Cees M. van den Bos, a pioneer in the volunteering field in the Netherlands, recently discovered that there was very little academic research on the subject of volunteering infrastructure. So he set out to investigate the establishment, development, and functioning of local volunteering infrastructure since the 1970s in these eight countries: Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States.
In this special e-Volunteerism issue devoted to Volunteer Centers, van den Bos presents his research and findings on volunteering infrastructure, and shares his conclusion that Volunteer Centers should be defined as “agencies that have the mission to support volunteers, volunteer-involving organizations, and volunteering in general.” He specifically notes that Volunteer Centers are characterized by six functions: brokerage, the marketing of volunteering, the development of good practices, the development of volunteering opportunities, and the strategic development of volunteering.
Through his important research, van den Bos provides insights and findings that he argues are “relevant for makers of volunteering policies, for people working within the volunteering infrastructure, and for countries that aspire to establish a volunteering infrastructure.” And, he concludes, the “legitimacy of volunteering infrastructure cannot be considered outside the context of the increasing political recognition of civil society and civic engagement. Political interests in the concepts of civil society and civic engagement in the eight cases investigated has caused volunteering to be rediscovered and re-evaluated.”