On scouts, volunteers and desired competence

On scouts, volunteers and desired competenceSocial activities in non-governmental organisations model social and civil competence. These are useful in personal and professional life. Candidates applying for a job stand a better chance of employment if their CVs include social activities, as compared to the persons with no such experiences. Still, only a small group of people is active in non-governmental organisations.

The experts of the Educational Research Institute studied to what extend and in what way the NGOs in Poland shape social and civic competence. Their analyses and recommendations are presented in the publication “Social and civic competence modelling by the non-governmental organisations in Poland”, edited by Dr Ewa Bacia.

The authors remind that a man who communicates and co-operates efficiently with other people, who is responsible and able to handle many problematic and stressful situations, is potentially a better employee than other people. The employers care about such persons. In fact, the ability to handle difficult situations, flexibility of actions or creativity are the features that are needed since the youngest years. They also become necessary in the new model of education, in which qualification will be described through learning outcomes, presented in three dimensions: knowledge, skills and precisely social competence.

“Our social and civic competence decide not just about how well we are doing in life but also about the way we perceive the world and whether we are eager and ready to change it in an active way,” explains Dr Ewa Bacia, the co-author of the study and adds: “Thanks to high competence, people can handle many situations better, not just in the professional context. Developed social competence also builds blocks of what we can call emotional intelligence or maturity in the individual context and social capital in the social context.”

Volunteering as a gate to work

Every third Pole older than 15 works socially for the benefit of others, i.e. voluntarily devotes his or her time for the organisation, local community or other people. Twice as many people help their friends and family on charitable basis than work in social organisations (one person out of ten).

Graph 1. Factors encouraging people to engage in volunteering
  1. Conviction that one should simply help others 55%
  2. If we help others, we may count on a similar reward in the future 42%
  3. Sympathy towards the people who need help 40%
  4. Awareness that helping other people makes it easier to solve mutual problems 32%
  5. Possibility to get to know other people 18%
  6. Religious convictions 17%
  7. Possibility to acquire knowledge and skills that could not be acquired otherwise 14%
  8. Possibility to gain experience that is useful at work or in searching for work 12%
  9. Willingness to get to know the neighbours’/own environment 7%
  10. Volunteering is popular/fashionable in my circles 5%
  11. I want to be needed, useful 51%
  12. I find it pleasant 46%
  13. I think we should help others 46%
  14. I think we should be useful in our life 40%
  15. If I help other people, they would help me 30%
  16. This way I can make other people like/respect me 30%
  17. I think it is worthwhile co-operating with other people 28%
  18. I can acquire new skills, professional and life experiences 28%
Orange: reasons for engagement in social activities (CBOS study, 2011)
Green: factors motivating social activity (Klon/Jawor study 2013)
Source: CBOS 2011 study (Hipsz and Wądołowska, 2011, page 11) and Association Klon/Jawor 2013 study (Adamiak, 2014, page 50).
On scouts, volunteers and desired competence
Discussions with the volunteers show that most important skills are those that can become useful in their professional carriers. For some it is about “testing” a specific profession and verifying their own ideas against the reality. For others, it is important to show this activity in their CVs.

According to the opinion polls quoted by the authors of the study, there exists a stereotype of a volunteer as a young person, “rather well to do, educated and also religious”. The experts comment that this rather exclusive” image of a volunteer is accompanied by a relatively low prestige of this form of social commitment. On top of that, some companies and institutions abuse volunteering and rather than employ people, they use the commitment of the volunteers and treat them as cheap labour. “In order for volunteering not to be abused by the employers, we need general legal solutions as well as internal ones applicable in companies, institutions and NGOs, defining the rules of co-operation with the volunteers,” says Dr Ewa Bacia.

A scout goes to work

As many as 100-120 thousand young Poles are scouts. There are three national scout organisations in Poland as well as some couple of dozens of smaller ones, which refer to scouting in their name or activities. The experts checked the impact of scouting on shaping the social and civic competence.
The scouting supervisors were asked what their juvenile scouts learned. Each respondent could pick four competencies. The result shows than most of them are conscious care takers, who model specific social competencies by acting for the benefit of their teams – conclude the authors of the report.

