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Introducing the voluntary sector
Introducing the voluntary sector

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1.2 Different levels of values

Values do not operate just at a personal level but across other levels too: groups, organisations, even societies. These levels are all considered to have sets of shared values, which exert influence across the levels in different ways. The levels are depicted in Figure 2 and include:

  • personal
  • groups (or teams in the context of work)
  • organisational or sectoral (public, private, voluntary)
  • societal.
This figure shows three overlapping circles with arrows going in and out across the circles.
Figure 2 Interactions between values held at different levels

As suggested by the arrows in Figure 2, influence can be both downwards and upwards. For example, this means that individuals vary in the extent to which they support and adopt – and therefore internalise – societal values. In addition, individuals may be able to influence and change the way their organisation acts, while organisations can exert influence on the teams and individuals working within them. Groups may bring about change at a societal level, thereby influencing the set of shared values.

Researchers are often interested in particular interactions; for example, how personal values interact with groups in society (gang culture, different ethnic or religious groups, or clashes between groups). Research focusing on organisations or management would have a particular interest in whether there are shared values in teams and organisations, and where conflict might occur. Teams are important in many contexts: volunteers are often based in teams and need to work together to achieve tasks. Having an identity for the team might be important for team members as well as managers.

The World Values Survey (n.d.) measures changes in people’s beliefs, values and motivations at a country level. Therefore, it is possible to take research on individual values, collate them and examine whether there are shared values at a societal level and how these might change over time. In research on the voluntary sector, people’s motivations to volunteer are often examined through their values.

You will explore these different levels starting with personal values and moving out to organisational and sectoral values. The societal level is beyond the scope of this course but, if you have time at the end of the week, you could visit the World Values Survey website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .