A special “class reunion”
In 2013, it was important to the new management of the SSCG to share the SSCG’s knowledge in the field of volunteering with other organizations and to have a lively exchange with the other actors in Switzerland. Thus, the idea of a conference on current topics in volunteering was born. Many of the 150-200 guests have been coming to the annual SSCG conference since 2015. At the conference, people meet who do research on volunteer work or who coordinate and accompany volunteers in organizations and institutions. Because you see some faces again at every conference, the atmosphere is often as familiar as at a class reunion.
In the following folders there are detailed reports about the annual conferences. The topics of the conferences were:
- 2022: Commitment for the over-65s
- 2021: Trisectoral promotion of local volunteering by the state, civil society and business.
- 2020: Volunteer management and volunteer coordination.
- 2019: Informal volunteering and neighborhood support outside organizations and associations
- 2018: The role and importance of civil society in France, Germany and Switzerland
- 2017: The changing nature of Community spirit and Common Sense
- 2016: The potential of the not-yet-volunteers
- 2015: How fit is the social cement? Volunteering and social cohesion
2021: 7th SSCG Conference on Volunteering (May 6, 2021, online via Zoom)
When communities, associations and businesses work together
Nearly 200 people accepted SSCG’s invitation to the Volunteerism Conference to delve deeper into the topic of tri-sectoral volunteerism promotion. At the meeting, which had to be held online via Zoom due to the Covid pandemic, stakeholders from all three sectors (government, business and civil society) shared their concrete experiences in sectoral cooperation. Participants were given a first overview of the pilot project “local engagement”, which is supported by the SSCG and 14 other organizations. Ten selected locations and regions in Switzerland will be supported for three years in the development of a tri-sectoral strategy for the promotion of local volunteering. Governmental, economic and civil society actors in the ten locations cooperate on an equal footing, assume joint responsibility and bring their own strengths and specificities to the joint promotion of local volunteering.
Lukas Niederberger, director of the SSCG and initiator of the “local engagement” project, opened the conference by presenting a survey on the state of mind of cross-sectoral cooperation in Switzerland.
A small survey of 360 professionals gave the following results:
- 80% are convinced that civil society actors (associations, NGOs, aid agencies) receive more ideational, financial or structural support through tri-sectoral cooperation.
- 77% believe that state actors (municipalities, cities and regions) strengthen their links with civil society through tri-sectoral cooperation.
- 74% believe that tri-sectoral cooperation strengthens citizens’ participation in community tasks.
- 71% believe that economic actors (local SMEs, professional associations) improve their corporate image through tri-sectoral cooperation.
- 69% are convinced that the tri-sectoral promotion of local volunteering strengthens social cohesion.
- 68% believe that the promotion of cross-sectoral cooperation requires a fundamentally new attitude and culture among stakeholders.
- 66% believe that civil society actors see their commitment better recognized through tri-sectoral cooperation.
- 63% believe that economic actors gain proximity to civil society through tri-sectoral cooperation.
- 63% believe that civil society actors reach more people through tri-sectoral cooperation to attract volunteers.
- 61% believe that new working processes are needed in tri-sectoral cooperation, as actors from the state, the economy and civil society act with different action logics and decision-making processes.
- 59% think that voluntary work is more appreciated through tri-sectoral promotion.
- 52% believe that other societal challenges can also be addressed through tri-sectoral cooperation.
