NINE Working for the Common Good: Individuals and Groups Address the Challenges Facing the World

Mark Snyder

How and why do people become actively involved in doing good for others and for society by taking action to respond to social problems? Such involvement in social action can take the form of participation in volunteerism and philanthropy, community groups and neighborhood organizations, and social activism and political movements. In this chapter, I draw on coordinated programs of basic and applied research that help to explain why some people become involved in social action, what sustains their involvement over time, and the consequences of such action for individuals and for society. Then, in concluding remarks, I note the relevance of this research for social policy issues of affecting individuals and society, as well as possible contributions of the social sciences to the functioning of society.

of helping, prosocial behavior, and social action—studies in which we have observed people as they work, individually and collectively, to try to solve some of the problems facing society.

There are, of course, many problems facing the world, including conflict and violence, prejudice and discrimination, poverty and hunger, as just a few examples. There is a sense in which many of these problems are fundamentally human problems—problems caused by the actions of humans, and problems that can be solved only by the actions of humans. One way that people can address the problems of society is through a set of activities known variously as citizen participation, civic engagement, or social action (for reviews, see Snyder & Omoto, 2007; Van Vugt, Snyder, Tyler, & Biel, 2000).

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