On the Changing Civic Landscape in Denmark and its Consequences for Civic Action

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Throughout the past three decades, changing governments in Denmark have been cultivating a more proactive role for civil society organizations by emphasizing the legitimacy of voluntary social work as part of the social service provision in a hard-pressed welfare state. At the same time, political and public actors praise the civic virtues and democratic skills that volunteers obtain when participating in any kind of voluntary organization. This notion of voluntary organizations as “schools for democracy” already lacks empirical grounding. Given the increased instrumentalization of voluntary social work, it becomes even more important to ask what the modes of participation look like among volunteers within the new organizational forms. In this article, we review key trends and changes at the institutional level and present data from a long-term ethnographic study that explores the mode of participation of volunteers within an organizational form that responds to the demands of the current civic landscape. We demonstrate that while the organizational form in question aptly and strategically navigates the competitive, welfare-oriented, institutional environment, the space for civic action among the volunteers is limited.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Civic action
  • Ethnography
  • New organizational forms
  • Voluntary participation
  • Voluntary social work


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