Participation can mean different things to different people.
At NCVO, we use 'participation' to describe the different ways people get involved in society. It is about giving to charity, volunteering and voting at elections. But it is more than that – participation also covers campaigning activities such as ethical consumerism and protest.
Definitions of participation that focus on political participation or a narrow understanding of volunteering fail to capture the diversity of people’s engagement. They also fail to capture the ways people are shaping the good society by embedding pro-social behaviour in their everyday life and in the communities they belong to.
Participation is at the heart of civil society. Voluntary organisations, like other civil society organisations – such as co-operatives and trade unions – are a catalyst for collective action that can transform people's lives and help to build a better world. And they create space for debate about what that world might look like.
Without the support and enthusiasm of engaged citizens many voluntary organisations would simply not exist.
Find out more about participation
- The UK Civil Society Almanac has data on volunteering and voluntary organisations' scope and finances.
- The Institute for Volunteering Research's Evidence Bank has reports and information about volunteering.
- The government's Community Life survey tracks trends in volunteering and other activities which encourage social action.