Published: January 2019
Author(s): Jesse Heley, Laura Jones, Sophie Yarker

This paper addresses the emergence of microvolunteering as a conceptual and practical phenomenon, as well as one which policy makers must engage with in a careful and critical fashion. Taking a lead from Smith et al. [2010. “Enlivened Geographies of Volunteering: Situated, Embodied and Emotional Practices of Voluntary Action.” Scottish Geographical Journal 126: 258–274] who specify a need to extend our analyses beyond the formal organizational spaces of volunteering, we consider the potential impact of micro-volunteering on changing patterns of civic participation over the next decade or two. With particular reference to policy ambitions and transformations in the UK, but with reference to broader international trends also, we set out how microvolunteering is being variously defined and appropriated as a means of addressing structural barriers to “traditional” volunteering. Drawing on a range of practical examples we consider how microvolunteering potentially alters the relationship between volunteering, community and identity, as well as relates to the parallel notion of “slacktivism”. Set against both positive and negative accounts of microvolunteering within the broader media, we advocate caution to policy makers looking to implement such activities, and particularly in respect to what microvolunteering can realistically achieve.

Keywords
Volunteering, microvolunteering, slacktivism, online, charity, third sector, fourth sector, public sector