Ethnicity and volunteering

Just had a really interesting meeting with Susie Rabin from The Commission on The Voluntary Sector and Ageing They have been working on ageing and the future of the voluntary sector. We were able to discuss potential connection points with our quantitative work, and contemporary and retrospective accounts of voluntarism by Mass Observation writers. We were particularly interested in work that the Commission might be undertaking on demographic change in BME communities. 

On our Longitudinal Volunteering Project we have been frustrated that our data hasn’t provided much information on the relationship between voluntarism and ethnic identity. There have been poor response rates to key questions in the BHPS, so we have been unable to identify any longitudinal correlation between voluntarism and ethnicity in our quantitative data. When sampling our Mass Observation writers, we had no access to information on writers’ ethnic identity identities. We were only able to get at this information from reading individual responses to the 2006 Core British Values, and the 2010 Belonging, directives. We have found that most of our sampled writers identify as white British. Therefore we don’t have a lot of longitudinal information on individuals who identify as being part of black or minority ethnic communities.  So we don’t have data on this issue.

Nevertheless, one of our interests has been in the growth of BME communities in the UK, and how this demographic change might affect the voluntary sector, not just in terms of service provision, but in terms of BME communities’ engagement with the sector as volunteers in the future. Existing literature tells us that BME communities tend to do their volunteering within their communities. Will we see more community based activism and voluntarism within this particular demographic group? Are BME communities the Big Society of the future?

Some of the work of The Commission on The Voluntary Sector and Ageing will focus on ageing in BME communities over the next 20 years. It looks like fascinating stuff. We pointed Susie in the direction of the TSRC website which has some good working papers on BME communities; see for example working paper 103, and 58.


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