The study carried out by the European Commission provides a detailed assessment of the impact of EVS on young people, participating organisations and local communities involved, takes into account the whole period of life of the European Voluntary Service from 1996 to 2016, examines a wide range of effects, from the contribution of volunteering to employability and career, to the internationalisation of participating organisations, to the benefits for society in terms of openness towards cultural diversity.
The quantitative data collection included all European youth programmes implemented from 1996 to 2106, and all partners involved, and was carried out through an online survey to which 8,600 volunteers and 1,900 representatives of organisations responded. For the qualitative part, case studies were conducted in 15 countries and 100 targeted interviews were conducted.
Most of the current and former EVS volunteers believe that the European Voluntary Service is very useful for personal development, as it offers the opportunity to know one's own skills, develop competences, broaden one's horizons, as well as having a strong impact on the development of autonomy and independence. Volunteering in general and EVS, in particular, seem to attract people with very developed mindsets and this high initial level could limit the potential for change brought about by EVS stays abroad. However, most volunteers confirm the positive impact of the experience on the development of their personality, although this positive change has not been demonstrated by psychometric analysis.
EVS also has an impact on learning and skills development: 86% of the volunteers say they have improved their language skills, both in the local language and in English. Moreover, EVS improves inter-personal and social skills, in particular social and human skills, such as interpersonal communication or understanding of other cultures, while volunteering seems to have less effect on technical skills.
EVS helps to develop the social capital of its participants: practically everyone has friends who live abroad and with whom they have often interacted during the volunteering period. EVS also influences private life: two out of three volunteers had a partner of a different nationality than their own.
EVS improves employability and career prospects: 83% of the volunteers say that the volunteering experience helped them to identify opportunities for their professional future, to clarify what they want to do in life and to prepare them for an international career path. In fact, six out of ten EVS volunteers believe that the volunteering experience helped them to find their first job; two out of three believe that the experience is beneficial for their professional development; four out of ten former EVS volunteers occupy management positions. Beyond employment and career as such, EVS is also promoting entrepreneurship: one in ten former EVS volunteers has already started their own company or organisation.
EVS has an effect on the participation of volunteers in civic and political life, shows them ways and possible forms of participation and makes them more ready for active participation. However, only one in four former volunteers report that they actively participate in civic and political life at present.
Apart from these positive numbers, we have also collected negative testimonies:
- "An hour ago my year of community service ended. From the beginning, it was clear that my presence was only useful to make up for the financial problems of the organisation and the shortage of manpower. We spent a year entering data on the INPS website for the income campaign of pensioners living abroad, downloading CUD, confirming the existence of thousands of beneficiaries".
- “Now I've been home for a couple of weeks and I'm glad I got out of Malaga. On the one hand, I miss my friends and colleagues, but on the other, I was exhausted by all the events of those six months. I realised that perhaps I was wrong to choose a project that did not convince me 100%, and perhaps if I had reacted differently, living together would not have been so atrocious. However, the past is the past and I have no choice but to learn from my mistakes.”
- It is a pity that there are no projects for the reintegration of young people who have returned from the Sve and tools to harness their energy. This is something I believe the institutions should pay attention to. For example, former volunteers could do training in schools, after having attended targeted training
But in the end, everyone recommends going all the way, because overcoming obstacles is one of the best lessons of ESC!