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>>     ‘Pressured Participation’ and Volunteering:
Four Positive and Seven Negative Scenarios

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Pressured Participation’ and Volunteering:
Four Positive and Seven Negative Scenarios

This workshop outline is not intended to stand by itself without workshop presentation/discussion and/or the following background publication: ‘The case Against Community Service: or The Case For’ by Ivan Scheier, with Barbara Anderson, Eileen Cackowski, and Arlene Grubbs; 1993, 14 pages.

Definition: ‘Pressured Participation’ refers to significant mandate or money influence on the decision to participate in community service or not. ("money" can include equivalent in-kind goods or services; also the discharge of current or anticipated debt.)

Assumption: ‘Pressured Participation’ (beyond a certain point) is not the same as volunteering though it may resemble it in some respects.

Question: On Balance, will the current (presumed) increase in pressured participation help or hinder organized volunteerism as we have known it?

Key abbreviation henceforth: P.P. worker = someone who is performing community service on the basis of pressured participation, e.g. the Judge or the Board of Education insists, or the work enables discharge of college debt.


1) P.P. will engage people who might otherwise not participate, and some of these might go on to Volunteer;

2) A fulfilling role for Volunteers as mentors to P.P. workers;

3) Increase in the total number of people generally associated with volunteerism;

4) Relatively large resources available for P.P. today, may leak over into voluntarism.


1) Lack of meaningful jobs for P.P. workers may turn them off on community service;

2) Pressured Participation erodes discretionary time needed for part-time fully paid work and/or volunteering;

(Now, assuming P.P. workers and Volunteers are in the same program:)

3) P.P. workers in great numbers overwhelm Volunteers, leading to more neglect of them, even loss of identity;

4) Volunteers doing same jobs as pressured workers feel less special and benefited;

5) Typically, very different motivations for Volunteer Coordinator to deal with;

6) Vol.-Staff relations, challenging enough, now complicates further to Vol.-Staff, P.P.-Staff, and P.P.-Vol. relations to "juggle";

7) Staff have another ‘reason’ for evading responsibility for volunteers.

Ivan Scheier,


Draft for discussion only
Ivan Scheier,
July, 1998

What we are about, I think, is increasing in the world, the amount and the quality of helping. We have tried to do this mainly in terms programs, as relatively structured efforts sited within organizations. Explored here is the possibility of accomplishing more of our help-enhancing purposes via helping fields.

I'm a whole lot clearer on the meaning of "program" than 'fields'. That is, I suppose one of the disadvantages of not being a subatomic physicist. Still, physical examples may be easier to start with...

A Magnetic or Electromagnetic Field. One of those old horseshoe magnets generates such a field. Metal objects or particles moving into this field are moved/deflected by it. Once out of the field, they are no longer affected.

A Gravitational Field. Arriving from Mars, your spaceship is increasingly gripped by the Earth's gravitational field. As distance from the Earth increases on your way home, the gravitational fields grip loosens and ultimately vanishes.

The Flow Field of a Moving Liquid. Moving downstream your river raft is caught and its path changed by a whirlpool, a standing wave, or other pattern of current around a particular configuration of rocks. Once past the configuration (assuming you do get past it) your raft is no longer influenced by this flow field. Similarly, the stream water itself flows in and out of a whirlpool, standing wave or other pattern; it does not compose the pattern. That pattern exists independently of any specific water molecules.

A heater turned on in a room creates a Temperature Field. You feel the heat more as you enter the room and less as you leave. Even more dramatic are outdoor patios cooled by air conditioners in a New Orleans summer, or mist generators on the patio in a southern New Mexico July. The coolness soon fades as one parts the vicinity of such a temperature field.

Radiation Fields, so far as I am aware, are always destructive to living tissues and cells, though in some cases, e.g. cancer cells, the destruction is desirable *

(*footnote) There are also Stress Fields in compressed solids, Metric Fields, and Probability fields, none of which I can even pretend to understand.

-The field is created and maintained by a localized physical entity – a magnet, a heater, a planet, a pattern of rocks over which water flows, etc.

-The field created by the source is (much) larger than the source, is non-material, unconfined to point places in space, and is invisible, except through its impacts on objects which come under its influence. Outside of such impacts, you can’t see a magnetic, gravitational, radiation or temperature field. Again, the source of a field is material and can affect material objects. But the field itself does not have substance. So what we have here is an intangible "ghostly" field entity impacting "real" material objects – sounds like magic.

