There is a view that human sociality is underpinned by co-operation and inter-dependenceas well as competition; we exist in a system of expectations and obligations. From this perspective, volunteering is related to concepts of power and gift exchange. My research takes a critical, ethnographic approach to explore volunteering at one particular university in the North East of England and its relationships with communities and voluntary organisations in the region. I combine gift exchange with grounded theory to gain fresh perspectives about the complex nature of UK Higher Education volunteering, and to identify gaps that exist between narratives of volunteering ‘on the ground’ and the top-down rhetoric of institutions
and policy makers.
In this paper, I focus on some of the different voices and perceptions of university managers, volunteers, and community organisations, asking why this institution has been described as “in the County but not of the County”?
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