Towards an Alternative Paradigm

  • Colin Rochester


The first chapter of this book introduced two narrow paradigms or taken-for-granted and implicit assumptions about voluntary organisations and volunteering that constrain so much of the thinking about the theory and practice of voluntary action. The first of these — the voluntary organisation paradigm — assumed that voluntary organisations were formally constituted agencies with hierarchical structures, controlled by professional managers who oversaw the delivery of services by paid staff to one or more kinds of user or beneficiary. The second — the dominant paradigm in volunteering — assumed that volunteers undertook unpaid work that needed to be managed and that was carried out in large, formally structured service-providing agencies. Subsequent chapters have explained how these two accounts of voluntary action have become so influential and have exposed their limitations and the way they constrain our understanding of a much more complex reality. This chapter outlines an alternative paradigm of voluntary action. Rather than viewing voluntary organisations as bureaucratic instruments for the delivery of services and volunteers as auxiliary human resources that need to be professionally managed, it draws on the separate literatures of volunteering and the study of voluntary organisations to argue that the essence or ‘ideal type’ of voluntary action is found in the activities and behaviour of ‘unmanaged’ volunteers within non-bureaucratic organisational settings.


Voluntary Action Voluntary Organisation Unpaid Work Voluntary Agency Alternative Paradigm 
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Copyright information

© Colin Rochester 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Rochester
    • 1
  1. 1.BirkbeckUniversity of LondonUK

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