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Armenia in its Regional Context: Comparison with Azerbaijan and Georgia in Terms of Volunteering: To place Armenia in its regional context, this section of the chapter uses Caucasus Barometer (CB) 2008-2013 data to discuss patterns of volunteering in the three South Caucasus countries. Comparing the three South Caucasus countries can help us understand whether shared Soviet legacy has similar lasting effects on volunteering in the three countries that have divergent paths of development (both economic and political) during two decades of independence. We apply the ‘most different cases’ logic to comparing volunteering in the three South Caucasus countries. As of now, a shared communist legacy, along with geographic proximity, is one of the few remaining similarities for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. If we find similar patterns of low levels of volunteering, we can argue that this is an effect of the lasting communist legacy.

Data on self-reported volunteering (both formal and informal) for the three South Caucasus countries are available for the years 2011-2013.1 Figure 12.1 shows the overall percentage of people who report volunteering. The levels of volunteering are highest in Armenia (with a sharp increase from 22 to 31 % in 2013[1] [2]) and lowest in Georgia for all 3 years. Chi-Square tests for 3 years show that these differences in the levels of self-reported volunteering in the three South Caucasus countries are statistically significant .{{ . [2] = 28.436, df=2, p<0.001 (for year 2011); X[2] = 84.622, df=2, p<0.001 (for year 2012); andX[2] = 40.771, df=2,p< 0.001 (foryear2013).}}

Self-reported volunteering in South Caucasus, CB, % of “yes”

Fig. 12.1 Self-reported volunteering in South Caucasus, CB, % of “yes”

Thus, the data suggest that on the regional level it is not justified to speak of a uniform communist legacy of weak voluntary engagement. Armenia does better than its two South Caucasus neighbors, despite a poorer economic record. Higher levels of volunteering in Armenia, as compared to Georgia, also illustrate that more democracy does not necessarily or immediately translate into more participation in voluntary activities, as classic theories of associational life derived from the Tocquevillian tradition suggest.

We hypothesized that younger generations should be different from the older generations because they were not exposed to the Soviet regime with its ‘compulsory volunteering’ practice, and should not have a distaste for volunteering as a backlash that occurred after the collapse of communism. Does that mean young people are more likely to volunteer? The answer is negative for all three South Caucasus countries. When analyzing Caucasus Barometer data grouped into age cohorts (see Fig. 12.2 for the year 2012), it becomes apparent that the post-Soviet generation is not more likely to volunteer.

As can be seen from Fig. 12.2 , levels of volunteering in Armenia are stable across age cohorts until age 5 5,[6] after which levels of volunteering decline. In Azerbaijan, the post-Soviet cohort of 18-24 is actually among the least active in terms of volunteering: those between 25 and 64 are more inclined to volunteer as compared to the post-Soviet cohort. The youngest Georgian cohort is relatively active, but similarly to the Armenian case, it is not the youth that stand out as particularly prone to volunteering. Rather, the difference is that the old ones are much less likely to volunteer as compared to the rest of the population.

Volunteering by age groups, CB 2012, % of “yes”

Fig. 12.2 Volunteering by age groups, CB 2012, % of “yes”

Thus, CB data show that young people (post-communist generation defined as those between 18 and 24) are not likely to report more volunteering. Although there is a statistically significant relationship between age and self-reported volunteering, it is not due to high youth engagement in the three South Caucasus countries. Rather, the relationship is due to low levels of engagement of the elderly people.

This brief overview of data on volunteering in South Caucasus shows that there are more differences than similarities between these three South Caucasus countries,[7] so sweeping generalizations about the region are unhelpful. Instead, country specifics should be carefully studied. The rest of the chapter focuses on Armenia, exploring the volunteering culture both in numbers and through personal stories of volunteers.