Ruedi Schneider, head of the “local engagement” project, then presented the background and objectives of the project. In a brief interim report, Anke Kaschlik (ZHAW) presented the current status of the scientific and professional monitoring of the project. On the basis of a national survey, Ms. Kaschlik cited the greatest challenges of volunteering:
- Willingness to commit (long-term)
- Individualization of leisure time behavior
- Loss of local relationship structures
- Lack of time
- Connecting volunteers and organizations
- Accompaniment, support and appreciation of volunteers
- Lack of appreciation for unpaid work in an economy-driven society
- Recruitment and participation of less integrated individuals and groups
Isabelle Denzler, city councillor of Eschlikon, and Jean-Luc Kühnis, member of the board of freiwillig@kloten, presented their experiences from the point of view of the state and civil society and were able to show, with the help of concrete examples, how the promotion of local volunteering by sector is successfully implemented. Social entrepreneur Lynn Blattmann called on government and civil society actors to open up to collaboration with the business community. Short video messages from Sion, Mendrisio and the Upper Engadine gave participants an insight into the work of the participating localities and regions of the “local engagement” project during the conference. In three breakout sessions, participants also had the opportunity to exchange views on the presentations and to network.
In a panel discussion moderated by conference moderator Maria-Victoria Haas, Anke Kaschlik (ZHAW), Lynn Blattmann (Lynno GmbH), Lisa Mazzone (State Councillor of the Canton of Geneva), Christine Spanninger (from the project “Engagierte Stadt” in Germany) and Ruedi Schneider (project “engagement-local”) discussed the current difficult situation for the promotion of volunteering as a result of Covid. The experiences of the tri-sectoral project “Engagierte Stadt” from Germany were also presented and lively discussions took place. The participants agreed that cross-sectoral cooperation is not only effective in the field of volunteering, but would be an ideal approach to solving social challenges in general.
2020: 6th SSCG Conference on Volunteering (September 3, 2020 in Bern)
Management and coordination of volunteers
SSCG President Jean-Daniel Gerber welcomed more than 140 guests to the Kursaal in Bern before sociologist Markus Lamprecht presented some aspects of the Swiss Volunteer Observatory 2020. For the first time, the Observatory has also been published in French and can be downloaded free of charge from the SSCG website and from the Seismo publishing house. In his presentation, Lamprecht refuted four common assertions about volunteering: volunteers are constantly decreasing; volunteers are increasingly being paid; material compensation is becoming more and more of a motivating factor for volunteering; and the potential of volunteers is limited.
Stefan Güntert, lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), showed how the recruitment and supervision, support and appreciation of unpaid volunteers differ from the supervision of paid employees. Because volunteers have a strong need for autonomy, community, and skill expansion, sensitive management of diversity, participation, values, conflict, and incentives, as well as demonstrating the impact of volunteer work, are particularly important in volunteer management.
SSCG Director Lukas Niederberger introduced the topic of volunteer management by presenting the results of a small survey of 328 professionals in the volunteer sector. The figures for volunteer organizations in French-speaking Switzerland are shown in brackets:
- 72% (87%) have a professional volunteer coordination;
- 64% (77%) have a concept for volunteering;
- 73% (81%) integrate volunteering in their organizational strategy;
- 60% (74%) have a volunteer agreement with volunteers.
This small SSCG survey revealed three additional findings regarding volunteer management:
– Matching volunteers to beneficiaries, organizing meaningful tasks, and recognizing and valuing volunteers are the most important elements;
- Annual lunches, training opportunities and expense reimbursements contribute most to volunteer appreciation;
- New volunteers are mainly recruited by other volunteers and by the organizations’ employees, as well as by the volunteers’ relatives and friends, and less by television, radio and press, by the volunteers’ employers and by public actors (municipalities and schools).
In five workshops, professionals presented reports on volunteer management in different areas: in the sport and culture sector, in the health and aging sector, in the socio-political sector and in the youth sector. The workshops also included discussions on the integration of volunteering in the strategy of organizations. In organizations across all sectors, volunteers want to be addressed personally, to contribute their interests and skills, to be given flexibility of time, to expand their skills, to be taken seriously and to be valued.
The fact that the meeting had to be postponed from June to September because of Corona had the advantage that the last part of the meeting was dedicated to the topic “Volunteering in the Corona crisis”. Stefan Güntert presented the first figures of an ongoing survey of 135 voluntary organizations by the FHNW:
- 85% of the activities had to be interrupted because of the Covid pandemic rules;
- 62% of volunteers belonged to a risk group and had to terminate their mission;
- 21% of organizations experienced a decrease in demand for their services.
