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Volunteerism Plays Critical Role in Reaching World's Millennium Development Goals

CSU professor participates in UN's international research

In 2011, the United Nations Volunteers Programme undertook research on the state of the world's volunteerism and its relationship to eight Millennium Development Goals that countries agreed to achieve by 2015. The report, assisted by Jeffery Brudney, Ph.D., of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, provides food for thought for local communities, as well as the UN Conference on Sustainable Communities (Rio+20) to be held in June, 2012.

Volunteerism can and should play a critical role in addressing major global issues but has been largely absent from the international peace and development agenda, according to a report released by the United Nations Volunteers Programme.

As a follow-up to the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer, the report highlights the universal nature and underlying values of volunteerism and the significant contributions made by people to improve lives in their families, communities, and countries, as well as on a global scale. It notes that, while volunteerism in developed countries is the subject of extensive research and discussion, its significant tradition and role often is overlooked when giving attention to developing countries.

  • Timing of the report is considered crucial given three elements:
    During a 2010 review of eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015, governments expressed "grave concern" about the status of some of the goals. Expansion and support of volunteer efforts are seen as ways of helping to get the goals on track.
  • Concern over the effectiveness of development cooperation is growing. The role and contributions of volunteer action must be understood to make the most of international development strategies.
  • The UN Conference on Sustainable Communities ("Rio+20") to be held in June, 2012, is an opportunity to recognize and ensure that volunteer action at the grassroots level is included as an integral part of any new development consensus.

Jeffrey L. Brudney, Ph.D., Albert A. Levin Chair of Urban Studies and Public Service at Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College, participated as part of the international Technical Advisory Board that advised the UNV on how to create the report. He was invited by Flavia Pansieri, executive coordinator of UNV, to help direct, supervise, monitor, and edit the report. Brudney also participated in the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer.

Brudney notes that the report answers questions such as:

  • What are volunteers doing to assist governments, nations, and communities?
  • What are their roles and contributions to worldwide goals: peace, sustainability, ecology, and international/intergroup collaboration and harmony?
  • What has been done over the past decade—since the Year of the Volunteer—to raise the visibility, stature, recognition, and appreciation of the contributions of volunteers in a worldwide context?
  • He said this research focuses on "service volunteerism"—that is, how volunteer labor affects the betterment and welfare of people—rather than volunteerism that advises policy.

"It has been very exciting to participate in this project," said Brudney. "Nothing like this study has ever been attempted before on a worldwide scale."

Locally, Brudney has extensive experience in encouraging and facilitating community engagement in government and in nonprofit organizations. For example, he spent a year facilitating the community engagement effort of the Cuyahoga County Government Transition during 2010. His Transition Workgroup on Public Engagement made numerous recommendations for strengthening government transparency and openness, and citizen involvement that have been adopted and implemented by the new Cuyahoga County government.

For more information contact Jeffrey L. Brudney, Ph.D. at 216-687-5269, The 2011 Statessd of the World's Volunteerism Report may be found at Information about Rio+20 may be found at