The Invention of Voluntary Work and its Consequences

  • Colin Rochester


The creation and acceptance of the idea of a sector as a means of categorising and giving meaning to the organisations involved in voluntary action has been accompanied by a similar but less remarked process through which voluntary action by individuals has come to be seen as ‘voluntary work’. While the phrase itself has by no means attained the currency of the sector metaphor, it has had a powerful impact on the way in which volunteering has been perceived, discussed and promoted. This chapter explores the roots of this perspective, discusses its implications and assesses its impact. It traces the modern usage of ‘voluntary work’ back to the influential Ayes Committee’s report on The Voluntary Worker in the Social Services, published in 1969, and explores the way it has permeated the ideas and practices of volunteer-involving organisations, volunteering infrastructure organisations and the academic study of volunteering as well as shaping a series of policy initiatives by successive governments aimed at promoting volunteering.


Voluntary Action Voluntary Work Dominant Paradigm Successive Government Professional Social Worker 
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Copyright information

© Colin Rochester 2013

Authors and Affiliations

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

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