Posts Tagged 'volunteering'

How is the activity of volunteering changing? #volunteersweek

In today’s guest blog post Sue Kenny shares findings from research about the changing nature and shape of voluntary action and active citizenship is taking with the next generation…

Sue Kenny2.1There are many forms that contemporary active citizenship can take. It can be an expression of civic and civil commitment as well as a form of activism.  

Similarly, volunteering can be an expression of active citizenship in each of these forms.  For example, membership of  local council committees is a form of civic commitment; helping out in a community centre is a form of civil commitment and organising a protest march involves the activist form of active citizenship. Volunteering plays an important role in generating social capital through these different ways of participating in society.

All these types of active citizenship are familiar aspects of participation in civil society. Yet as we discuss in Challenging the third sector: Global prospects for active citizenship, an alternative paradigm of active citizenship and volunteering is emerging, largely out of the gaze of public scrutiny. Continue reading ‘How is the activity of volunteering changing? #volunteersweek’

What I learned from volunteering for Policy Press….

Jennifer Bell, English Literature MA student at the University of Bristol, has just spent the past eight months volunteering at Policy Press as part of the Editorial Commissioning team. Today is (sadly!) her last day with us. 

Jen’s learned that ‘it takes a village to raise a book’, there’s more to Friday’s than cake (really?!) and she tells us how the experience has influenced her future career plans. Read on for more insights….

Jennifer BellHow did you hear about volunteering at Policy Press?
I heard about the volunteer scheme run by Policy Press from my department at the University of Bristol. Continue reading ‘What I learned from volunteering for Policy Press….’

The darker side of volunteering

Volunteering is a good thing, yes? Perhaps for the organization being helped, but for the volunteers it’s not so simple. In this blog post, Adam Talbot from the University of Brighton, UK shares his latest work on burnout and stress amongst volunteers. This blog post is based on a article which recently appeared in Voluntary Sector Review.

Volunteering is often seen as a panacea for the various problems faced by society. Volunteers are thought to simultaneously contribute to the greater good of a society and gain personal benefits, including social capital and practical experience.

However, this perspective ignores various issues with volunteering, including the treatment of volunteers as free labour and the stresses placed on volunteers. In this blog post, I provide an overview of this darker side of volunteering, drawing on research conducted with a Scout group in northern England.

“many volunteers find themselves stressed and burnt out”

Leaders in the Scout association give their time freely, motivated by various factors, including enjoying scouting, giving something back (both to the local community and to a system volunteers have been part of as youths) and ensuring the “service” is available for their children. However, despite these laudable motivations, many volunteers find themselves stressed and burnt out by the demands placed on their time.

Once they are involved with the organisation, they know how much needs to be done and therefore end up putting in more work than is necessarily healthy in the long-term. They become entwined in a system that drains their free time, a problem exasperated by a neoliberal political system which leaves individuals scant leisure time in which to volunteer and treats volunteers as free labour, in this case as free childcare at evenings and occasional weekends.

Personal experiences

For some, such as Dean, a Group Scout Leader, this can be managed as his role involves the organisation of large events, requiring significant investment of time and energy, but also allowing him to take time away from Scouting when needed. For example, after a recent camp which he organised, he commented that he wouldn’t be doing anything to do with scouting for at least a couple of weeks.

For others though, such as Phil, an Assistant Scout Leader, the role they are in does not allow these periods to de-stress. He is required to run meetings every week (as well as occasional weekend camps), which is not only an inflexible time commitment but can also be a monotonous routine. This leads volunteers like Phil to feel burnt out, devoid of the energy, ideas and enthusiasm which characterises Scout leaders at their best. Hence, Phil is considering leaving the organisation, commenting that he feels “the system’s crap” due to the lack of support he has received.

This is symptomatic of a system straining under a lack of available volunteers, as more immediate concerns with other sections (e.g. Cub Scouts) whose leaders either had already left or were leaving without any replacement. Phil feels under these circumstances that despite the stress Scouts causes him, he is unable to leave as that would put much more pressure on others: “I feel like, not pressured, but I feel like I’ve got to do it”.

