Exerpt from ‘Young People and the “Big Society”‘ on the site Ourkingdom- power and liberty in Briton.
Although altruism remains an essential motivation, under these kinds of ‘careerist volunteering’ schemes it is clear that young people are being encouraged to work for charities and other organisations and businesses to improve their own life-chances. But the extent to which voluntary and other charitable organisations, together with businesses, will be able to meet the growing demand for volunteering opportunities that are both worthwhile to communities and of positive benefit to young people involved is open to question. Cuts in funding will undoubtedly have implications for the ability of those organisations seeking to fill the void left by a state. Lack of opportunities or poor quality experiences could mean volunteering fails to meet aspirations with a detrimental effect on young people’s attitudes towards the Big Society.
There is evidence of a growing dependence of the voluntary sector on unpaid or poorly paid volunteers. This expansion blurs the lines between those who volunteer and those who undertake internships for personal gain. This has implications for our understanding of youth citizenship. Whilst volunteers might be paid some costs, they give their time freely and are unpaid. Interns are more difficult to categorise, often being considered as ‘voluntary workers’ gaining work experience. If young people are paid, then the extent to which such contributions can be considered ‘volunteering’ is debatable. The incentivisation of ‘volunteering’ undermines the altruistic motivations of citizens who are prepared to give their time for free. It also raises questions about the commercialisation and consumerisation of citizenship as young people increasingly expect rewards for their time and efforts, and often associate the act of volunteering with the third sector or private business rather than the state.
Read the whole article by Andy Mycock.