The rewards of individual engagement in volunteering: a missing dimension of the Big Society
This paper examines the experience of volunteering in relation to the latent functions of paid work identified by social psychologists. In-depth interviews with fourteen volunteers illustrate the considerable rewards of volunteering, especially in terms of personal status and identity. The common rewards of volunteering and employment challenge the traditional dichotomy between paid and unpaid work. However, the experience of volunteering is context specific, and for some the lack of material benefits will limit its ability to substitute for employment. The promotion of volunteering within the UK Big Society policy could acknowledge its personal benefits, while being mindful that their ability to contribute to a satisfying life is moderated by the individual’s circumstances and attitude towards the opportunities volunteering offers. Keywords: volunteer, reward, Big Society, latent functions of paid work
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