Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Beyond Choice: ‘Thick’ Volunteering and the Case of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

By Michelle O'Toole (Robert Gordon University) & Christopher Grey

We usually think of voluntary work as simply a matter of choice. But this detailed study of volunteers at the RNLI shows how it can be embedded in a dense web of social obligations such as family, community and history, with generations of families in particular communities serving in lifeboats. For the crews it is also about the bonds formed by this often very dangerous work, which can be emotionally charged when those rescued are their friends and relations. The paper proposes the concept of ‘thick volunteering’ to explain how voluntary work of this sort may be highly meaningful, and not reducible to individual altruism.

O'Toole, M., & Grey, C. (2015). Beyond Choice: 'Thick' Volunteering and the case of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Human Relations. (Forthcoming: in-press at time of this post)

Links: Open access version