“the role they are in does not allow periods to de-stress”

During the research, a small number of interviews were conducted with volunteers. At almost all of these interviews, participants commented that while we all share these stressful experiences, we never really discuss them with each other.

While there is more to do to solve the problem, including challenging neoliberal policies which have a detrimental impact on volunteering, more collaborative reflection on practice would assist volunteers in managing their own time to avoid burnout. It is important to note though, in conclusion, that while darker elements of volunteering exist and certainly deserve greater attention from volunteers, policymakers and academics, volunteering in scouting was and is incredibly enjoyable and meaningful for participants (including myself), and the focus on negatives in this post does not fully reflect the experience of volunteering.

Read Adam’s VSR article in full here.

VSR 2015 [FC]For more information about the Voluntary Sector Review as well as link to free institutional trials please click here

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Policy Press – a year in charity

Throughout 2014 Policy Press supported St Mungo’s, a charity supporting the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. We got involved in some great activities. Below is a summary of the year.

December 2013


Victoria wins the mince pie bake-off!

Policy Press staff and authors kick-started our year of activity by donating to St Mungo’s in lieu of sending Christmas cards.

We also held a mince-pie bake off amongst staff. Congratulations Victoria!








January 2014

Woolly hat day

Woolly Hat Day 2014

On Friday 31st January we took part in St Mungo’s Woolly Hat day, wearing our woolliest hats to work and holding a cake sale.





March, April, May, June

Our monthly charity coffee mornings were a real success with Policy Press staff and colleagues in other University departments.



Charity quiz poster

For our big fundraising event of the year Policy Press held a ‘pub’ quiz. The event was a great success with teams from other Bristol publishers taking part, and prizes donated from local Bristol businesses.









Painting and decorating at St Mungo’s

Policy Press staff spent the day volunteering at a St Mungo’s crisis centre for men, in Bristol – decorating, making soft furnishings and cooking.








In 2015 we will be supporting Off the Record, a charity that runs a range of projects across Bristol and South Gloucestershire to support young people to improve their mental health and well-being.

If you would like to donate please visit our local giving page.

Volunteering: Policy Press help to put the homely into homeless shelter

Social issues such as homelessness and the support of the most vulnerable people in our society are key for Policy Press. Each year we support charities in a number of ways, but this year we took our support to the next level, offering up our time in addition to fundraising.

Volunteering is an important way in which many people support and are supported within our society. Rebecca Megson reports on Policy Press’ experience of volunteering at Bristol based homeless charity St Mungo’s Broadway and talks to authors Sue Baines and Irene Hardill about how volunteering has changed in the past 20 years.

Photo credit: Shelter

Photo credit: Shelter

The season of merriment is all but upon us but the reality is that Christmas is not necessarily a joyous time for all. Homeless charity Shelter have reported a 30% rise in the number of calls they are fielding from individuals and families who fear they may be homeless this year.

As an organisation we’ve been supporting homeless charity St Mungo’s Broadway throughout 2014, running charity quizzes, sporting and other events to garner sponsorship for them as our ‘chosen charity’. This was the first time, however, that we’d provided practical, hands-on help.

It was a slightly wet, grey day as we all trooped down to St Mungo’s Broadway, dressed in our scruffiest painting and decorating gear.

Policy Press staff hard at work redecorating

We’d offered to spend a day helping to redecorate the centrally shared space at the hostel and a counselling space. We hoped that between our painting, decorating, curtain and cushion making skills we could help to add a little bit to the sense of homeliness for residents and visitors.


Ali Shaw getting ready to paint

Founder and Policy Press director Alison Shaw explained why she thought it was an important next step: “The aim of Policy Press has always been to try to improve social conditions with publications that will make a positive difference.”

“Many of the books and journals we publish are concerned with the social conditions and policies that both result in and respond to homelessness. We wanted to get closer to the frontline in engaging with the realities of being homeless and help the organisations that support people who find themselves in that situation.”

