Civic engagement and social capital in ship preservation work in Norway. - The scope, impact and demographics of formal volunteering and publicly funded engagements.


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Nordic Journal of Social Research;4


The Centre for Innovation in Services, Lillehammer University College (HiL)

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Introduction: The current focus on volunteering related to civic engagement in Norway has led to a rise in complementary private initiatives and public funding, specifically with regard to the preservation of historic ships. Volunteers for this programme are primarily men aged over 50 years who spend significant amounts of leisure time in municipalities along the coast, fjords, and lakes of Norway. Despite the historical significance of this kind of volunteering, the social capital that is gained and the substantial funding that the Directorate for Cultural Heritage provides, no study has mapped the impact or outcome of these efforts over the past 20 years. Objective: The primary objective has been to study the scope of formal voluntary ship-preservation work in Norway. This article aims to map the volunteers in associations in this programme, the breadth of their efforts, and their motivations. Design: All ships (n = 90) that were funded by the Directorate in 2009 were included in the case study. A qualitative survey of telephone interviews with 82 key informants (100% response rate) was conducted, and questionnaires were mailed to gather descriptive statistics. Results: Age, gender and a robust relationship with the region and the specific ships appear to be relevant to voluntary ship preservation activities. The reasons for commitment and effort were companionship, unity, and memories of and relationship to the specific ships. The strong socio-political aspect of the volunteers’ efforts was reflected in an aggregate of approximately 5.5 million euros in unpaid work. Conclusion: Volunteering in this context is an important component of social capital among elderly men in Norway. The group dynamics and strong collective aspect of these voluntary associations maintain internal cohesion and the members only leave when forced by increasing age, poor health, or insufficient financial resources.



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