Enlisting as a volunteer for oneself and for others
In March 2020, the website bénévolat.fr was launched, precisely in response to the health crisis the whole world is currently facing. The collective brings together seven associations whose objective is to connect volunteers and solidarity projects.
The peculiar context of worldwide quarantine has contributed to the development of an anxiety-provoking climate and a feeling of powerlessness for many people who would like to be able to bring support to those who need it, without necessarily being a healthcare professional. Bénévolat collective is a solution to link these two worlds and to make this impulse of national solidarity concrete.
Philippe Moracchini, Chief Executive Officer of Passerelles et Compétences is the collective spokesperson and answers Les Grandes Idées’s questions.
Could you explain the genesis of the collective?
The collective Bénévolat exists for several years now. At first, it gathered five structures: France Bénévolat, benenova, Tous Bénévoles, pro bono lab et Passerelles et Compétences. We used to meet regularly to exchange on volunteering altogether. The current context has speeded up the need to be more visible and more accessible to the general public.
Our website was launched on March 20th 2020, with the help of volunteers. The editorial strategy has been developed with all members of the collective. Two associations joined the project, WebAssoc (at the initiative of bénévolat.fr) and Latitudes. It was important to preserve the specificities of each associations which have grouped together around bénévolat.fr. That is why the page centralises the seven structures, presents their core activities then redirect the Internet user to a specific website.
Christian Colas, on mission for Unis Cité - Animation of remote analysis workshops
What is your position in relation to the Réserve Civique, a State initiative that calls for the mobilisation of citizen?
The creation of bénévolat.fr was concomitant with that of the #jeveuxaider.gouv website. To be more precise, we participated in the creation of the Réserve Civique platform. With the will of Grabriel Attal’s Cabinet, Secretary of State to the Minister of National Education and Youth, to federate associations around a common project, about forty members from non-profit organisations met during a videoconference to think and build the platform altogether . From this rally, a real collective energy is born, to offer volunteers and organizations our know-hows, our networks and to give a stronger voice to committing and solidarity.
Bénévolat.fr is the second part of the response initiated by the government with the keyword #jeveuxaider on social media and the digital platform of the Reserve Civique, #jeveuxaider.gouv. Réserve Civique puts forward 4 emergency actions and calls upon volunteers within the specific framework of quarantine and Covid-19 pandemic, by supporting organization in frontline, directly affected by the situation.
During the construction of bénévolat.fr, we worked hand in hand with Gabriel Attal’s Cabinet to ensure it was coherent and did not overlap Réserve Civique initiative, which makes perfect sense today but only meets part of the needs of associations.
Benevolat.fr is aimed at every other existing associations, also suffering from the situation, they need support too, more than ever, particularly in terms of structure. Therefore bénévolat.fr is a complementary response to support non-profit organizations during the crisis.
For instance, at Passerelles et Compétences, we don’t have the expertise to intervene on food aid missions or support for those in need, where Probono Lab, Benenova or Tous Bénévoles could act but neither do we have the required structure to ensure health security and exit permits, which is what Réserve Civique is setting up.
Remote volunteering, how does it work?
Instead of being in a physical human connection, we remotely identify the needs of the association that calls upon us. This may concern legal, financial or communication matters. For instance, “how to organize partial unemployment” or “I would like to redesign my website”. This implies specific skills that don’t require to be on site physically.
All missions requiring a physical presence have been suspended and will resume at the end of the quarantine.
Jonathan Veyrat, on mission for AAPE in operational communication consulting: “This mission allows me to occupy my free time and I also enjoy greater freedom to carry it out. In the end, Passerelles et Compétences and I both benefit from it. I have adapted my mission remotely: I do interviews over the phone and I plan to do a video call with the head of the AAPE to take stock of the situation. I am discovering how an administration works (law, justice). These are people I would never have met. This experience of skills volunteering is very beneficial and I am ready, when this mission is over, to apply for a new mission”.
What are you major objectives and big challenges at this particular time?
Basically, what underpins the entire associative sector is a logic of proximity. In a time of crisis like this, our main objective is to maintain this link, to support the most vulnerable associations (small, local ones). To enable them to get through the period by providing support and help for them to continue to exist and not to die because of legal or economic reasons.
This is a difficult time for everyone, including us. We have set up solidarity rates for the organizations that pay contributions to ours, many of our missions are suspended. There is an economic risk, we must find the right balance to both participate in this solidarity and to be able to continue to exist.
Linejy Tavars, on mission for Ecole et Amitiés - Support in communication strategy
Do you believe that this episode will have an impact on French people mindset and their relation to volunteering?
We don’t yet have the actual figures and the hindsight to give a concrete feedback but there are already several tens of thousands new members on Réserve Civique. And for each of our associations, there are now many more volunteers signing in. Yes, there is a real surge of solidarity to support associations and make themselves useful.
Something new is at stake about solidarity and volunteering. We are developing new tools. We have experienced it ourselves, video-retirement party, virtual drinks… There is something different setting in everyone’s culture, we are returning to essential notions in the human bond. We are discovering that, even remotely, we are capable of activating this social bond and being there for others.
Jonathan Veyrat, on mission for AAPE - Operational consulting in communication
What do you foresee for the outcome of the crisis, at the end of the quarantine? Do you believe that this new dynamic will endure?
Yes, I want to believe in it.
From the moment a person has tasted positively, even if only for a few minutes, the notion of volunteering and has discovered that it fulfilled them as well, it is a given.
The availability we have today and that might greatly diminish when we come out of the quarantine will have a great place in what will happens in the future as far as volunteering is concerned. The challenge will be to keep on acting, with new remote tools as we are doing it right now.
Beyond the very complicated situation we are mainly involved today, what is happening in the country is important. These last few years, we have had hard times but none of them lasted as long. This spirit of solidarity that is growing among people, I want to believe in it. There is a before Covid-19 and there will be an after Covid-19. And this post-Covid-19 will be different in the way we understand relationships, our working approach, our way of going for the essential and of volunterring. As for me, something is fundamentally changing.
Thank you Philippe for this inspiring discussion !