There are great expectations of voluntary action in contemporary Britain but limited in-depth insight into the level, distribution and understanding of what constitutes voluntary activity. Drawing on extensive survey data and written accounts of citizen engagement, this book charts change and continuity in voluntary activity since 1981.
How voluntary action has been defined and measured is considered alongside individuals’ accounts of their participation and engagement in volunteering over their lifecourses. Addressing fundamental questions such as whether the public are cynical about or receptive to calls for greater voluntary action, the book considers whether respective government expectations of volunteering can really be fulfilled. Is Britain really a “shared society”, or a “big society”, and what is the scope for expansion of voluntary effort?
This pioneering study combines rich, qualitative material from the Mass Observation Archive between 1981 and 2012, and data from many longitudinal and cross-sectional social surveys.
Part of the Third Sector Research Series, this book is informed by research undertaken at the Third Sector Research Centre, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and Barrow Cadbury Trust.
“… a pioneering study that addresses fundamental questions… It enriches the literature on volunteering and provides new insights ... a much needed contribution to the theory and practice of voluntary activity in contemporary Britain.” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
"The book, which is part of the Third Sector Research Series, is groundbreaking and fascinating. I expected a tedious read, but what I encountered was elegant writing and innovative methods, paired with interesting findings…. I applaud the authors for not taking volunteering as a monolithic phenomenon, but rather successfully highlighting its complexities… be assured that the book is a must read for every student of volunteering and/or civic society." Voluntary Sector Review (Ram Cnaan)
“An important and innovative contribution to understanding how and why people engage in voluntary activity; how important they feel it is in their lives; and the ways in which it contributes to the wider community.” Colin Rochester, London School of Economics
Dr Rose Lindsey has experience of working both in academia and in the voluntary sector. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow based in the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology at the University of Southampton. She has been the CEO of a domestic abuse charity and a trustee for several charities.
John Mohan is Professor of Social Policy, University of Birmingham, and Director of the Third Sector Research Centre. He has published extensively on contemporary and historical aspects of the third sector, with a particular recent focus on analyses of volunteering and the resources and characteristics of voluntary organisations.
Elizabeth Metcalfe was a research fellow in the Third Sector Research Centre, working on quantitative analyses of survey datasets for this project. She has subsequently moved to data scientist positions in ONS and the private sector.
Sarah Bulloch worked in the Third Sector Research Centre in the early stages of this project; from there she became research manager at Scope. She is currently a Teaching Fellow at the University of Surrey; and an associate of QDAS, specialising in mixed-methods approaches to research and teaching.
The changing policy environment for voluntary action from 1979;
Data, sources and definitions;
Trends in volunteering and trends in the voluntary sector;
Content and Context of Volunteering;
Why people volunteer: contextualising motivation;
Volunteering trajectories: individual patterns of volunteering over the life-course;
Attitudes to voluntary action;