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The challenges of the new institutional environment: an Australian case study of older volunteers in the contemporary non-profit sector

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2009

JENI WARBURTON
Affiliation:
John Richards Research Initiative into Aged Care in Rural Communities, La Trobe University, Wodonga, Victoria, Australia.
CATHERINE McDONALD
Affiliation:
School of Social Work, Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
Corresponding

Abstract

Increased emphasis on efficiency and regulation is changing the nature of the non-profit sector in western countries. In this paper, we explore the impact of these contemporary changes on older, more traditional volunteers. Specifically, we use neo-institutional theory as a framework to explore the micro-effect of these processes in one large, multi-service non-profit organisation in Australia. The findings of an ethnographic study are presented using an analytical template comprising: (1) the observational space; (2) the conversational order; (3) the content of talk; and (4) areas of resistance. Findings from these categories provided evidence of two institutional orders – one a traditional way of operating consistent with a charity model, and the other, a new, dominant approach driven by market forces. It was found that older, more traditional volunteers struggled to maintain the old order as well as to make the transition to the new order. If organisations are to benefit from a pool of potential volunteers and if older people are to benefit from the social and health advantages associated with productive ageing, there are important implications in these findings. Older people are able to make a successful transition to the new order, but organisations need to be more proactive in facilitating the change. In particular, organisations need to reject ageist cultures and practices, provide training and skills development, and to work collaboratively with older people.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press

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