Study on the outcomes and impact of the validation of volunteers’ competences


Even though it is unanimously recognised that volunteers acquire skills and competences through their volunteering activities and various validation tools have already been created, non-formal and informal learning accomplishments are still seldom recognised in formal education or the labour market. Therefore, a study has been conducted to discover whether and how volunteers and voluntary organisations have been able to use the outcomes of validationIn order to address this issue, the project Improving Validation in the Voluntary Sector (ImproVal) has been established. ImproVal is a European project, involving partners from five European countries (FI, NL, BE, DE, SK).

The project aims to provide a synthesis of the work undertaken in the EU on the validation of volunteering experience. On the basis of questionnaires for volunteers and organisations and expert interviews, several advantages and deficiencies concerning the use of validation tools have been identified. It was found for example that volunteers and voluntary organisations struggle with the identification of and self-reflection on their competences. Other factors such as a lack of time hinder the uptake of validation practices both from the organisational and volunteer perspectives

The study also contributed to find that the reasons for using the tools differ strongly and can even appear contradictory. While volunteers predominantly start using validation tools in order to increase their employability, only very few of the organisations mentioned combating unemployment as a reason for implementing the tool. Validation is undertaken by volunteers for personal and professional development (empowerment, motivation, employability), which in return benefit the organisation (recruitment and retention of volunteers, and reputation). Futhermore, the  processes for the implementation of validation differ strongly from one tool to another. This results in a lack of comparability and constitutes a major obstacle for the recognition of skills and competences at multilevel (local, national and European).

In order to fully integrate the validation of non-formal and informal learning in the society and the economy, an increased effort and willingness to recognize gained skills during voluntary work will be necessaryPossible recommendations thus are for example standardizing the outcomes of the validation tools, raising awareness on the availability, use and benefits of validation tools, investing in trainings for tutors, mentors, counsellors, assessors, and facilitators of volunteers and emphasising the value of digital recognition methods.



23 April 2020

ImproVal partners co-published a new study which aims to discover whether and how volunteers and voluntary organisations have been able to use the outcomes of validation.

26 November 2018

On 29-30 of October, partners from 5 countries met in Helsinki to kick off the ImproVal project, which, over the next two years, will focus on improving validation in the voluntary sector. Partners shared their experiences from previous validation projects. 

23 July 2020

On 16 and 22 June, ImproVal partners organised a series of three webinars on the topic of learning new skills in volunteering and validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL).


15 November 2019

There are dozens of tools for validating volunteers’ skills. Are they good and what would make them better? Have they been helpful to you? Tell us about your experiences!