- A field and its influence weakens as distance from its source increases. It is nevertheless homogenous in the sense that, except for its source, there is no circumscribed point in space which is any more the field or a crucial part of the field, than is any other point in space.

-Localized material objects or particles are influenced by a field only insofar as they are within its scope of influence, usually defined physically and geographically. A seeming platitude, this nevertheless seems to me the strangest characteristic of all. Iron filings are moved by a magnetic field only when within that field, not before entering the field or after leaving it. Only inside the whirlpool is your raft affected by it; before and after the whirlpool the raft is typically unaffected (except perhaps for trying to dodge before hand and deal with the damage after). Anticipation of a waiting warm room may affect you somewhat before you enter, and lingering warmth may follow for awhile when you leave, but mainly, the warmth affects you when you are in the room and within its temperature field.

-A field does not have to be renewed or refueled through constant effort, as long as its source remains intact, usually a very long time. The gravitational field of the earth remains as long as the earth does; nuclear waste can generate a radiation field for thousands of years; the magnetic field of a horseshoe magnet continues "by itself" unless the magnet is deliberately removed or destroyed or until it very slowly deteriorates. However, the speed and ease of field source removal and consequent field collapse varies a great deal with type of field. Turning off the heater can quickly decrease the heat in a winter room (unless the insulation is very good). At another extreme, the earth is hopefully very difficult to turn off.

Social-Psychological Fields
I believe there are social-psychological analogies to physical fields and that these analogies are based, at least in part, on some shared underlying reality. The Social-psychological terminology is different, with term like "atmosphere". "ambiance," "mood," and "culture" more common than "field".

Cuteness*, as the ambiance around babies, puppies, kittens, lion cubs (but not lions, usually), etc. Within the field these creatures generate, people tend to feel good, and are less uptight. Thus, in the presence of babies, strong men frequently make silly noises; so do strong women. The impact is not so clear to me for the fields ugly creatures may generate – revulsion (?) compassion (?)

(*footnote )The categories are only illustrative and overlap somewhat.

Humor of a gentle vs put-down kind, creates an atmosphere in which people smile, laugh, enjoy. So add comedians and clowns, natural and professional, to our list of "positive social field generators.") Patch Adams is one of the great healing people of our time as much because he is a professional clown as because he is an M.D.) There is probably an opposite, "negative" field produced by mean, hostile humor.

Comfort, Peacefulness, Relaxation. This kind of "comfort field" can be generated by a hostess or host who knows how to put people at ease in their home or workplace, or by certain kinds of healing practitioners. Even outside of conventional roles, some people generally exude an air of being at peace with themselves and the universe – a lovely atmosphere which those around them can bask in.

Happiness. For example, when the aura of joy surrounding a couple in love "infects" those around them. For other onlookers though, there can be a negative field of envy.

Family. The good aura around a healthy, loving family, and the opposite around an unhealthy family.

Successful Networks. Support systems result in concrete win-win benefits for participants and in addition, eventually produce an atmosphere/field of trust and good feeling among the networkers.

Harmony, Beauty. Ever watch people in a high quality art gallery? Lovely art creates a "field of beauty" even though the artist as source may be very distant in time as well as space – a distinction between social-psychological and physical fields, I think. But what about the bored people in the gallery? Is that another distinction in that a social-psychological field acts selectively on some people but not others? Yet, magnetic fields act selectively on metal but not on plastic.

Another example: the skilled, inspired interior decorator produces a room arrangement, the architect a building(s) and/or landscape, that depends not only on the objects involved but on the relationships between them. It is the specialness of relationship that creates a field of pleasure, harmony, beauty in the setting. Other arrangements would be far less pleasant, or even ugly. The Chinese art and discipline of Feng Shui is a powerful, spiritually – oriented example of the importance of harmony among objects in creating positive social psychological fields.

In the previous examples, fields can be thought of as produced by one person or creature, (though this is not always so, for example, the ambiance of a petting zoo is produced by lots of cute animals, collectively.) In the following examples, the field seen uniquely dependent on collective sourcing.

-Most Meditators in most situations sense a clear qualitative enhancement in the experience of meditating with a group of people, as distinct from meditating alone. Research has also strongly suggested an impact on "the real world' of people meditating together. Thus, what has been called the "Maharishi effect' indicates lower crime rates, fewer traffic accidents, etc. for communities in which the number of meditators reach or exceeds a certain threshold percentage of 1%. The research comparing such communities with those not reaching this threshold, was carefully done. I am currently trying to attain such a threshold percentage deliberately in the small community of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, via training energy healers in the Reiki method. As this is written the figure deliberately attained is one-half one percent.

