Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

Project Items

Doing one's duty: a case study of volunteering in a deprived community

Volunteering has been increasingly mainstreamed into public policy and more and more is expected of people who volunteer. Voluntary organisations now play a key role in the delivery of social and care services, involving more formal reliance upon the work of volunteers. The concept of social capital (which includes, although it is not limited to, voluntary work) has become enormously influential as an explanation for why some communities work better than others. Yet all this sits awkwardly alongside social policies that have made paid work the unique key to escaping social exclusion. For some commentators the government is now sending a signal that only paid work is important, in effect devaluing non-marketised activity. This study has been designed to confront such contradictions.Drawing upon theories and frameworks around paid work, employability, care, and community building, the researchers will examine volunteer activity within organisations and groups present in a place where people have borne the brunt of social deprivation. Primary data collection will take place in the East Midlands, in a community that has lost its original economic function and suffered severe loss of employment. Fieldwork will consist of repeated, systematic observation, interviews and the collection of documentary evidence. The scope and design of this study were developed in consultation with user groups in the voluntary sector.