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More Than a ‘Little Act of Kindness’? Towards a Typology of Volunteering as Unpaid Work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1239-1256
Number of pages18
Issue number6
Early online date1 Feb 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Jan 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2017
DatePublished (current) - Dec 2017


Definitions of volunteering are widespread and complex, yet relatively little attention is given to volunteering as unpaid work, even though it intersects with the worlds of paid employment and the domestic sphere, cutting across individual/collective and public/private spaces. This article advances a typology of volunteering work (altruistic, instrumental, militant and forced volunteering/‘voluntolding’) that illuminates the complexity and dynamism of volunteering. Using qualitative data from a study of 30 volunteers to explore practices of volunteering as they unfold in daily life, the typology provides much-needed conceptual building blocks for a theory of ‘volunteering as unpaid work’. This perspective helps transcend the binaries prevalent in the sociology of work and provides a lens to rethink what counts as work in contemporary society. It also invites further research about the effects of ‘voluntolding’ on individuals and society, and on the complex relationship between volunteering work and outcomes at a personal and collective level.

    Research areas

  • altruism, collectivism, individualism, sociology of work, volunteering, ‘voluntolding’, unpaid work

    Structured keywords

  • MGMT Work Organisation and Public Policy
  • MGMT theme Inclusive Economy

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    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Sage at . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 206 KB, PDF document


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