- 48% of organizations took on new tasks during the Corona period.
Konstantin Kehl then presented the first results of a ZHAW survey of 200 organizations in the German-speaking part of Switzerland: The public attention and audience of NGOs increased in politics and business during the Corona pandemic. In addition, most civil society organizations, such as businesses and schools, received a digitalization boost thanks to Corona.
The conference ended with a discussion on online volunteer placement during the Corona containment: Baptiste Udriot from “suisseresponsable.ch”, Vivien Jobé from “hilf-jetzt. ch” and Maximiliane Basile from “Five up” agreed that in the future, the federal government and the cantons should not only prepare for crises with sufficient respirators, protective masks and disinfectants, but also with digital tools to reach the population quickly and efficiently and to coordinate aid.
2019: 5th SSCG Conference on Volunteering (June 13, 2019, in St. Gallen)
Informal volunteering and social belonging
130 people attended the 5th SSCG conference on volunteering, this time on the importance of volunteers outside associations and organizations. These commitments have so far been the subject of less scientific research than commitment in organizations, clubs and associations. In recent years, neighborhood solidarity has been increasingly perceived by politicians and the national economy as a building block for social cohesion, as a miracle cure for integration, as a relief for families in caring for relatives, as the basis for a “caring community” and as a framework for a life-long home life. The two speakers, Dr. Doris Rosenkranz (Nuremberg University of Technology) and Dr. Sibylle Studer (Interface Politikstudien, Lucerne), came to the conclusion independently of each other that neighborhoods can only provide subsidiary support to family, circles of friends and public and economic services. And that they need community and public support. Communities and the public can and should promote volunteerism and community help by making these commitments visible, by informing about them, by creating framework conditions and simple meeting places, and by enabling the online networking of people in need and those who help.
Doris Rosenkranz talked about her survey in Nuremberg about neighborhood help and surprised the participants with many of the results of her study:
- Neighborhood satisfaction is independent of the depth of contact with neighbors;
- Low contact with neighbors is mainly due to a lack of contact opportunities;
- Formal and informal volunteering is higher in neighborhoods with families and high housing attachment than in socially distressed neighborhoods or neighborhoods with many single households;
- People are more willing to help others than to accept help from others and let them into their homes;
- Support in daily life is mainly provided by friends outside and in the neighborhood;
- Most prefer to be helped by family and friends rather than neighbors;
- 33% of the very old are supported by neighbors, compared to only 18% of 18-44 year olds;
- The lower the threshold for neighborhood assistance, the more common it is. The most common form of assistance is accepting packages, the least common is filling out forms or accompanying people to doctors and authorities. Help with homework, tutoring, housework and babysitting are also less desired.
- In the case of formal volunteering in organizations, it is important for both active and potential volunteers that the work is interesting, that it is easy to leave, that the activity is not time-consuming and that the time commitment is clearly defined.
- In the case of informal volunteering outside of organizations, it is important for both active and potential volunteers in and outside of the neighborhood that the time commitment is manageable, that the relationship with neighbors is good, and that the commitment to help is not permanent.
Sibylle Studer then presented the interim results of her ongoing study on the contribution of informal volunteering to the integration of disadvantaged population groups in Switzerland. She emphasized the importance of informal volunteering, especially for mental-emotional and subjective integration, which forms the basis for measures of objectively perceived integration. At the same time, she spoke of formal and informal help as two poles of a continuum and posed the question of how to promote informal forms of volunteering without formalizing them. Interviews with many experts and stakeholders revealed the following trends: The more formal a form of assistance is, the more focused it is and the more protected from negative effects the people involved are. And the more informal the assistance, the more likely it is to be perceived as authentic and holistic. Sibylle Studer argued that informal volunteer work and caregiving should not be separated according to sociological terminology, especially when it comes to caring for less integrated individuals and groups. Since the transition between intrafamily and extrafamily engagement is fluid, especially in the case of groups with a migrant background, it is often more realistic to speak of various forms of private engagement for third parties.
