Tag Archives: Volunteering

The Helping Hand Through History

By Morag Rose, University of Sheffield

Samuel_Crompton_memorial_statue,_Bolton_-_geograph.org.uk_-_980458 (3)

Samuel Crompton memorial statue, Bolton. Image Credit: Kenneth Allen CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons

The impact of austerity, welfare cuts and the retreat of the state means voluntary organisations play an increasingly important role in the lives of many people. For example, The Trussell Trust have reported that use of food banks is at a record levels and the recently published UK Civil Society Almanac 2016 provides further evidence of the impact of the third sector. There are many important questions raised by this but in this post I will focus on volunteers. Individuals volunteer for many reasons, including altruism, and in turn often benefit from the experience of volunteering.

Francesca Moore offers a fascinating historical insight with  ‘” A Band of Public-Spirited Women”: Middle-Class Female Philanthropy and Citizenship in Bolton, Lancashire before 1918’, a paper recently published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.  Archive material contributes to her group biography of the eponymous women. Moore uses a Foucauldian analysis of power to consider what voluntary work meant for them and wider society. Philanthropy has moral, political, spiritual, philosophical, social and cultural dimensions, and she also explores what citizenship can mean for those without a vote or other legal rights.

The philanthropists Moore studies primarily focused on ‘poverty, child welfare, infant health, prostitution and drunkenness. These social issues were often understood at the time as a form of personal inadequacy, or moral failure, which rendered them solvable by behavioural change’ (2016: 153). This resonates with many current debates about entrenched inequality, unemployment and obesity amongst others.  After the Boer War (1899-1902) there were widespread concerns about falling birth rates and an unfit population so philanthropists fought for moral and physical health. A focus on children’s welfare illustrates a concern for the future not just of individuals but of the nation. Moore suggests ‘women philanthropists engaged in what could be termed race work through infant welfare clinics, improving the quality and vitality of the population…. Biopolitical concerns were addressed in a bottom-up fashion… (as) a biopolitical patriotism’. (2016:157). As a disabled person I am deeply concerned eugenics still lurks behind much contemporary rhetoric about welfare and we must beware of its pernicious influence.

It is clear class was an important constituent of the philanthropic relationship. The work the women engaged in was also profoundly gendered, being considered maternal and caring.  Such endeavours were one of many ways women challenged and transcended the divide between private and public spheres. The divide between “citizen” and “other” is also blurred and complex. Philanthropy demonstrated an ability to contribute to civic society and staked a claim for full citizenship. These women campaigned for, and influenced, social policy in many areas. Many of Moore’s sample were active in the Suffrage movement and their philanthropy was, at least in part, a way of demonstrating they had earned the vote. Moore’s study ends in 1918 when the First World War had changed the landscape and The Representation of The People Act gave women over 30 the right to vote. Today in Bolton something of the legacy of those “public-spirited women” lives on.  The Greater Manchester for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) profiles a thriving and diverse voluntary sector which continues to provide valuable support services to many people.

References

60-world2 GMCVO online at https://www.gmcvo.org.uk/

books_icon Moore, F. 2016 “A band of public-spirited women:” middle-class female philanthropy and citizenship in Bolton, Lancashire before 1918 in Transactions of The Institute of British Geographers 41 pp 149-162. doi: 10.1111/tran.12114

60-world2 NCVO 2016 UK Civic Society Almanac  online at https://data.ncvo.org.uk/

60-world2 The Trussell Trust online at https://www.trusselltrust.org/2016/04/15/foodbank-use-remains-record-high/

Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment #YWW15

By Sarah Mills, Loughborough University

Today marks the start of ‘National Youth Work Week’ (2nd – 8th November 2015). This annual event is a celebration of youth work and its achievements, but is also a time to reflect on some of the challenges across the youth work landscape. Paul Miller, interim Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency, stated at the event’s launch that:

“Youth Work Week is a time when people from every part of the sector can come together to celebrate and promote what youth workers do and the transformative contribution they are making to young people’s lives.” (NYA, 2015)

This was the case at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club in Manchester in the 1950s and 1960s, the focus of my recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. As part of a wider national post-war reconstruction effort for the organisation as a whole, one group in Manchester took a radical step of employing a professionally trained youth worker – Stanley Rowe (Figure 1). During his employment, Rowe completely revived and rejuvenated the Club and it became a crucially important space in the lives of hundreds of young people living in the city (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 1: Stanley Rowe at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Figure 2: Young people at the Jewish Lads’ Brigade & Club, Manchester. With kind permission from the University of Southampton

Rowe’s background in youth and community work inspired a new emphasis at the Club on young people’s ‘voice’ and they established their own Club Committee. Indeed, young people’s voice is a theme still very much on the political agenda, as both the theme for this year’s National Youth Work Week and the 2015 UN International Youth Day in relation to ‘youth civic engagement’.

In the article, I use the historical example of the JLB & C to make a series of wider arguments about youth work, volunteering and employment more broadly. Both Rowe and his voluntary base encouraged young people to volunteer in their local communities, both as a route to employment but also as a response to faith-based duty (although it is interesting to note that Rowe himself was non-Jewish). More importantly however, the paper considers some of the opportunities and tensions that arise between volunteers and employees when they work alongside one another, under the same remit here of providing a service to young people.