The finished product  - redecorated central areas

The finished product – redecorated central areas

St Mungo’s Broadway is a national charity that provides a bed and support to more than 2,500 people a night who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. It also works to prevent homelessness, helping about 25,000 people a year.


Curtains to make the room cosy on winters evenings

Marketing Executive Jessica Miles said: “It was a great opportunity to do something different as a team, as well as hopefully make a little bit of a difference to the guys staying at the St Mungo’s Crisis House in Bristol.”

Passionate advocates

Policy Press authors Professor Irene Hardill and Professor Susan Baines have researched and written extensively on the subject of volunteering. Their book ‘Enterprising Care?Unpaid voluntary action in the 21st century’ draws on a number of projects Sue and Irene undertook, including a micro-sociological study, which drew on lived experience, of undertaking voluntary work.

Talking to them, it is immediately obviously that they are passionate advocates for volunteering. They have watched with interest how the political debate has developed from New Labour’s emphasis on formal volunteering through to the Conservative-led coalition government’s ‘Big Society’ ideas.

Sue Baines says: “Volunteering activity is organic and hard to control. New Labour tried to bring in a lot of structure to help with that, and to be able to measure volunteering.”

Sue is cautious about the top-down approach as she feels that structured programmes can do more harm than good. Irene says the management of volunteers and the drive to push a contracts culture can be one of the negatives about volunteering. Sue says: “You come to help older people, let’s say, and suddenly it gets changed into something else, much more formal.”

“The unmet need is of course greater now than ever”

The practice of volunteering and how it is defined has changed. Recent debates for example have focused around employer’s use and abuse of volunteering in the workplace, otherwise known as ‘internships’.

Sue Baines

Sue Baines

Sue is concerned that the alignment of volunteering with work can reduce the richness it offers. She says: “I think that volunteering stands to be besmirched, or the perception of it, by the work agenda: the press has been full of accounts of ridiculous things like Scouts delivering public health.”

Both Sue and Irene believe there is a need to think differently about volunteering and to move away from the idea that volunteering is there to help in the delivery of public services. Instead they highlight that volunteering has an important role for fulfilling unmet needs outside of standard welfare service delivery. They point to the difference in approach towards volunteering in Wales which is much more focused around scrutinising authorities and organisations; or the development of the hospice movement in the UK. Initially set up by volunteers who spotted a gap in service provision for end-of-life care  and sought to fill it.

Author and academic Irene Hardill

Irene Hardill

Hardill says: “The unmet need is of course greater now than ever. New Labour put more emphasis on formal volunteering to map and measure what was going on in the country. But volunteering is also about being a good neighbour, about being involved in community groups. Really it’s just a messy form of any kind of unpaid work.”

Baines says: “I think it’s important to reemphasize the breadth and variety of volunteering – volunteers engage in the founding and running of organisations; people dip in and out with sports events etc., these days, but it’s all volunteering, it all counts.”

Hardill says: “What volunteering you do, how much, how often, why and what it means to you depends on where you are in life and on your personal circumstances. It can be an alternative to and supplement paid work; it makes you feel good, builds confidence and self-esteem.”

photo 4

Production Manager David Worth getting the job done

Policy Press staff involved in the day at St Mungo’s Broadway would certainly agree with the feel-good factor of getting involved in a hands on way with volunteering. Production Manager David Worth said: “I enjoyed the decorating day a lot and was amazed how so much can be achieved when everyone works together.”

IMG_0047 (EW)

Art work to brighten up the walls

Commissioning Editor, Victoria Pittman said: “I was so impressed to see the difference we could make in just one day! I hadn’t realised we would be able to do so much, so it was great that we could.”

You can find out more about the work St Mungo’s Broadway do in supporting homeless people by checking out their website here. If you would like to get involved there are a whole host of ways you can do so this winter, from supporting campaigns, texting donations, sending Christmas cards or attending a carol concert in Oxford through to giving some of your time in volunteering for them. Why not check out their website for more details?

If you’d like to read Irene Hardill and Susan Baines book ‘Enterprising Care? Unpaid voluntary action in the 21st century’ it is available at a 20% discount from the Policy Press website here.

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