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Contributions in the arts

Josephine Burden (2000) conducted an action research project centered on a community theater in Australia. She learned through interviews that the women who volunteered their time to helping run this organization gained considerably from the series of skills-development and planning workshops that were conducted as part of the action research project. Her study demonstrated that research can be carried out such that its participants are empowered by this process. In conducting research involving volunteers, we need to seek out methods which facilitate both individual and community self-direction in volunteering.

In another action research project on the same theater group, Burden (2001) found that the women became able to formulate and express a number of strategies leading to increased effectiveness in organizational processes. One, they learned to designate particular volunteer roles within the group (e.g., convener, artistic director, secretary). Two, with respect to the overall aims and future plans of their theater, they learned to hold more discussion than they used to. Three, they learned to develop guidelines for new members and how to mentor them.

According to Anne Campbell (2009) the National Folk Festival (NFF) is a premier annual tourist event in Canberra, Australia. The NFF management team of six paid and six volunteer workers relies on more than 1,400 volunteers to provide the services required at this festival. Many of these are regular volunteers. Using an interpretive research perspective and a process of narrative inquiry, Campbell explored motives of a group of solo female “grey nomads” who were regular volunteers at the NFF as well as members of the solo grey nomads group. Her data suggested a number of key themes related to the motivation of this group of volunteers, themes that apply both to their membership in the solo grey nomads group and to volunteering at the NFF. These were the social benefits provided by the camaraderie and security that come with being part of a larger, supportive group; the self-esteem provided by being a valued participant in activities of the group; “insider enjoyment”; and pride in achievement.

In a subsequent study Campbell (2010) examined the Stock Camp, which is a regular attraction at the NFF. For ongoing popularity the Stock Camp relies heavily on the “authenticity” of its Australian food, bush entertainment, and “authentically Australian” volunteers. Using an auto-ethnographic approach Campbell explored the extent to which new Stock Camp volunteers are prepared to accept the social positioning imposed on them by the established Stock Camp volunteers. Findings from this study suggest that the social positioning of new Stock Camp volunteers imposes a strictly prescribed “authentic” Australian collective social identity, a gendered division of roles, and hierarchical power structures, all of which makes it difficult for new volunteers to accept the social positions enforced by their established colleagues. Inflexible positioning may be a barrier to further commitments to volunteer there.

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