Voluntary and community are fundamental to the modern democratic state of Ireland,in their role as service providers for community and individual welfare and wellbeing, most especially those vulnerable or disadvantaged (Harvey, 2012). The voluntary and community sectors have a long and well established history in Ireland, and originate in medical and welfare charities in the 18th century. In addition to providing social and allied services, voluntary and community organisations play an important civic role in society, where opportunities to volunteer have personal and altruistic benefits. This level of active civic engagement and social inclusion forms the basis of the chosen theoretical framework for the study, which utilised social capital theory to investigate volunteering processes, social situatedness and civic outcomes amongst Irish volunteers and host organisation representatives in South Tipperary, Ireland. Research underscores that all forms of social, human and cultural capital have positive associations with volunteering in the form of social connectivity, trust and reciprocity between individuals, groups and wider social networks, community embeddedness and sense of belonging, well-being and mutual resource acquisition relating to friendships, knowledge, skills and education. A mixed method research design which employed a sequential approach where qualitative interviews were undertaken with a convenience sample of volunteers (17 volunteers and 11 organisation representatives), with phenomenological findings used to inform the design of a social capital questionnaire, which could be used to measure the extent to which volunteering added to social capital by Volunteer Centres in Ireland. The questionnaire was administered via survey monkey to the Sales Force dashboard quota of the South Tipperary Volunteer Centre, with a usable sample of 71 volunteers obtained. The final summated scale of 16 indicators had a Cronbachs alpha of 0.86. A shift in personal and social definitions of volunteering were described in qualitative narratives, with informal volunteering increasingly replaced by structured, formalised and regulated volunteer placements. Volunteer experiences contributed to increased personal well-being and sense of purpose, development of friendships and meeting new people, identification with the volunteer activity and ethos of the relevant group or organisation, sense of ‘giving something back’ and serving a specified community need, providing work related experiences, justification of productivity in free time and opportunity for up-skilling. Integration of volunteers into the organisation’s workforce was dependent on length of time, intensity of interaction and scope of volunteer contributions. Power differentials and lack of trust between volunteers and staff, alongside lack of volunteer recognition were described. Some volunteers sought additional security and identification within the wider social volunteer network. Survey results indicated that enjoyment of volunteer participation and impact of volunteering in the community were important factors, with contribution to social capital were not influenced by age, gender, employment or relationship status. Contribution to social capital was influenced by educational status. The research reflected an emergent consumerist approach to volunteering and underscores the need to preserve existing informal social networks of community volunteers, alongside the development of more formalised work specific routes for volunteering in post economic boom Ireland. Further research is required to validate the social capital survey scale and to evaluate both the internal structure validity and dimensionality. However, the scale can be used by Volunteer Centres in Ireland and elsewhere in development planning, placement and administration of volunteering in communities and organisation.
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2012|
- Irish volunteering