2018: 4th SSCG conference on volunteering (June 7, 2018, in Yverdon-les-Bains)
Discovering civil society – with our neighbors
Over 100 people discussed the role of civil society in France, Germany and Switzerland at the SSCG conference in Yverdon. Most of the participants are involved in civil society organizations or are active in civil society on a voluntary basis. But political representatives were also interested in learning more about civil society in the various countries, such as the Ticino State Councillor Manuel Bertoli. Precisely because the state and civil society cannot be clearly separated in Switzerland due to the sovereignty of the people and the militia system, there is no political debate or strategy concerning civil society. Therefore, experts from France and Germany were invited to speak about the anchoring of civil society engagement in the politics and economy of our neighboring countries.
In the run-up to the conference, 211 German-speaking and 32 French-speaking experts from Switzerland answered 7 questions on the role of civil society (the figures for German-speaking Switzerland in quotation marks).
- Should civil society (associations, foundations, NPOs, NGOs, churches) take on more tasks when the state cuts back?
38.7% (52%) YES
61.3% (48%) NO
- Should civil society take on more tasks when families and relatives are overwhelmed by the care they provide to their loved ones?
42% (68%) YES
0% (7.5%) No, individuals should take on more responsibility.
58% (24.5%) No, the state should intervene
- Should employers make working hours more flexible so that employees can more easily take on civil society and private care duties?
93.5% (97%) YES
6.5% (3%) NO
- Should the state give more weight to civil society in issues related to social coexistence (spatial planning, home care, integration of migrants, etc.)?
100% (83%) YES
0% (17%) NO
- Should the state coordinate the activities of civil society (care, integration, culture)?
13% (21%) Yes, associations and individuals often lack resources and skills.
42% (41%) Yes, this is an appreciation of the commitment of civil society
45% (38%) No, civil society is organized as a partner of the state.
- What measures should be taken to strengthen civil society in Switzerland?
25% (33%) The state needs clear strategies for cooperation.
25% (27%) Civil society communicates its contribution to the common good more clearly.
31% (29%) Civil society promotes a new social contract.
19% (11%) Other: Thematization in schools, tax benefits, etc.
- Do you notice any differences between German-speaking and Latin Switzerland in the way civil society sees itself and its relationship to the state?
70% (66%) YES
30% (34%) NO
Edith Archambault, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris, spoke about the relationship between the state and civil society in France. In France, there are 12 times as many associations as in Switzerland, 1.3 million. On the other hand, due to restrictive legislation, there are only 2,300 foundations in France (about 13,000 in Switzerland). Formal volunteering in associations and organizations in France is probably around 40% of the adult population, as in Germany. There are few precise figures on the level of volunteering, and none on informal volunteering. Since 2010, 150,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 have been doing a year of social volunteering organized by the state, called Service civique. The young adults are accompanied by a tutor and receive an allowance of €580 per month (80% paid by the state, 20% by the social institution). One in seven volunteers would like to continue volunteering after their internship. A different number of civil society representatives work in the personal services of education, health and social welfare:
Services State Civil society Market
Education 76% 19% 5%
Health 65% 12% 23%
Social services 28% 62% 10%
French social policy often operates in the spirit of a private-public partnership, known as co-construction, in which the State and civil society are jointly involved. Since 1998, the State has been working intensively with 18 charities to combat poverty and exclusion. The “Haut Conseil à la Vie Associative” is consulted by the State on laws concerning civil society organizations. The co-construction model also exists at the local level in centralist France.
