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Project description

VERSO partners in Europe

Despite regional variations, unemployment  is increasing all over Europe. While some parts of Europe have been hit by massive unemployment among well-educated young people, other regions are burdened by large numbers of unemployed older people who lack the necessary qualifications for today’s labour market. The frameworks within which regional authorities must attempt to address the problems of the unemployed also vary across Europe. In all cases, however, it is clear that these problems cannot be solved within the frameworks provided by the traditional systems - neither the welfare state, the family nor the market offer adequate solutions for the unemployed citizens who turn to them for assistance. New approaches are needed all over Europe.


VERSO (Volunteers for European Employment) is a pan-European development and knowledge-sharing project funded by the European Regional Development Fund, INTERREG IVC. VERSO seeks to improve the quality of life of people across Europe by means of learning and sharing best practice experiences with voluntary work to improve European employment.


The background for the VERSO is twofold. Firstly volunteering constitute a major source of renewable problem-solving that has not been systematically tapped in relation to employment efforts crucial to competitive knowledge societies in times of increased competitive pressures, aggravated budget constraints and demographic challenges. Secondly European unemployment is a major obstacle to growth, the well-being of the individual as well as to cohesion and equal opportunity. Volunteering has unique qualities capable of broadning the scope, hightening the flexibility and enhancing the inclusiveness of public employment services. Volunteering in support of LED initiatives is cost-effective, sustainable, problem solving and has multi-lateral benefits for the volunteer, the service user as well as for cohesion, growth of human capital and regional competitiveness.

The VERSO partnership is comprised of 8 public authorities and 4 knowledge partners working together in order to produce a Best Practice Catalogue and practical guidelines to all European regional or local authorities interested in developing policies that will support the inclusion of civic society ressources in the development of local employment services. Good practice examples from all over Europe is analyzed in order to extract policy recommendations and policy assessment tools. Secondly the VERSO project will exchange knowledge and good practice examples by disseminating a European Good Practice Catalogue with cost-benefit estimates and thereby enabling public authorities to choose and establish good practices suitable to their particular needs profile. In order to gain experience in how these good practices or policy instruments may be successfully transferred the public authority partners in the VERSO will carry out a twofold policy process. From good practices, sets of local / regional policy recommendations are made by the public authority partners and these recommendations are then operationalized in implementation plans on the basis of bi-lateral study visits, seminars and general networking activities in the partnership.


It is increasingly recognized that national and European employment objectives - and in particular the European Employment Strategy (EES) – cannot be achieved without the active involvement of actors at the regional and local level. The unique contribution of LED initiatives in creating better conditions for full employment by establishing local cross-sectorial partnerships with the ability to act on local employment needs and over time break with path-dependent patterns of unemployment is also long recognized.

To attain the ambitious goals of the EES (75% of people aged 20-64 in work) at local/regional level it is necessary to expand the inclusiveness of the labour markets to include groups of people that were previously on social benefit schemes and secondly to enhance the job skills of the unemployed workforce in general as well as the job skills of partially marginalized groups with long term unemployment.

Due to aggravated financial restraints on the public sectors involved in LED initiatives the goals of the EES is a challenge to which proven cost-efficient solutions is in demand at local and regional level.

Civic society and volunteerism offers itself as an alternative arena where both marginalized groups as well as the general unemployed workforce can maintain and develop job skills and enhance their network in a non-formal educational domain. In this domain it is possible to acquire, re-acquire or re-orient job skills and develop familiarity with or tolerance to changing job market demands. Thus, given the right organizational and political support volunteerism is an arena of multi-lateral exchange capable of addressing unemployment issues.

Volunteers with steady jobs can deliver supplementary services to unemployed people by drawing on their knowledge of job market dynamics and demands. Volunteering can be a trajectory or pathway to new skills and eventually a paid job, but civic society and volunteerism can also be instrumental in creating new types of social spaces capable of including or connecting with marginalized groups who’s employment needs are not currently met by the established employment systems. Such new social spaces (cafés, workshops, cinemas, festivals, TV-stations) can be examples of new and more flexible non-formal service formats expanding the scope of existing employment services. In many instances these new social spaces evolve into not-for-profit organizations who address other types of social needs which are no longer met by the established service delivery systems (taking the elderly for a walk, cooking for the homeless etc.).

By creating better political conditions and thus facilitating the development for new social spaces several needs are met; a wider scope of services can be offered (to unemployed and to other groups), new and innovative service formats are developed capable of meeting the needs of people with alternative skill sets who is currently on social benefits and who’s needs are not currently met by the established employment systems. Thus it becomes possible – through political means – to tap in to the creativeness and innovative potentials of civic society and gain higher degrees of flexibility and scope in employment service delivery. Therefore the combination of civic society recourses with existing welfare packages into new service mixes seem to be a way of overcoming the path dependency that makes it difficult for public employment systems to keep up with rapidly changing job market demands.

The VERSO project will identify, analyze and exchange good practices in the intersection between civic society and LED initiatives and in the process illuminate how and with what added value volunteering and civic society resources can support, innovate, sustain or contribute to LED initiatives and employment services. The overall question is how the public sector can co-develop new, flexible and cost-effective employment services together with civic society.

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Revised 2012.12.12