Armenian Volunteers in Numbers: This section of the chapter focuses on Armenia, discussing existing secondary data that is specific for Armenia. Previous studies on volunteering, conducted in Armenia, have shown that there can be a great discrepancy between formal and informal volunteering. Depending on how the question is phrased and what is included in the definition of volunteering, a study could report that as many as 80 % or as little as 8 % of the population was engaged in voluntary work in Armenia (Hakobyan, Tadevosyan, Sardar, & Stepanyan, 2010, p. 22). In this section, we use CSI data to explore the gap between formal and informal volunteering and to gain insights into motivations to volunteer, as well as selfreported factors that prevent people from getting involved.

As discussed above, volunteering in Armenia increased from 22 % in 2011 to 31 % in 2013. This includes any type of volunteer work, without expected compensation in past 6 months. One would expect these numbers to shrink if the respondents

Table 12.1 Respondents who do unpaid voluntary work for organizations, CSI and ESS, %

Type of organization

CSI 2009

CSI 2014

ESS 2003

Church or religious organization

3.7

4.3

3.0

Environmental organization

2.5

3.1

1.0

Art, music, or educational organization

2.9

2.8

6.5a

Political party

3.9

2.8

1.2

Community groups

-

2.2

-

Humanitarian or charitable organization

3.6

2.0

1.8b

Informal civic group/movement

-

1.6

-

Sport or recreational organization

2.6

1.5

6.4c

Professional association

1.7

1.1

1.0d

Labor Union

1.2

0.6

1.0

Consumer organization

0.7

0.3

0.3e

Other

0.4

0

-

aCultural/hobby and education in ESS summed up

bHumanitarian or rights in ESS

cSports and outdoors in ESS

dOther work related in ESS

eConsumer/auto in ESS

were asked specifically about formal volunteering, that is, volunteering for a group or organization. That is indeed the case, as according to CSI 2014, 14 % of the population report doing unpaid voluntary work for at least one organization, from the list provided by an interviewer. Unlike informal volunteering, formal volunteering does not seem to increase during the years under study.

Compared to average levels of volunteering in European countries, Armenia is not that different overall: 14 % of the population volunteer in formal organizations in Armenia as compared to 17 % in Europe (Wiepking & Einolf, 2012). There are some differences, however, in the types of organizations for which people volunteer. Organization specific data for both years of CSI and for the European Social Survey (ESS) 2003 (source: Wiepking & Einolf, 2012) are presented in Table 12.1. In cases where the categories of organizations in two surveys are not exactly identical but similar enough to permit meaningful comparison, clarifications are provided through footnotes. Unlike Europeans, Armenians are more active in environmental organizations and less active in arts, recreational, and sports organizations. This is possibly because the latter types were the ‘classic’ state-sponsored and controlled, pseudo-voluntary associations of the communist times, now largely turned into semientrepreneurial activities. Environmental activism, on the other hand, has a certain tradition in Armenia, going back to the Soviet times when it was one of the very few types of activities indirectly challenging the regime (Dawson, 1995; Hakobyan & Tadevosyan, 2010b; Ishkanian, Gyulkhandanyan, Manusyan, & Manusyan, 2013; Van Der Heijden, 1999).

The CSI 2014 survey is particularly valuable for our study because it contains self-reported reasons for doing voluntary work. Whenever a respondent would mention doing unpaid voluntary work for an organization, he/she was asked why they

Table 12.2 Reason for doing voluntary work for organization/group, CSI 2014

Count

%of

responses

% of cases

Altruism

66

19

30

Expectation of improved career possibilities in general

56

16

26

Self-fulfillment/self-esteem

50

14

22

Friends/family members are volunteers

44

13

20

Feeling of belonging/desire to have such a feeling

30

9

14

Expectation of becoming employed by organization/group in the future

28

8

13

Spending free time

21

6

10

Learning/acquiring new skills, expectation of learning/ acquiring new skills

21

6

10

Reciprocity

19

5

9

Nonmonetary benefits, expectation of Nonmonetary benefits

10

3

5

Other

7

2

3

Total

352

100

162

were doing it. Interviewers had a list of possible answers, but they did not read them to the respondents; instead, they would either tick the corresponding option voiced by the interviewee, or record the original answer if it did not correspond to any option on their list. Researchers did this in order to minimize their impact on respondents’ self-perceived motivations for volunteering and to allow a broader spectrum of expressed reasons. Multiple responses were permitted. As a result, 352 answers were recorded, as presented in Table 12.2 . Altruism is the most important selfreported motivator for volunteering, followed by expectations of improved career possibilities and feeling of self-fulfillment.

