‘Voluntarios por Madrid’, the city’s volunteer programme, promotes active participation in all social areas
Local governments are facing the challenge of finding solutions to new forms of relationships and citizen participation, developing the necessary tools to promote active citizenship while highlighting individual contributions to the construction of a city that is increasingly after the common good.
To the City of Madrid, the ability to produce voluntary participation movements requiring the cooperation and involvement of local residents is an adequate indicator of active citizenship. The experiences and results are encouraging, inviting the development of innovative ideas, in line with reality and the concept of a comprehensive, liveable, sympathetic city. Against this background, volunteerism takes on an instrumental side, becoming a tool to build social and community networks promoting engagement, cooperation and solidarity.
In this light, the culture of participation is based on the assumption that citizens have not only demands but solutions as well. It is a new type of individual: active and caring, ready to get involved at the local level in all possible fields: culture, society, environment, sports, etc. The new volunteerism emerges as a response to multiple personal motivations, underpinned by an overarching desire to be useful to society and the awareness of solidarity-related values that lead to new behaviour patterns.
The City of Madrid offers a service of general interest targeted at neighbours who want to be part of citizen participation or engagement projects carried out on the initiative of the City Council.
‘Voluntarios por Madrid’ (Volunteers for Madrid) is the city’s volunteer programme – a formula to offer all Madrileños adequate public services by making more innovative and immediate resources available to individuals and social organisations in pursuance of the following courses of action:
Promotion of volunteer action and personalised service to volunteers, designing solidarity initiatives that meet their individual motivations and interests.
Promotion of solidarity actions in the various areas that make everyday life in the city of Madrid, carrying out initiatives and projects in departments such as culture, society, sports, health, education, and so on.
Development of social and community networks with specific projects to be carried out in Madrid’s districts.
Pursuance of lines of activity that favour responsible cooperation with social organisations in the promotion of volunteer action and citizen participation, and the development of bonds that enable the construction of solidarity networks.
Support to volunteer information and training, aimed at developing volunteers’ capabilities for solidarity actions.
The volunteers programme’s main strength is steady growth in terms of the number of projects and actions, collaborating agents and volunteers. It reflects an upward trend towards success resulting from the programme’s methodology and flexibility. At present, the programme comprises over 13,000 volunteers in all city districts, many of whom have said they have rebuilt social relations thanks to their work as part of the team.
The establishment of the city’s own volunteer corps, the setting in motion of numerous solidarity initiatives which have broadened and diversified the field of volunteer action, the concept of active citizenship at the local level, and the engagement of multiple agents in multiple areas have led to unexpected and gratifying results.
Certainly, becoming a volunteer means relating to people, sharing realities, broadening one’s horizons, growing as a man or woman and as a citizen, feeling active and useful in a sphere where no gender, age or social barriers apply.
The City of Madrid’s volunteer model is expected to lead to new forms of active citizenship while making coexistence easier, extending the culture of solidarity to new realms of social life, and creating meeting points and spaces for participation where individuals can feel identified with their social and urban environment and build stronger social and community networks.
Madrid’s volunteer programme takes action in a variety of fields of life in the city – culture, society, environment, sports –, promoting a flexible model whereby volunteers can choose how and when to participate in actions in which they are really interested.