Not long ago, I had the pleasure of opening a conference in the town hall for church organizations named “Together about social responsibility”.
In my optics, it is in fact a accurate description of the ambition we should have for our welfare society. Or at the forefront: A welfare society in which the public is expected to solve all tasks, is in my understanding a misunderstanding of the term in the true sense of the word.
We, as fellow human beings, have an obligation for each other.
Therefore, welfare also goes well beyond what we traditionally associate with the word, and we can not only reduce the well-being of the services traditionally served by the public as a supplier. Welfare is also a father who is a scout leader every Wednesday, a pensioner that is a voluntary visitor or a student who helps at Aarhus Festuge.
For this reason, the welfare society is not in contrast to voluntary work, and it must never be thought that voluntary work must replace the welfare state.
The point is that welfare is the task for everyone because we, as human beings, are in relation to each other – and therefore we must all take responsibility for it if we are to succeed. And the good thing is that when we lift together, the total sum will be greater than the subset. Two plus two will be more than four.
For the municipality of Aarhus, the city’s many volunteers are therefore not only partners in relation to Aarhus being a good city for all, as the city council’s vision sounds like. Volunteer firebrands are in many ways the image of how citizens take responsibility and help to reconsider the way we create well-being – and bring about the prosperity of being part of committed communities.
Volunteering is taking part of and contributing to a community.
To be together to do something in the best interests of the good, but also for themselves, as all the studies point to, there is a lot of satisfaction in doing something for others. Just ask some of the more than 1,000 volunteers who helped at the World Sailing Championship recently or Festugen, which records this year with around 350 volunteers.
But whatever the driving force, it is important to create visibility about ideals of civil society, projects and initiatives – and to recognize the big difference that firebrands do.
As a city, Aarhus has always been privileged by committed citizens, where many are voluntarily involved. For that reason, Aarhus is chosen as the European Voluntary Capital in 2018 and we spend the year celebrating, visualizing and recognizing the many enthusiasts who spend time and resources voluntarily. This applies to active citizens, private and social-economic companies, the voluntary organizations, all who, through their efforts, help improve our city and society.
Therefore, an initiative such as the Festival of Firebrands at the People’s Summit in Aarhus September 22, 2018 also has my full support.
Here is the diversity of all the initiatives in which the firebrands make a difference. Here we get the story of Steffen and Ann Brit, who, with the Wastcafé in Aarhus, form communities for socially vulnerable families around cooking food while fighting food waste. And we get the story of Bistad with Lene Kiel Jensen at the forefront, who in a thriving community of students, retirees, vulnerable citizens – and bees produce honey collected from apiaries in East Jutland.
Good exemplars that volunteering has many facets and that the concept of welfare extends widely, but also that volunteering and co-operation can rethink existing relationships and form new alliances that all contribute to the development of new, sustainable welfare – in the community and for the community.
Looking forward to attending the Festival of Firebrands
Jacob Bundsgaard, Mayor of Aarhus Municipality