Volunteer Engagement in Housing Co-operatives: Civil Society “en miniature”

  • Peter SuterEmail author
  • Markus Gmür
Original Paper


Housing co-operatives host miniature versions of civil society. They vitalize a social system that is shaped by formal regulations, economic functions and a population of private housing units. The study examines factors that influence a person’s willingness to volunteer in civic society using a multilevel analysis based on survey data from 32 co-operatives and 1263 members. To do so, the social exchange theory is extended to include the member value approach, which connects social engagement with the fulfillment of a range of needs, thus going beyond a narrow economic cost–benefit analysis. Study results show that volunteer engagement largely depends on the degree to which members can expect to experience their own achievement. This finding provides an explanation for significant differences in the engagement levels beyond factors that have already been determined (age, level of education). On an organizational level, the study reveals that the age of an organization influences volunteer engagement, but that the size and the degree of professionalization do not have an effect on it.


Member value Volunteer Social exchange theory Multilevel analysis Housing co-operative 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Research on Management of Associations, Foundations and Co-operativesUniversity of Fribourg (CH)FribourgSwitzerland

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