Voluntary Sector Review
An international journal of third sector research, policy and practice

Long-term commitment to voluntary social work – the role of an autonomy-supportive work environment

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  • 1 Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), , Norway
  • | 2 Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), , Norway and Østfold University College, , Norway
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Across Europe, welfare systems are being challenged by demographic changes and increasing socioeconomic differences. Voluntary work has been suggested as part of the solution, but the retention of volunteers within non-profit organisations is increasingly problematic. For the study on which this article is based, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 volunteers at a cafe with a socially oriented profile, aimed at marginalised people in Oslo, Norway. The aim was to gain in-depth knowledge of long-term volunteers’ experiences at the organisation to better understand retention. Four main themes were identified through the analysis: fulfilment, the mastering of tasks, influence and belonging. These themes can be interpreted as being associated with the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness, postulated by self-determination theory. The study therefore provides insights into what factors are important in creating an autonomy-supportive work context to encourage volunteers’ longlasting commitment.

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  • 1 Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), , Norway
  • | 2 Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), , Norway and Østfold University College, , Norway

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