Evidens og Frivillighed

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Maja Natacha Neerbek
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
Abstract This thesis will explore how the trends towards more evidence-based social work practice and demands for more methods, more documentation, more evaluations, standardization and output management is affecting the volunteer social work. In examining this issue, the following questions will be answered in the course of this thesis: How have these new trends spread to the volunteer sector? Which paradigmatic collisions can arise between these trends and the voluntary sector? How can these trends affect the volunteer social work? How can we move forward in a direction, where the volunteer social work preserve its characteristics and still interact with its surroundings? These questions will help answer the main problem: Which dilemmas do the voluntary social organisations find themselves in, in consequence of the new trends? The thesis is based on the premise that these new trends can alter essentially that, which characterizes the voluntary social work – and that this alteration is not necessarily for the better. The thesis is based on an empirical, qualitative interview study, rooted in a hermeneutical approach to the theory of science. The empirical analysis consists of 8 interviews with actors within the volunteer sector and in the immediate surroundings of it. This analysis is expounded with the use of different theoretical analysis, with the main weight on theorists like Gadamer, Lévinas, Bauman and Weber, who all offer criticism to the new trends. The thesis is therefore not presuming to be an unbiased analysis, but is on the contrary a critic view on the new trends. The results of the analysis indicate that the volunteer social sector and some of the actors around the sector have several concerns about these new trends. They fear that these tendencies will cause essential changes for the sector, such as greater top-down management, more market like management, more emphasis on effectiveness and output and less independence for the sector. This they fear will affect the characteristics, that are special for the sector, and which contribute to the sectors popularity with government, users as well as volunteers. These characteristics are especially emphasized to be: a particular relation between the users and the volunteers, based on trust, individuality and reciprocity; producer of social capital and democracy; the role of critic and adversary of the public system; and the role of pioneer in social work. In these changes I find two main challenges: the risk of a value crisis and the risk of a legitimacy crisis. The value crisis arises if the sector changes from the original value-rational action and values of a unique relation between user and volunteer, to an instrumental rational action, where the meeting with the user is characterized by standardized methods, demands on efficiency, bureaucracy and seeing sameness in stead of otherness – and thereby transforming the personal responsibility into the technical. This development can result in the sector loosing its values, the very things of which it has been praised. The legitimacy crisis are closely connected with this, as the sector can be exposed to a legitimacy crisis if the new trends undermines the very values, that makes the users use the voluntary organizations, and makes the volunteers volunteer. On the other hand if the sector does not follow the new trends and demands, it can loose resources, status and power of penetration in the public. The interviewed actors have several relevant suggestions as to how we can move forward. They propose for instance dialogue, the formulation of specific values for the sector and alternative visions for the future, new forms of organization, continued struggle for independency and new forms of financing. The overall conclusion is, that it is necessary to take steps to prevent the new trends from undermining the voluntary social sector, otherwise it will take on another form, and in stead of being alternative, pioneer and critic of the state, it will become more like a service supplier and contractor for the state, and its methods will be shaped more along market lines.
Publication date2008
Number of pages105
Publishing institutionKandidatuddannelsen i Socialt Arbejde
ID: 13934591