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State of Youth Volunteerism in Indonesia: How to Enhance It?

According to the United Nations definition, volunteerism is an activity undertaken out

of free will, for the general public good, and where monetary reward is not the principal

motivating factor.1 In the context of Indonesia, the founding father, Ir. 2 Soekarno, spoke up

about gotong royong (working together selflessly,) as the core soul of Indonesia.3

Although not inherently limited to youth, volunteerism has been associated with them

due to their advantage in resources and free time, particularly for the middle and upper classes. It

is thus not surprising to see the rise of interest in volunteerism in Indonesia which is currently

enjoying an increase in its youth populace as well in its middle class. 4 Another supporting factor

is the rise of literacy in information and telecommunication technologies which considerably

facilitates volunteering. We can see a rise of interest in a wide range of sectors, shown for

example in initiatives such as the organizations Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok) involving

political participation and Indonesia Mengajar (Teach for Indonesia) involving education.

From Indonesias experience, it appears that volunteerism usually happens when formal

institutions are ineffective. We can easily identify that Teman Ahok is filling the empty space of

real political participation left by political parties; that Indonesia Mengajar is patching the holes

of limited educational resources in remote areas; and so on. Although it is good for the

1
United Nations Volunteers Fact Sheet, Youth and Volunteerism, accessed from
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-volunteerism.pdf, January 6th 2017.
2
Insinyur (Engineer; Ir.) An honorific title for people graduating from engineering school in the past.
3
If I extract the five into three, and the three into one, then I get the one true expression of Indonesia, that is
Gotong Royong in Yudi Latif, Negara Paripurna: Historisitas, Rasionalitas, dan Aktualitas Pancasila (Jakarta:
Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2011), p. 371-372.
4
Negara Harus Siap Bonus Demografi in https://www.bkkbn.go.id/detailpost/negara-harus-siap-bonus-demografi
by January 6th 2017; Indonesias Rising Middle Class and Affluent Consumers in
http://www.usindo.org/news/indonesias-rising-middle-class/ by January 6th 2017.
volunteers as well as for the affected communitiesat least for the short runvolunteerism will

be only a false spark of optimism if it is not transformed into more strategic actions to

structurally resolve complex problems.

A suggestion to enhance voluntarism in Indonesia is to strategically engage the

government. While portrayed as corrupt and bureaucratic, the government however always have

very big power and resources that can be streamed to volunteering activities. For example, the

idea of Indonesia Mengajar would fruit far more effective impacts using governments resources.

This kind of voluntarism can be put under the umbrella of Community Worker including other

similar initiatives like Pencerah Nusantara in the health sector and Village Support System from

the Law on Village. There are also several government-related programs that needs and can be

revitalized, now in the way of voluntarism, such as Karang Taruna for territory-based youth hubs

and KKN for university students practicing their knowledge and skills. The government can also

exempt students study load in exchange of real interaction with needing communities by

volunteering. To conclude, engaging the government dont need to mean bureaucratizing

voluntarism; it can be seen instead as to treat the government as the impacted sector of

voluntarism through engagement, where the government can learn closely the best practices of

the realm of voluntarism and also be impacted in bettering their way of working.