Personal agency and public recognition in women's volunteering

does the organisation make a difference?

Rosemary Leonard, Ailsa Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Two different images of volunteering have been proposed. The first focuses on formal volunteering, that is volunteering through a third-sector organisation, and emphasises the free-choice nature of voluntary work, the public nature of the work and the high degree of personal agency involved. By contrast, the second image of volunteering treats all unpaid work, other than political lobbying, as probably exploitative, lacking in public recognition and voluntary in name only. The issue of whether the organisation makes a difference was explored in fifty-four life-review interviews with mid-life and older women. Women's formal and informal volunteering was explored within the dimensions of agency and public recognition. The results supported the proposition that in general high agency, highly public activities were associated with formal volunteering and low agency, private activities were associated with informal volunteering. While many formal activities, however, were limited in their public exposure they still differed from informal activities in that they often networked people who would not otherwise have contact. Formal voluntary activities also varied in the degree of agency exhibited. The discussion addresses the potential of community organisations to increase social capital and the status of women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian journal on volunteering
Volume8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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