Volunteerism and Working with Volunteers
Volunteerism and ActivismAynur Erdoğan Coşkun
The view in contemporary societies that citizens must be actively involved in the decision-making mechanisms for the better functioning of democracy is seen to be more and more accepted with each passing day. Whether informally or formally, organizationally or individually, citizens need to take the initiative in order to prosperously arrange the social and political life on an equal and free basis. Volunteerism and activism support active citizenship in different ways. Nevertheless, these two concepts are often handled in a completely different context both in the social science literature as well as in everyday language. This is because the profiles of volunteers and activists are thought to differ in terms of their fields of activity and their purposes. The common meaning of volunteering is to provide services to better social life in fields such, as poverty and education while the meaning of activism is to engage in a political struggle to democratize the political sphere. If so, then do these two concepts/ phenomena clearly differ from one another? Have these two concepts/phenomena converged in any way with the changes in today’s democratic processes and practices? Do the historically ascribed meanings allow the differences between them to disappear? This chapter describes the framework of the meaning that volunteerism and activism express in contemporary society and will additionally show the relationship civil society as volunteerism’s main field of activity has with social movements as activism’s field of activity and evaluate the sociological and theoretical similarities and differences of volunteerism and activism.