More emphasis than ever is being placed on the need for volunteers to provide much needed assistance to third sector organizations. Our research investigates what might be termed the ‘work’ of volunteering – that is, the experiences and practices of volunteers. The need for such research is accentuated by the fact that volunteering itself has changed dramatically in recent years. On the one hand, volunteering has become increasingly like employment for many (e.g. internships in voluntary organizations) whilst new forms of volunteering such as micro-volunteering have also become significant, as time-poor individuals respond to the call for increasing civic engagement while still managing existing work and life commitments. As volunteering evolves and as we become ever more reliant on volunteers to meet significant needs in our social provision, it is increasingly important that we understand how contemporary volunteers are able to craft a meaningful and sustainable contribution within already busy lives.
There is a need for both academic and practitioner knowledge in understanding how volunteers are integrating new technologies into their volunteer activities, how third sector organizations are utilising digital tools to support and enhance the practice of volunteering, and what challenges and opportunities are arising as a result. As a consequence, our research seeks to address the issue: How is the practice of volunteering being reconfigured in the digital age?
Within this overarching question, specific concerns include:
•How do individuals manage their personal, professional and volunteer activities and identities, and are social media experienced as a benefit or a challenge in this regard?
•What role do third sector organizations play in managing volunteers’ digital presence?
•What research methods are required to effectively capture the fluidity of this distributed practice of volunteering as TSOs and volunteers move between physical and on-line worlds?
•What would represent an effective and supportive on-line community of volunteering practice?
All rights reserved 2014: Hine, Pritchard and Symon.