In addition to providing valuable insights into volunteering, the survey contains information on the motivations behind abstaining from volunteering. People who did not do any voluntary work for any organization were asked for their reasons as well. The answers were recorded in the same way as the reasons for volunteering, described above, except that it was a single answer question, rather than a multiple answer set. As a result, 1362 answers, grouped into 31 categories, were recorded. We conducted further regrouping of categories to reduce the number of options as presented in Table 12.3; simply combining original categories without altering the labels is presented with “/” symbol, new or modified categories are explained in a footnote. Lack of time was the most widespread reported reason for abstaining from volunteering, followed by a lack of motivation and inability to get involved due to health or old age.

Combining the insights from CB and CSI, we can say that about one-third of the Armenian population is engaged in volunteering, and about half of that volunteering takes place outside of organizations. Main motivations for volunteering are altruism, expectations of career advancement, and a need for self-fulfillment. Main selfreported reasons for abstaining from volunteering are lack of time and interest.

Table 12.3 Reasons for not volunteering for an organization/group, CSI 2014

Reason

N

%

Too busy/No time

596

44

Do not want to/not interested/see no sensea

222

16

Health problems/too old

117

9

Cannot affordb

80

6

Has not been offered/no opportunity

80

6

No such organizations/groups in the community

32

2.3

Have problems/need help myselfc

29

2.1

Do not trust

12

0.9

I have a paid job

11

0.8

Not informedd

10

0.7

Other

11

0.8

No answer/don’t know

162

12

Total

1362

100

aAlso includes answers such as “see no need,” “no one appreciates that,” “not beneficial,” and “not important”

bAlso includes lack of financial resources category cAlso includes one person saying “I have a small child, I cannot do it”

dAlso includes “I did not know that it’s possible to volunteer” category

Life Stories Behind the Numbers: This section examines patterns of formal volunteering with NGOs in Armenia based on qualitative analysis of interviews with volunteers and NGO leaders. We are interested in understanding how people become involved and what motivates them to volunteer for organizations. We compare the perspectives of our two groups of interviewees: the reasons behind volunteering are discussed by volunteers themselves and by leaders of Armenian NGOs working with volunteers .

Becoming Involved: The leaders of older NGOs indicate volunteering as a phenomenon developing in a new way. They explain that in the early 1990s, there were very few volunteers, and the concept of volunteering was not “on demand” the way it is today. According to them, volunteer involvement in Armenia is on the rise. While the opinions of the 20 NGO leaders we interviewed are by no means enough to make any assertive statements regarding volunteering trends in Armenia, it is worth pointing out that these observations by our interviewees are in line with the quantitative data for the past three years, presented above.

In most cases, included in our qualitative study, volunteers were students and youth. Their age usually ranges from 18 to 30. In order to explore how people become involved, we asked volunteers to share their stories about the decisive events or processes which led them to become volunteers. Volunteering experiences of participants are characterized by the existence of an intervening factor that led them to volunteer. These factors, usually events such as workshops and seminars, helped participants learn about the opportunity to volunteer and further led them to a voluntary involvement. Another factor is a recommendation by a friend/fellow volunteer or involvement of a family member (usually a sibling) in volunteering activities of an organization, leading participants to engage in volunteering as well.

