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Submitted by Matteo Morgandi on
Hala, you are right, restoring a culture of unpaid effort is not easy. Volunteering is a difficult word, sounds like a lot of effort, sounds like you really need to 'want it' because otherwise it is not fun. Even if an uphill battle, I think there could be no better time to try reversing the tide than right now. For two main reasons. Youth already are volunteering big time in their own ways. And the labor market has a lot of reasons to want much more of this volunteering to happen. If I look at changes that are taking place right now in the region, much of it comes from a form of volunteering, political activism, that requires investing lots of time and effort to see things transformed. Surely political activism may look more adventurous, radical, than social activism and social service. But in my view all of these forms of civic engagement are connected with each other. Connected by motivation, a mix between altruism and self-protagonism, a certain inpatience at seeing things not moving at the speed we would like. If this is the age of change, then I think it is also the age of volunteering. And what your project is trying to do in Lebanon is to give a bit of a structure to a vision. To change the perception of the game for the aspiring volunteer, so that he can think a bit less often: "Am I a fool in spending so much time doing this?" You mentioned that at your parents' time it was easier to get people to volunteer. Perhaps it is true. My guess is that one of the reasons of it is that seeing the effects of one's actions was also easier, change was easier, so volunteering was more rewarding. If this project manages to create again this space for making things happen, then you are winning your bet. In the regional context, I think there is a second angle that can make this bet so rewarding. In many countries in the MENA region, employers have a hard time trusting formal certifications and diplomas. Education matters, but employers also need staff with skills that are not necessairly learned or signalled with a university diploma. In the most recent World Economic Forum's report on competitiveness in the Arab Countries, it was interesting to read that company executives placed the lack of ethical behaviour in the workforce as the 4th largest constraint to competiveness. Maybe a program like this will be a way to start providing the right signals to employers amids a fog of unclear certifications. I really look forward to know more about it, and I think other countries in the region will look at what you are doing with much interest. Keep us posted! Matteo