit into everything. The sum of these experiences leads to lasting change in the volunteer.

In volunteering, as in diversity management, new quality is created based on differences and similarities. As with building an open, inclusive working environment and society as a whole, this requires diligence and courage, empathy and openness to what is new, sometimes difficult because it is distant from our perception of the world. Acceptance of leaving one’s comfort zone, taming the new, embracing diversity. And it is these qualities that volunteering develops so well. Without them, it is difficult to build an organisational culture that is open to diversity.

Why is this important? You can refer to human values or try to show business cases that prove the value of diverse teams, but I will use a simple story that life has written. We all remember Monday 3 October, Women’s Day. In this context, it is worth noting an aspect that I became aware of after reading a seemingly obvious post on social media. Its author pointed out that, although there are many companies in Poland called leaders in diversity management who care about promoting and creating equal opportunities for women, there was no information about this day.

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