There are two methods to volunteer recruitment and involvement in NGOs: either initiated by organizations or volunteers themselves. The first case refers to an organization announcing recruitment of volunteers, while the second is usually initiated by volunteers: they visit organizations, introduce themselves, and ask whether they need any volunteers. Leaders of NGOs describe such volunteers as initiativetaking and active. Keeping a database of volunteers is a usual practice for NGOs. Databases usually contain information about volunteers’ interests and hobbies, which is crucial in the process of organizing events. Depending on the activities organized, volunteers are selected and encouraged to take part based on their interests and concerns.

We asked volunteers to share their opinions about mutual contributions in the volunteer-organization relationship. Volunteers highlight that organizations contribute to their work by providing opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes of NGOs. Volunteers define their own usefulness to organizations in terms of material gains. This includes not paying a salary to volunteers that they would otherwise pay to a staff member, and supporting the work of staff in terms of time saving and meeting deadlines.

Heads of organizations see their high contribution in the development and strengthening of volunteers’ abilities. According to the leaders, NGOs are said to be the guarantors of volunteers’ involvement in projects inside and outside Armenia.

NGO volunteers located in smaller towns typically have not been a part of any initiative before their volunteering experience. The majority of NGO leaders operating in towns highlight how difficult it is to find places and activities—besides school—for students. Thus, the phenomenon of organizations providing volunteering opportunities specifically for youth in towns is seen as a positively contributing and mutually beneficial process.

When asked about the role and impact volunteering has on their lives, the majority of volunteers highlight qualities of personal growth. These include acquiring knowledge, developing skills, and becoming more active, initiative taking, and a better participant in the civic life of their communities. In the words of a young volunteer, “I have opened the doors to civil society for myself through volunteering. This was the greatest impact"(18, male volunteer)

Motivations to Volunteer: A Contrast Between Volunteers’ and NGO Leaders’ Perspectives: The qualitative analysis of self-reported motivation to volunteer closely matches the quantitative data presented above: volunteers report being driven by career-oriented factors such as acquisition of knowledge, development of skills, and/or gaining work experience. They also place high importance on social functions, gaining new friends, sense of community, ability to interact and spend quality time with interesting people, having fun, trying out something new, and so on. The most frequently mentioned skills gained because of volunteering are communication skills. Young, student volunteers are also keenly aware of the fact that volunteering is sometimes the only supplement to work experience that they would be required to demonstrate in almost any job application when they graduate and start their job hunt.

The answers of participants are not characterized by any single factor. Participants’ responses overlap and mention several motivational factors at once. The reasons behind volunteering differ, but one factor that unites volunteers is the positive image of volunteering. Regardless of the sector and activities of organization, all participants value the opportunity to be involved in voluntary work and consider it to be of great value for themselves.

An interesting contrast emerges when comparing self-reported motivations of volunteers and the perceptions of NGO leaders as to why those people volunteer for their organizations. According to the heads of NGOs, there are three possible reasons to volunteer (a) personal growth and development, (b) resume highlight, and (c) recommendation letter.

The majority of NGO leaders believe that the main motive behind volunteers’ decision to volunteer is a desire for personal growth and development. This becomes possible through the knowledge and skills gained, and abilities generated due to their experience as volunteers. According to the NGO leaders “learning new things” that would benefit the volunteers in their future careers is the main motivational factor.

Over half of NGO leaders interviewed think that the main reason for volunteers to engage in voluntary work is to enrich their resume and get a recommendation letter. NGO leaders recognize the importance of work experience and think that the lack of it brings volunteers to their organizations with a purpose to find a job afterwards. Some of the leaders approach this motive with understanding, while others are skeptical.

NGO leaders have a generally positive attitude toward their volunteers and welcome their desires of personal career growth. They also largely believe that they do provide their volunteers with good learning environments. However, when probed for specific examples of tasks performed by volunteers, it becomes apparent that most NGO leaders do not think of volunteers as professionals and do not delegate important tasks to them. They seem to be skeptical about volunteers’ abilities to contribute substantially (beyond minor administrative and simple tasks) at their organizations. An NGO leader, speaking about the tasks and duties of volunteers, indicates: “Volunteers are good, helpful and can do a very good job. But their job is going to be conditioned by small tasks such as holding posters and distributing information. When it comes to the hard work, one cannot rely on volunteering” (46, male NGO leader) .

