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An international conference: Contemporary European Perspectives on Volunteering

The international conference Contemporary European Perspectives on Volunteering at Ersta Sköndal Högskola, Stockholm, 10-12 September 2008, was organized as a part of the CINEFOGO Network of Excellence. Several European researchers joined the conference in the aim to further investigate the current trends with respect to volunteering and social activism in Europe.

Three plenary speeches were held. Paul Dekker from Amsterdam University, the Netherlands, presented civic virtues as a third perspective on volunteering, Lesley Hunstinx from the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, presented the concept of ‘institutionally individualized volunteering’ and Marilyn Taylor from the University of the West of England, Bristol, United Kingdom presented NGO participation in new governance spaces. Plenary presentations and all of workshop papers are available to download from the CINEFOGO outcomes database: Dekker concluded on the basis of an empirical study that obeying laws and regulations and trying to understand other people are a central civic virtue for most people. Moreover, the importance of voting is also acknowledged, but stronger activities in politics are not a civic virtue for most people. If people are free to formulate their civic virtues respecting other people and helping them, it seems to support more (informal) helping others than organizational activities, and politics is evidently not an issue for the large majority. He emphasized that the impact of motives for volunteering often remains unclear and that it differ between more selfish reasons and more altruistic reasons. Hunstinx presented the concept of ‘Institutionally Individualized Volunteering’ to further the understanding of how present-day volunteers become intertwined with their institutional environment in a more complex and contingent way. In order to understand the emerging forms of volunteering, she suggested that the institutionalization of individualized volunteering occurs through ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ processes of re-structuring. As she argued: “primary processes of change, both structurally and culturally, are generally perceived to undermine volunteering ‘from within’ and are established and maintained at considerable efforts and costs to the organization. Secondary processes of change, however, pose more fundamental threats in that they challenge the boundaries of what is generally perceived as volunteering”. Marilyn Taylor presented a research that studied NGO participation across four countries (Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Wales and the United Kingdom) in ‘new governance spaces’, which means new opportunities for non-governmental actors to work alongside the State. The primary aim was to examine how organisations negotiate these spaces – particularly the factors that allowed participants to retain a sense of independent agency and autonomy and, drawing on govern mentality theory, to be ‘active subjects’. She explained that the research suggests that context matters when it comes to trends in volunteering and activism. For example, she said: “it would seem that the strongest sense of independent agency was to be found in Nicaragua – albeit constrained by political polarisation of clientelism – where NGOs have taken the initiative to organise their own spaces and where the state is highly dependent on NGOs to deliver welfare. The least was in Bulgaria, with the UK in between”. Source web:


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom