This site is an emergent commons and learning lab: a place to share, play, and experiment with ideas about volunteer engagement.

Ultimately, I hope it helps change the conversation about volunteerism. Too often the narrative about service is sweet and anemic (“look at what those nice volunteers did”) or defaults to logistics and transactions. Instead, I envision a:

  • narrative about service that is as generative and compelling as the work volunteers do.
  • practice of service that draws on community-centric principles such as reciprocity, interdependence, love, stewardship, right relationship, justice, and co-creation.
  • framing of service that understands it as a powerful adaptive tool that brings community together to meet common needs.

To support that vision, I borrow a tactic from the Solutions Journalism Network of complicating the narrative. Journalist Amanda Ripley explains it this way:

“Complicating the narrative means finding and including the details that don’t fit the narrative – on purpose. The idea is to revive complexity in a time of false simplicity.”


  • Because service, volunteers, the agencies that engage volunteers, and the practice of community are complex and diverse. Oversimplifying them diminishes their richness and nuance and meaning.
  • Because we need to fully reckon with the light and the often-overlooked shadow of service if we are to realize its potential.
  • Because we have an opportunity to come up with more enlivening and equitable answers to the question of how we want to be in community with each other.

Ready to get started? Check out, comment on, and share the blogs below or on the right. Explore the concept of the Commons or the application of developmental theories (All Quadrant Model and Action Logics) to volunteerism. Go down a rabbit hole with my dissertation, which is a deep dive on volunteer value and the application of gift economy principles to volunteer engagement: Making the Invisible Visible: Capturing the Value of Volunteerism in Nonprofit Organizations. Thanks for visiting!