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What are the prospects for a significant increase in the levels of volunteering among the population? Governments and voluntary organisations themselves are all in agreement that the shrinkage of the state will require more people to step up to the plate. But there is long-term stability in voluntary action and signs of upward movement have been shortlived at best.

 John Mohan and Rose Lindsey (University of Southampton) have published a major research monograph on Continuity and change in voluntary action: patterns, trends and understandings (Policy Press), a mixed-methods study of change (or rather the lack of it, despite great expectations) in volunteering in recent times. It draws on rich qualitative material gathered by Mass Observation. It was published in Volunteers Week in early June and was featured in Third Sector, The Conversation, and Policy Press’s own website. The key insights are that in hard economic times, when people face changing working patterns, are struggling financially, and in many cases have significant caring responsibilities, they need a compelling narrative (not negative messages of austerity-driven necessity) and they need to be able to fit voluntary action around busy and complex lives.