Insights from Gemma Rygate: Volunteerism & the SDGs

The United Nations 2030 Agenda has recognised that volunteers are a stakeholder group to achieve 17 sustainable development goals. 

Gemma Rygate is the CEO of The Centre for Volunteering, the peak body in NSW for connecting people to volunteer opportunities and fostering community engagement. Rygate offers insight into how volunteers are integral to improving the livelihood of communities and encouraging people to take action on social causes while making a global impact. 

Volunteerism and The Sustainable Development Goals

Volunteer groups are a force for localising the Sustainable Development Agenda, by facilitating and providing a space for collaboration between governments and people. According to the Road to Dignity Report issued by the Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2015, “Volunteerism strengthens civic engagement, safeguards social inclusion, deepens solidarity and solidifies ownership of development results.” 

The actions of volunteers engage people in the realisation of the Sustainable Development Agenda, by engaging members of the community in something beyond themselves. Everyone has a role to play in improving their local community and inspiring others to do more. For Rygate, “Inclusiveness is something that is critical for society and to achieve that goal, we need to be far more mindful of what it takes to build a community and sustain that community where all people feel that they can be participants in some way or another.” It comes down to encouraging people to harness the power they can yield in their individual capacity when they are working in a group. 

Volunteering as a Force for Global Action

Volunteerism empowers people and communities to take ownership of social issues they are concerned about, by transforming the way they can make a contribution to improving our world. This is a pathway for individuals to learn where they can make the greatest impact and gives them a sense of responsibility for promoting the wellbeing of their community. 

Volunteer actions take root when people realise that they have the capacity to bring about positive changes in their community. Creating a space for everyone to give back, involves engaging in efforts to instil a greater knowledge of how we can use our unique skills and talents to contribute to an outcome. Rygate emphasises that “The key is building awareness and giving people the opportunity to participate, then building on that. Once that happens, you have unanticipated outcomes for both yourself and for the rest of the community.” These outcomes are felt widely and transcend local communities over a long period of time. 

The Impact of Volunteerism

Being able to see change happen and their contribution to it will inspire people to keep giving back. The Sustainable Development Goals give people a way to understand what outcomes they are achieving through their actions, by acting as a signpost of ways to transform our world. According to Rygate, “The focus on the Sustainable Development Goals is important because everybody who volunteers wants to see an outcome of some kind. If we are working with the Sustainable Development Goals in mind, then we are doing something really amazing and powerful.” 

Mobilising collective action begins with building a community of like-minded and purposeful individuals who are passionate about achieving a common goal. We are witnessing a global community come together to make a meaningful contribution to social causes, as more volunteer efforts are made in local communities.

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