The current landscape of organised activities for young people outside of formal education in the UK is composed of diverse schemes funded and delivered by the state, voluntary organisations, charities, religious institutions, neighbourhoods, families or a combination thereof. Most of these spaces and schemes are sustained through a mix of paid and unpaid labour, with a complex relationship between volunteering and employment. Indeed, this dynamic has become increasingly politicised in the UK, for example in the provision of libraries and other public services. This paper emphasises some of the emotional challenges of volunteering and employment and the sheer volume of work involved in sustaining these types of spaces through holding them together in place.

Overall, this article explores the spatialities of informal education, drawing connections between the historical record and contemporary youth work practice.

About the Author:

Sarah Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Loughborough University.

References

books_icon Mills, S. (2015) Geographies of youth work, volunteering and employment: the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and Club in post-war Manchester, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40 (4): 523-535

60-world2 National Youth Agency (2015) ‘NYA launches Youth Work Week 2015’ Available at: http://www.nya.org.uk/supporting-youth-work/youth-work-week-2015/

60-world2 UN (2015) ‘2015 International Youth Day: Youth Civic Engagement’ Available at: http://www.un.org/en/events/youthday/

‘We Need You’: Geographies of Youth Voluntarism

 

Sarah Mills

Over the last month, many of the stands and activities available to new and returning students at University and College event fairs will have had a voluntary aspect. Most Universities run their own voluntary schemes/RAG and there are a host of corporate organisations looking to recruit student volunteers for a summer or year abroad, as well as local organisations and charities that try and recruit new students as volunteers. Volunteer recruitment and retention has been boosted this year by the 2011 European Year of Volunteering campaign.  However, in the UK, there remains a disjuncture between the role of voluntarism in the coalition government’s ‘big society’ vision and the realties of auserity cuts and their impact on communities and charities.  Indeed, these issues around voluntarism and the lifecourse have been highlighted in diverging opinions expressed at this week’s Conservative Party conference.

Two articles in October’s issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers reflect the increasing interest in the geographies of volunteering and youth voluntarism in particular. Volunteer tourism, gap years and charity work are playing a more central part in the student experience and geographers are examining these recent trends in terms of broader theorisations of youth identities, lifecourse transitions, globalisation and the ‘big society’.  In his Transactions paper, Andrew Jones (2011) draws on data with young people involved in a range of overseas volunteer placements as well as exploring how corporate recruiters understand “the value (or otherwise) of international volunteering” (p.530). Matt Baillie-Smith and Nina Laurie’s paper (2011) also examines the geographies of international volunteering but with a focus on citizenship, development imaginaries and neoliberal ideas of professionalisation. Indeed, their paper explores “discourses and practices of citizenship, professionalisation and partnership as they produce and are produced through contemporary international volunteering” (p.545). Both of these papers highlight how the complex spatialities of volunteering can illuminate broader economic and political processes, as well bringing young people firmly into the spotlight in a shifting landscape of voluntarism and philanthropy.

Read A. Jones (2011) Theorising international youth volunteering: training for global (corporate) work? Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36 (4): 530- 544

Read M. Baillie-Smith and N. Laurie (2011) International volunteering and development: global citizenship and neoliberal professionalisation today Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36 (4): 545-559

Read Conservative Party Conference 2011: Baby boom generation should do charity work says minister, Telegraph Online 4th October 2011

Explore European Year of Volunteering 2011

“Grandmentors”: volunteering to help young people

by Fiona Ferbrache

“Grandmentors” is a project supported by the “Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme” (RSVP) aimed as bringing young people and older adults together.  It is based on the belief that the skills and experiences of over-50s could be used to help young people from difficult backgrounds to negotiate the transition into adulthood.  The project is designed to mirror the grandparent-grandchild relationship.

A recent article in The Times (Bannerman, 2011) illustrates how the project has enhanced the lives of two people meeting on a weekly basis.  While the younger of the two has received help from her mentor in terms of thinking about her future career, the pair provide one another friendship and have been exploring London’s attractions together.  There are plans to extend the Grandmentoring scheme over a period of three years and Manchester Metropolitan University is supporting it with a research programme (MMU, 2010).

This scheme highlights a sensitivity towards young people’s everyday lives and values, as does the work of Hopkins and Alexander (2010) who, in a special edition of Area, argue for a stronger research focus on young people’s geographies in future research.  Their article is concerned with the ways in which young people’s experiences and perceptions can be written into significant areas of geography: (i) politics and critical geopolitics: (ii) migration, mobility and asylum: (iii) nations and nationhood.  The articles contained in Area’s special issue pertain to these geographies.  Thus, in academic and political terms, young people’s lives appear to be receiving greater attention.

Bannerman, L. (2011) Adulthood: it’s so much easier with a bit of help from someone who knows it well.  The Times. 01 January, 2011 pp.30

Hopkins, P. and Alexander, C. (2010) Politics, mobility and nationhood: upscaling young people’s geographies: introduction to Special Section.  Area. 42.2. pp.142-144

MMU (2010) Can grandparents mentor teenagers? 15 June, 2010