Thus, we can see that volunteers themselves as well as the NGO leaders emphasize knowledge gains and skills development as the main motives behind volunteering. This finding partially matches with that of the survey data analysis presented in Table 12.2, where expectations of improved career possibilities rank high, but not higher than altruism, in the list of self-reported reasons to volunteer. Our qualitative data also show that NGO leaders consider volunteers’ motives to be self-oriented only, whereas volunteers indicate a range of both self-oriented and altruistic reasons in their decisions to volunteer.

Although we have interviewed only 20 NGO leaders, we think that most NGO leaders in this country share this attitude of “volunteers are here for their future career and CV.” The younger generation is mostly perceived by them as not only more active (although the quantitative data presented above casts doubts on this ‘common knowledge’) but also more career-oriented. On the other hand, the job market is competitive and the entry is mostly restricted to those with job experience or important connections; the pressure on young people to acquire hands-on experience in their chosen fields is high. Thus, NGO leaders assume that the main reasons for the young volunteers are instrumental, rather than altruistic. After all, most of the NGO leaders in Armenia perform their functions as full-time paid jobs; for them, the involvement with the NGO sector is a career choice as much (and maybe even more) as it is an altruistic desire to do good. It is not surprise then, that they project their own mentality onto their volunteers.

  • [1] The question wording is ‘I will read out a list of activities. Could you please tell me which of theseactivities have you been involved in during the past 6 months? Did volunteer work without expecting compensation.’
  • [2] The increase in the percentage of self-reported volunteering cannot be attributed to a change inmethodology or sampling; the question wording for both years is identical, same sampling method(multistage random sampling of electoral precincts with a random route) is used. In Armenia, thesample size was 1844 in 2012 and 1552 in 2013. A possible reason for such an increase in volunteering can be the presidential elections of 2013, which spurred not only political activism butcreated an atmosphere of increased social activism in general.
  • [3] . {{ The increase in the percentage of self-reported volunteering cannot be attributed to a change inmethodology or sampling; the question wording for both years is identical, same sampling method(multistage random sampling of electoral precincts with a random route) is used. In Armenia, thesample size was 1844 in 2012 and 1552 in 2013. A possible reason for such an increase in volunteering can be the presidential elections of 2013, which spurred not only political activism butcreated an atmosphere of increased social activism in general.
  • [4] The increase in the percentage of self-reported volunteering cannot be attributed to a change inmethodology or sampling; the question wording for both years is identical, same sampling method(multistage random sampling of electoral precincts with a random route) is used. In Armenia, thesample size was 1844 in 2012 and 1552 in 2013. A possible reason for such an increase in volunteering can be the presidential elections of 2013, which spurred not only political activism butcreated an atmosphere of increased social activism in general.
  • [5] The increase in the percentage of self-reported volunteering cannot be attributed to a change inmethodology or sampling; the question wording for both years is identical, same sampling method(multistage random sampling of electoral precincts with a random route) is used. In Armenia, thesample size was 1844 in 2012 and 1552 in 2013. A possible reason for such an increase in volunteering can be the presidential elections of 2013, which spurred not only political activism butcreated an atmosphere of increased social activism in general.
  • [6] This pattern is similar for all 3 years of analysis. Increased volunteering in 2013 affected all agegroups except those 65 years and older.
  • [7] We have also done a number of tests, exploring the impact of sociodemographic variables (age,educational level, income, and so on) on volunteering in the South Caucasus. These tests showmore differences than similarities, making us convinced that one cannot speak of a ‘SouthCaucasian volunteering culture’ as there seems to be no general pattern. For more details, seePaturyan and Gevorgyan (2014).
 
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