Graph 2. What qualities or skills are taught by scouting?
  1. analytical skills 28.0%
  2. finance management skills 29.9%
  3. ability to save money 30.1%
  4. ability not to engage in conflicts 30.7%
  5. ability to rest and regenerate 32.5%
  6. ability to present own thoughts and ideas in a precise way 33.5%
  7. assertiveness 34.5%
  8. consistent realisation of life objectives 39.4%
  9. entrepreneurship 40.8%
  10. justice 44.4%
  11. willingness for lifelong learning 44.5%
  12. empathy 45.1%
  13. openness to people from other countries, cultures and races 46.8%
  14. diligence 47.7%
  15. resistance to stress, efficient operation in stressful situations 48.5%
  16. ability and intention to take risk 49.2%
  17. ability to manage conflicts and crisis situations 52.4%
  18. ability to build durable relations 58.3%
  19. ability to organise own work and to manage oneself in time 59.7%
  20. fairness 60.2%
  21. flexibility, ability to adapt to evolving conditions 62.0%
  22. self-assurance, belief in own possibilities 64.0%
  23. ability to start contacts 72.9%
  24. ability to lead a team 74.2%
  25. creativity, ingenuity 75.7%
  26. resourcefulness 78.4%
  27. independence 79.9%
  28. ability to work in a team 83.5%
Source: CAWI 2012
On scouts, volunteers and desired competence

As fair as a scout?

In a questionnaire, the scouts and their supervisors were asked questions, which were an attempt to catch them red-handed and to make them confess their mistakes and inappropriate conduct. It turns out that most of them do not commit such mistakes.
The study also verified how the rules and attitudes promoted in scouting impact the daily behaviour
of the scouts.
“The scouting code is certainly demanding and scouts face many temptations in their daily life.
We wanted to check how much they obey by the rules they were prescribed,” says Dr Ewa Bacia.
Graph 3. How often do you…?
  1. fail to return books to a library on time
  2. considerably exceed the speed limit
  3. ignore/challenge your supervisor’s opinion if you feel he/she is not right
  4. quarrel with your parents when they don’t allow you to do something
  5. if you can, lend money to friends even if there is a risk they may not give it back
  6. be late for an appointment or classes
red: very often
orange: often
yellow: relatively often
light green: seldom
dark green: never

Source: PAPI 2012
On scouts, volunteers and desired competence

Is it worthwhile?

The study authors claim that most of the social and civic competence that can be acquired in scouting is then useful in professional life. The particularly desired competencies include: ability to co-operate, resourcefulness, ability to adapt to different conditions and acting as team leader. “Some of the scouts we questioned admitted that due to their strong commitment to the scouting movement, they devote less time to their professional life and family. Such maybe the costs of social engagement,” observes Dr Ewa Bacia.
Graph 4. Assessment of the impact of scouting on its participants’ life
  1. health
  2. personal development
  3. professional life
  4. education
  5. family life
  6. social life
  7. private life
  8. general
dark green: definitely positive
light green: rather positive
yellow: hard to say
dark red: rather negative
light red: definitely negative
On scouts, volunteers and desired competence

Expert recommendations

“Non-governmental organisations are important places for young people to acquire and develop their social competence,” observe the study authors. They analyse why still so few citizens get engaged in the NGOs. They point out necessary legal changes concerning volunteering. On top of that, they are of the opinion that the schools (formal education entities) and local authorities do not co-operate with the NGOs to a sufficient extend. That is why we need coordinated measures of different institutions and communities to support development of social and civic competence among young people.

“The state contributes to that by recognising social competence as one of the three elements included in learning outcomes, which are building blocks of the Polish Qualifications Framework. It will be possible to validate competence that creates qualifications in the Polish Qualifications Framework, regardless of the way in which they were acquired. Thus, the things that young people learn in the non-governmental organisations could then be confirmed and used for further development, learning and work,” conclude the report authors.

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