Sport volunteering, active citizenship and social capital enhancement: what role in the 'Big Society'?

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This position article addresses the issues surrounding the development of active citizenship and social capital through volunteering in sport. The present UK Government has aligned much of its policy intent with fiscal constraint and identifying alternatives to balance the 'shortfall' of public provision. One such policy idea, 'Big Society' extols the need for citizen engagement through volunteering, to benefit both the individual and wider society. However, the basis for such social advantage has been uncritically determined, and as such, this article will address three main concerns. First, the notion that activities such as volunteering contribute to an individual's accumulation of social capital will be critically examined. Second, the extent of government involvement in facilitating community engagement will be articulated, to determine whether ideas and policies such as the 'Big Society' - which emphasize liberation of the individual and limited government involvement - are instrumental to social capital enhancement. Finally, the article will offer a critical commentary on how the 'Big Society' may be realized through volunteering in sport, outlining key messages for those involved in the delivery of community sport as to how they may best position themselves to profit from current Government thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-395
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number3
Early online date1 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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