A key aspect of active citizenship is volunteering and involvement with charities and other third-sector organisations. Volunteering in this regard can be defined as ‘the commitment of time and energy, for the benefit of society and the community, the environment, or individuals outside (or in addition to) one's immediate family. It is unpaid and undertaken freely and by choice’ (Department for Communities, 2019).
Data from the Northern Ireland Department for Communities and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency highlight that volunteering remains relatively high in Northern Ireland. Key headline figures from 2018/2019 indicate that:
- The proportion of the adult population volunteering remained consistent at 27% in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18.
- Of those who had volunteered in the previous year, 37% had carried out fundraising, 31% had helped in a church or religious organisation and 28% had worked with young people.
- The most commonly cited benefits as a result of volunteering were ‘makes me feel better about myself’ (68%), ‘helps me make a positive contribution to society’ (59%), ‘I made new friends’ (55%) and ‘I had fun’ (51%).
Ultimately, therefore, active participation is beneficial not just for the recipients of the support but also for those volunteering their time and energy.