Voluntary Sector Review, 9(1) pp 21-38
In this article we discuss findings from our ethnography investigating how volunteering in local associational life is changing, asking whether structural factors fixed in localities remain important or whether, as others have suggested, volunteering is becoming disembedded from place. Across two locations, we observe how situational variables, including belonging, identification and interaction, remain important determinants of volunteering, and how the relationship between people and their localities has distinct meanings. In one locality, people participated as volunteers because they had a strong sense of belonging; in the other, they often volunteered because they wanted to belong. We find that local voluntary association is important in forming bridges between people in ‘places’ and wider society, but that differing notions of belonging mean that localities are not equally situated to operate as effective conduits. We conclude that understanding these dynamics is important for outside agencies in delivering support and public services.