One of the issues facing many researchers and policy-makers is how to differentiate between various kinds of volunteering in order to understand different kinds of experiences. Consequently a typology of volunteering seems like it would be a very helpful tool for the sector. This week we see such a typology – based on differences in motivations and activities – published in the journal ‘Sociology’.
- Altruistic: Perhaps most readily associated with voluntary work, volunteering as activities that help the local community
- Instrumental: Possibly on the rise in the current economic context, volunteering as activities that enable individuals to improve their CVS
- Militant: also possibly on the increase as social services face increasing cuts, volunteering as activitism
- Voluntolds: encompassing corporate volunteering schemes and political policies that ‘encourage’ benefit claimants into volunteering
However what is particularly interesting about this typology is that the authors argue the boundaries between categories are very permeable. For example, while some volunteers seemed to be ‘voluntolds’, this also involved the altruism of ‘giving something back to the community’. The recognition that we can construct typologies but that they will always be inter-related reveals the complex nature of volunteering and is an argument for not setting up false dichotomies between volunteering groups. More fundamentally, Kelemen et al argue that it calls into question any very firm distinction between volunteering and paid work. Indeed they suggest that given the activities volunteering encompasses – planned work that delivers a service and is not necessarily a matter of personal choice – it should be considered as ‘work’.
In the 21st Century, digital technologies are also implicated in a narrative of increasingly permeable boundaries between life and work. While Kelemen et al’s research does not consider the role of technologies in volunteering, there are clearly points of contact. Our research assumes fluidity between using digital technologies for different kinds of (paid or unpaid) activities and adopts a generally dynamic construction of digital volunteering.