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Volunteerism and social capital1
Serbia and Montenegro is in transition, which means that the process of changes in different systems and subsystems characteristic of a modern society is in progress. In the modern sense, transition refers to modernizing and refreshing systems of values, institutions and manners of utilizing the resources of a community. One of the significant resources reactivated during transition is mutual trust among all the participants in the process. Without building, that is, revitalizing trust among the citizens on the local and national levels, there is no successful transition. Transition, among other things, also refers to the development and encouragement of social creativity on the individual level as well as the level of local communities, within and between social groups and on the national level. A synthesized indicator of participants’ trust within social work is developed social capital, which determines the effectiveness and efficacy of utilizing financial/property capital and human capital. Trust revitalization in a society is a synthesis of different social capital indicators on the level of the community but basically everything begins on the micro level, from individuals and local communities. For these reasons, the activities that stimulate trust building processes on the micro level are important. Volunteerism, or, in the spirit of Serbian language, voluntary work, is an activity that can be formally and informally manifested. If citizens volunteer within an organization, that is the case of formal volunteerism, that is, volunteerism within institutions. Apart from this form of volunteering, we can also speak of informal volunteerism, when citizens act on their own, not within institutions, with a view to providing assistance to the neighbours from their street, that is, local community. Volunteerism is closely related to the structure of using free time. Free time can be used in different ways, but generally speaking, there is volunteering within an institution or organization (formal participation in the activities of a civil society institution), activities of providing assistance to family members, neighbours or friends, free of charge (informal volunteering, that is, volunteering outside organizations) and/or activities of socialization, that is, building social networks through visiting friends or relatives, time spent with others on various occasions, as well as other social activities. In works addressing development issues, the consensus is ever stronger on the issue that differences in economic results on the individual level, local community level and national level cannot be entirely explained by traditional inputs such as land, labour force and physical capital. There are more and more works stating that development is not only a process of capital accumulation but a process of changes in the community organization. There are numerous theories on development but it is evident that more and more of them are increasingly more focused on social relations through the concept of social capital. In this brief article we shall try to establish only the starting bases of this significant relation which we must acknowledge in order for the transition we are going through to be effective. Different views of social capital have some common characteristics: • They all connect the economic, social and political spheres. They share the belief that social relations affect economic outcomes and vice versa.

1 Contribution of the NGO »European Movement in Smederevska Palanka« for the 11th number of newsletter of the project "Promotion of Pluralism by Strengthening NGOs and The Civil Society In Serbia" in partnership with NGO »European Perspective« from Greece as main applicant (project B7-702/2001/0872, European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, European Commission). More information about project on the web site

Prepared by Milan Milošević, Master of Systemology and Logistics

• • They are all focused on the relations among economic factors and on the manners in which formal as well as informal organizing of these factors affects the effectiveness of economic activities. They all include the assertion that desirable social relations and institutions have a positive effect on development. Since individuals cannot single out these aspects of their activities, there is a tendency of not investing enough in social capital development, which is an opportunity for public support to the activities that lead towards social capital development. They all recognize the existence of potential dangers because similar social relations can have negative effects as well. The outcome depends on the nature of relations (horizontal connecting as opposed to vertical connecting), the existing norms and values in the community and a broader legal and political context.

From the perspective of social capital development, but without neglecting other forms, formal volunteering is especially significant in different organizations that do not have to be purely volunteer ones but are ready to accept volunteers for the purpose of a successful realization of certain activities relevant to local community. Within these activities, volunteers get an additional opportunity to expand their network of contacts and develop and improve their social skills through meeting various community members in various social contexts. The developed social skills, in situations which are not burdened by various requests related to the working routine, can afterwards be successfully used precisely in the situations that include the working routine. Volunteer activities usually imply engagement and contacts in the areas of our chief interests and in need of additional work and the economic support (whether this is justified or not) does not exist or is insufficient (providing assistance in socio-humanitarian domain, in culture, work with children and the young, etc.). It is in these situations that volunteers get the opportunity for individual promotion as useful community members, as well as the opportunity for social promotion within the network of community members active in that and related areas. Serbia has a tradition of volunteerism both on the formal and informal levels. During the years of dire crisis, volunteering (formal and informal) was not encouraged because socially active citizens are basically critical towards government actions. The government was building social capital within the narrow circles of the social strata loyal to them and in other social layers they were distracting it by means of subtle techniques of the media and any other manipulation. For this reason, non-governmental organizations, which originally require significant voluntary work in realizing their goals in line with the problems of solving or articulating potential social and development problems, were not very popular and their work was sanctioned in certain situations. The new conditions of our community development require the opposite - maximal fostering of institutional and non-institutional forms of volunteerism, as instruments for building social capital on the individual level, as well as of activities that promote social capital and its development on the local community and national levels. Without an adequate development of the community social capital, which begins by citizens’ voluntary work (whether informally or formally in civil society organizations), there is no economic development or the economic development will take much more time and be more expensive. Sources:
o The Information Society, Volunteerism and Europe: Perspectives and Outlook. The European

Volunteer Centre, Brussels, 25 August 2003 2002 Workshop, Amsterdam

o Gerhard Fischer, Eric Scharff, Yunwen Ye: Fostering Social Creativity by Increasing Social Capital. May o Social Capital: Presentation to the European Commission Conference on Social and Human Capital in

the Knowledge Society. Brussels, 28th-29th October 2002

Social Capital And Civil Society