Konstantin Kehl, lecturer in social management at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), spoke about civil society and volunteerism in Germany and Switzerland. While in many respects Switzerland sees itself and presents itself as a special case (“Sonderfall”), Germany plays this role with regard to civil society involvement. There, there is practically a political and moral obligation to get involved. The republican thinking that man as a social and political being only realizes his nature when he participates politically in the community is more developed in Germany than the liberal attitude that man is primarily an enlightened citizen responsible for himself. Civic duty tends to be higher than civic right. While formal volunteering has decreased slightly in Switzerland and increased slightly in Germany over the last ten years, both countries paradoxically interpret this change as being due to the same reasons: increasing mobility in the labor market and increasing female employment. While in Switzerland these factors are seen as competition to volunteering, in Germany they are seen as opportunities for volunteering. Finally, Kehl discussed the role of the state in researching and promoting volunteering. In Germany, there is a national strategy for volunteering, a national research program on volunteering, and three national welfare services for youth and seniors. However, Kehl is rather critical about the strong role of the state. In Switzerland, where research on volunteering is conducted by individual actors, Kehl argues for a coordinated interdisciplinary research program, based, for example, on the National Fund.
The conference reached the following conclusions for civil society in Switzerland:
- Companies should make working hours more flexible so that employees can more easily take on civil society, private care and militia tasks.
- The state should give civil society a greater role in issues that affect social coexistence (e.g., spatial planning, care, integration).
- A discussion is needed on whether and in which areas the state should coordinate the activities of civil society (care, integration, culture).
- Civil society should communicate more clearly its contribution to the common good.
- A new social contract must be discussed in which the tasks of the state, civil society, the market and the private sector are distributed in a reasonable, fair and mutually supportive way and justified in terms of regulatory policy.
- A voluntary social year should be created. It should be organized by civil society and supported by the state and the market.
- A national civil society council as well as cantonal and communal councils should be created. These councils must be consulted when laws affecting civil society organizations are created or changed.
- The positive impact of increasing labor market mobility and female employment on volunteering should be further researched and promoted.
A national interdisciplinary research program on volunteerism should be created, for example, from the National Fund.
2017: 3rd SSCG Conference on Volunteering (June 8, 2017, in Flüeli-Ranft)
The transformation of the community spirit
In the village of Nicholas of Flüe, patron saint of the country, more than 100 people reflected on and discussed the evolution and transformation of community spirit. Bettina Isengard, lecturer at the Institute of Sociology of the University of Zurich, initiated the discussion. She illustrated the change in self-interest and community spirit by the changes in family life. The number of births has fallen sharply in recent decades, life expectancy has risen steadily, divorce has increased, gender roles have changed, and various forms of life and family coexist. More than 70% of people in Switzerland live in monogenerational households. In multigenerational households, parents live with their children, who increasingly stay at the “Hotel Mama”. Almost no one lives in the same household with parents of retirement age. If we compare the countries of Europe, we see that where the welfare state provides a lot of support, the civil society between the generations also helps each other more financially, but gives each other less time and space in return.
Sandro Cattacin, professor of sociology at the University of Geneva, has shown that three fundamental maxims of social coexistence have lost their evidence. Reflexivity and the categorical imperative (acting ethically because one wants to be treated well oneself), empathy and fundamental trust, as well as the processes of civilization (social control and self-censorship), which determined coexistence in the 19th century, have lost their importance in the postmodern era. Today, the strongest and the thugs survive, trust in state authorities has diminished, people retreat into their own micro-world. And the loss of civility is evident in phenomena like littering. How can a sense of community develop in a society characterized by mobility and multiculturalism? Cattacin argues for the acceptance of a heterogeneous society. Studies in many countries have confirmed Alexis de Tocqueville’s theory that diversity of opinion fosters community spirit and democracy, while the search for the most homogeneous society possible ends up disassociating, polarizing and radicalizing it. It is a matter of ensuring that people in urban areas feel equally familiar and at home. This is the precondition for empathy and the rebirth of civilization.
Lea Stahel, a doctoral student at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Zurich, began by outlining the basic factors of community spirit: values or action orientation, social and political participation, civic engagement or solidarity, and trust. The speaker examined whether and to what extent sharing via social media promotes or weakens these public spirit factors. Studies show that 90% are pure consumers of social media and do not actively create content for society. Social media is widely used to maintain private friendships. 13% of couples nowadays get to know each other online, in the canton of Aargau even 20%. Social media do not really promote the social capital of society. On the contrary, neo-tribal communities would be formed.
