Eased Transitions? Young Volunteers’ Perceptions of What They Gain From Volunteering in Areas of Socio-Economic Deprivation

  • James Davies, University of Strathclyde

Youth volunteering initiatives are often promoted on the basis that participation will help young people make transitions in their lives. The UK-wide Millennium Volunteers initiative, for example, used the strapline ‘MV for your CV’ while the Scottish Saltire Awards state volunteering ‘look[s] great on your CV’.

These individualistic approaches are characteristic of a broader trend encouraging young people to take control of their futures by acquiring experiences to ease transitions into education or employment. Approaching volunteering in this way, however, is argued to be more readily accessible by those from affluent backgrounds, thus potentially disadvantaging those with fewer resources.

This paper presents findings from my PhD research into young people’s attitudes and experiences of volunteering in areas of socio-economic deprivation. The paper draws on focus groups and semi-structured interviews with young volunteers, aged twelve to eighteen, and semi-structured interviews with volunteer coordinators. It argues that few of the participants reported volunteering on the basis that doing so would help build their biographies or ease future transitions. Rather, interviewees highlighted a strong social aspect to their volunteering and emphasised the positive relationships they formed with staff, other volunteers and service users.

Despite not seeking to develop skills that might aid transitions, a number of participants described how volunteering had built up their confidence such that they could perform leadership roles and talk to strangers. Thus, while participants by and large did not describe volunteering in terms of making transitions, many of the factors they gained through it had the potential to ease such process.



James Davies is a social policy PhD student at the University of Strathclyde. His research focuses on young people’s attitudes and experiences of volunteering in areas of socio-economic deprivation. His PhD is part funded by Volunteer Scotland with whom he has been working with to develop his research.

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