Volunteering has a rich history in India that dates back centuries, and its nature and purpose have evolved over time. The concepts of seva (selfless service) and dharma (duty) are central to many religious and philosophical traditions in India. Movements in pre- and post-Independence India have relied on volunteers. Volunteers have also played a role in various women’s movements in independent India. However, in recent years, volunteering came to be viewed as an activity that young people only engage in to accumulate certificates to secure admissions into prestigious institutions.

Now, however, a transformative shift is underway. Long-standing perceptions of volunteering as a certificate-centric activity or something reserved for those with abundant free time are fading. Young volunteers from schools and colleges are no longer content with being passive participants; they seek meaningful involvement where they can influence the direction of initiatives. This change in mindset has led to an environment where volunteers actively contribute to programme design, operations, and decision-making.

eivolve.org is an incubator for start-ups that primarily work with volunteers to drive social change. It was initiated by India Welfare Trust in 2022. Since then, it has incubated 14 entrepreneurs. Given our work, we have witnessed this transformation first-hand. Below, I outline emergent trends, approaches, and lessons in volunteering to help develop the robust volunteering ecosystem that the social sector deserves.

  1. Volunteering is central to many organisations’ work
  2. The volunteer pool is diverse
  3. There is a shift towards skill-based volunteering
  4. Virtual volunteering is taking off, especially after COVID-19

Read the full article about volunteering in India by Aishik Saha at India Development Review.