On the one hand, the conference identified criteria and factors for measuring community spirit, on the basis of which strategies and measures for promoting community spirit can be developed. On the other hand, most of the participants, who are active in civil society, business or government, probably took home at least as many new questions as answers to the questions they had brought.
2016: 2nd SSCG Conference on Volunteering (June 9, 2016, in Glarus)
Tapping the potential of those who are not yet volunteers
Markus Freitag, who scientifically led the Swiss Volunteer Observatory 2016 at the University of Bern, analyzed the personality traits of typical non-volunteers. They are under 40 and over 65 years old and live mainly in cities. And there is a big gap between the desire to volunteer and actual volunteering. Cornelia Hürzeler, Head of Work and Society at Migros Cultural Percentage, presented the “Service Learning” project, which combines the involvement of students in civil society with the acquisition of technical, methodological and social skills. Precisely because volunteering is no longer automatically passed on from one generation to the next and the volunteering gene no longer exists as a matter of course in Switzerland, incentives, low-threshold entry aids and opportunities to get to know volunteering are needed. The 70 participants then developed ideas for awakening the potential of the voluntary sector: in schools, companies, at the federal, cantonal and municipal levels, as well as in associations and organizations. The federal government could, for example, do more to promote and develop youth vacations. Municipalities and schools could create contact persons or coordinating offices for volunteer work and award a recognition prize for volunteer work. Companies could showcase their employees who volunteer internally. And volunteer organizations will need to more actively communicate their needs, including through social media.
The breakout session generated many ideas about how different actors in society could promote volunteering and motivate people who are not yet volunteers to get involved for the common good:
The state on the federal, cantonal and regional level:
- Create favorable framework conditions and make room for the development and operation of volunteer work.
- Avoid or simplify unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy.
- Promote youth leave by transforming it into a national voluntary service.
- Avoid the professionalization of volunteer work
- Tax deduction for actual expenses for volunteering
- Care training during recruit school
State on local level:
- Newcomers’ aperitif with introduction to associations seeking volunteers
- Designate a contact person for networking and create a coordination as a contact point.
- Promote the creation of an association for the migration sector
- Create introductory offers for children in the clubs (i.e. a week’s vacation)
- Create a culture of recognition by those with political responsibility
- Support associations financially
- Show the possibilities of volunteer work
- Publicize projects and share best practices
- Organize information events
- Appoint a contact person or advisor
- Allow time for volunteering
- Motivation for volunteer work
- Role model function of management
- Disseminate best practices
- Approach retiree associations
- Appreciation of volunteer work
- Make volunteer work visible and present employees who volunteer internally
- Appoint ambassadors
- Provide infrastructure/resources for employees who volunteer
NGOs working with volunteers:
- Easy access and attractive opportunities for volunteering
- Provide professional structures
- Use social media
- Have the courage to restructure the organization
- Consideration of sociological conditions (urban, agglo, rural)
- Continuous training and coaching of volunteers
2015: 1st SSCG Conference on Volunteering (June 11, 2015, in Lucerne)
The “social glue” – what state is it in?
In Lucerne, over 120 interested participants discussed social cohesion in Switzerland. The participants agreed that volunteering in Switzerland is less and less taken for granted. This is also confirmed by the figures of the third Observatory of Volunteering in Switzerland, which will be published in February 2016. The promotion of volunteering therefore remains an essential task of the SSCG.
Lukas Niederberger, Director of the SSCG, interviewed speaker Markus Freitag, who heads the scientific research of the Observatory of Volunteering.
Markus Freitag, you are closely associated with the SSCG. At the moment you are conducting the third Volunteering Observatory with your Institute of Political Science at the University of Bern. The results of your surveys on volunteering have also been integrated in your latest book, “Switzerland’s Social Capital”. The criteria for social capital are involvement and networks in associations, unpaid volunteer work, involvement in the immediate social environment, interpersonal trust, and norms of reciprocity and tolerance. What does the social capital of a country say?
