October 3, 2018

Bojana Radovanović Volunteering, Activism and Social Engagement: Boundaries and Overlaps

Social engagement studies are in the research focus of the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory. In defining social engagement, our starting point is that it encompasses any collective practice that is characterized by a dual movement: 1) a reflection on existing social values, norms and rules of action, and 2) acting in the direction of their change or preservation.

Although there is no consensus in the literature on the definition of volunteering, most scholars perceive volunteering as an action when time, work, and expertise are voluntarily given for the benefit of another person, group, or for the common good. Activism entails activities that are oriented towards social change. Scholars of volunteering have traditionally excluding political voluntary actions, especially more contentious social movements and collective protest volunteering. However, both volunteering and activism are voluntary actions oriented toward or including another person or a group. Thus, many scholars today see activism as a form of volunteering.

This talk focuses on similarities and differences between volunteering, activism and social engagement.  Where are the boundaries and where are the overlaps between these three concepts? Under what conditions are volunteering and activism considered socially engaged? Are there social engagement beyond volunteering and activism?

Bojana Radovanović is a research associate at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory and a PhD candidate at the Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge. Her main areas of interests are philanthropic studies, ethics and development studies.

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