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A digital platform that is paving the way for a new culture of civic engagement in Panama

Carolina Freire
McNulty Prize
Panama City, Panama

Panama has long suffered from low levels of civic engagement, exacerbated by extreme inequality. Voluntarios de Panamá is changing that, with a platform that matches volunteers to opportunities demanding their skills, and trains organizations to leverage civic engagement as a vehicle for social change.

Citizens who have engaged in service through Voluntarios.
Nonprofits that have been trained and provide volunteering opportunities through the platform.
Volunteers who participated in the national Good Deeds Day in 2016.


Founded by public policy specialist Carolina Freire, Voluntarios de Panamá has become the country's national hub for volunteering, spearheading a movement to catalyze individuals and organizations to engage in their communities. Carolina’s unique position at the intersection of public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors enabled her to bring together a multi-sector coalition of stakeholders that have gone on to advocate for national policy promoting civic engagement.

Our dream is that more Panamanians are infected with the spirit and desire to take collective action and help our fellow citizens.

Carolina Freire

Through the organization's digital portal, Ponte en Algo, thousands of volunteers have registered and completed projects, touching hundreds of thousands of lives in a country where classes rarely interact. Voluntarios de Panama has not only activated over 100,000 citizens to get involved in their communities, but has built capacity in the country’s largest network of nonprofits, training them to effectively incorporate volunteers into their strategies for social change, and advocating for national legislation and policy that will drive civic engagement.

The legislature has passed laws and formed councils to grow a new volunteer culture. The only platform of its kind in Central America, Voluntarios is set to expand to neighboring countries.

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