The social capital of a society provides information about the strength of social interaction and cohesion in a country. Social capital describes the value of these social relationships. Individuals, but also entire groups, communities, cantons or nations can benefit from this social glue and succeed in politics, economy and society.
Is the cement in good condition in Switzerland? Compared to other countries, in which areas is the social glue in Swiss society particularly strong, and in which areas is it rather weak?
In an international comparison, Switzerland achieves comparatively high values in various aspects of social capital and thus ranks among the five nations in Europe with the strongest social capital, without major exceptions. In terms of volunteer work, Switzerland even ranks high in international surveys.
In one of its analyses, it is striking to note that women’s activity in associations of all kinds has increased over the last 30 years, while it has decreased among men. Does the high level of women’s associational activity reflect emancipation?
This could indeed indicate a civic gain in terms of women’s freedom and equality. In addition, it could also be an expression of greater opportunity for women to participate in associations. It should be noted, however, that recent surveys of volunteer activity often show an overrepresentation of women among respondents.
Men’s activity has declined very sharply in interest associations over the past 30 years. These associations include professional associations, unions, consumer organizations, etc. Are interest associations no longer needed today? How do you interpret this significant change?
Interest associations, and primarily unions, have suffered the greatest loss of membership in recent decades. Unions cite both structural changes and a loss of a sense of community. The economy and employment are shifting away from the traditional blue-collar worker to services and industries that employ higher-skilled workers who are less interested in union representation. It is also argued that collectively oriented unions, in particular, suffer from the spirit of individualization, flexibilization and non-commitment. These developments show that there is undoubtedly sand in the wheels of civil society in Switzerland. The social cement seems to become porous in some places. Cracks are opening up especially where the pleasure of being together requires pro-social commitments and obligations oriented towards the common good.
In all areas of association, i.e. sports, leisure, culture, church, social and interest groups, people under 40 are under-represented? Will we see the big break in associations in the next 10 to 20 years? Or will the pendulum swing back and today’s 20-somethings will have outgrown individualism and become more organized in clubs again?
Whereas in the 1970s, about half of the club’s membership was drawn from the 20-39 age group, today the proportion of this age cohort has dropped by half. These numbers can be interpreted as an alarming signal about the future evolution of the association sector and its associated social capital: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, it should not be forgotten that associative engagement is less of a priority at a young age than at later stages of life, when perhaps one’s networks and knowledge are enhanced or family circumstances make associations more acceptable again. But young people do not only indulge in rigorous individualism. In many cases, they enjoy being with others. However, these social relationships tend to operate more in an informal setting and less in the regulated processes of clubs, where, in addition, obligations await them.
Proximity social capital has remained fairly constant over the past 30 years with respect to family and friends? Contact with neighbors, on the other hand, has declined. What can be done?
My book ends with 150 concrete tips on how to get out of this predicament. For example, tip 47: “Clear the way for the neighbor in winter.” Or tip #73: “Bake cakes and cookies for your neighbors or friends.” Tip #12: “Don’t spread rumors” might already be helpful.
Your analysis suggests that communities with many club members and volunteers suffer less from unemployment and crime. One might conclude that involvement in clubs and volunteering ensures career success and protects against crime. However, it is more likely that the cause and effect relationship is the opposite. Unemployed people or criminals are not likely to volunteer or get involved in clubs. Or how do you interpret this correlation?
These are analyses and statements comparing Swiss cantons. Conclusions about individuals must be drawn with extreme caution. In general, however, it can be assumed that deviant behavior such as crime is reduced in communities where participation in clubs and volunteer work is high, because a vibrant civil society stimulates mutual trust and social control to the same extent. In addition, a well-functioning social network system promotes economic development, as the diffusion of information, knowledge and new technologies is easier and the productive division of labor is encouraged.