-Recent research strongly suggests that non-material prayer can create a powerfully effective field. Thus, Spindrift and similar groups have demonstrated repeatedly that prayed-over seeds germinate better. Cardiologist Randolph Byrd randomly divided patients admitted to a cardiology ward into a prayed-over group of 193 and a not prayed over group of 201. The groups prayed for, by groups of people from all over the country who did not know the patients, did much better over a 10-month follow-up period.

-Walk into a lovely old cathedral, a Quaker House of Worship, or a quiet Retreat Center. Most of us who have had this kind of experience felt deeply the serenity of the place. It is as if the reverence and peacefulness of previous occupants of this place, somehow got in the walls and in the air itself...

Once again, other places can have opposite, negative fields as in the miasma of most jails and prisons, the tension and fear in many hospital settings, and the hopeless atmosphere of many nursing homes.

-The "mood" or "atmosphere' in a bar or restaurant will depend on many people who have been there before, as well as the décor/arrangement of the place (see earlier category). If this atmosphere is good, it is likely to be called an "ambiance'; but it can be just as effectively bad, or both at once depending on who you are. Thus, what visitors to a neighborhood bar sense there can depend a whole lot on whether they’re from the neighborhood or not. The kind of fields described above can encompass an entire neighborhood, or even an entire community.

-The "culture" of a workplace by which I mean the difference between an office, shop, etc where employees seem happy, enthusiastic, relaxed and, by contrast, a workplace which is tense, resentful, unhappy and even hostile. Consider Southwest Airlines (which has not offered me a free pass, but is always free to change its mind.) In any airport, this airline’s employees seem comparatively relaxed, informal, even having some fun on the job – without the slightest loss of effectiveness, let it be such areas as being on time, customer satisfaction, etc. I suspect some people deliberately set about creating this work-culture, or at near the beginning of the airline, 25 years ago. Most or all of these people are long gone; yet the culture persists, incorporating itself in the work habits of every new employee (although I expect employee selection has something to do with the persistence, too).

The Distinction Between Field and Program: Some Examples and Some Comparisons.

Now that we’ve done our best to define "field," how does it differ from "program"? The best physical analogy I can think of is the difference between the characteristics of a magnetic field and a water pump. The water pump is a mechanism or structure which rigidly channels force to produce a specific desired result, and requires continued investment of energy to do so. The magnetic field, as we have seen, is a homogenous, intangible distribution of force which impacts material objects within its scope.

In the social-psychological realm, it is the difference between:

-a friendly visitor program at a nursing home, and a general atmosphere of warmth and friendliness

-a course for youth in developing good work habits and skills, and giving the youth experience in a workplace which already has a positive work culture.

-religious education of a classroom nature as distinct from experience in a place of worship which has a reverential atmosphere.

Clearly, the two helping modes are more complementary than competitive. In arguing for more attention to fields, I’m only suggesting we need a better balance of both. From the above examples, it’s also clear that the two modes are or can be mutually reinforcing. In all instances I can think of, a good program can contribute to building a good field, and a good field can enhance the impact of a program. There are nevertheless two main advantages of developing helping fields along with (not instead of) helping programs:

1) A unique or a least special component. There is something "natural" and compelling about the reverent atmosphere of a Cathedral that the best Sunday School Program cannot quite convey. Say the same for internship in a positive-cultured workplace as compared to solely didactic training in good work habits.

2) Fields can continue their momentum without continual re-investment of energy, effort, money, etc. As noted in the Southwest Airlines example, the positive work culture field persists pretty much "of its own accord" without major (at least) re-generation efforts, besides occasional "lubrication." Not that this is always or ever completely so; new management at the workplace, or a severe financial crunch, for example, can erode a positive work field. But to the extent a field can be allowed to persist of its own momentum and "magic," there are enormous savings of energy, compared to the continuous reinvestment of effort and money ordinarily required to keep a program going.

The Enhancement of Helping Fields: A First Look

None of this really matters to manipulators like me, if helping fields are simply "acts of nature," invincible to human effort. There must instead be things we can do deliberately to enhance such fields, at least in some cases. Effectively, this amounts to the use of programs to create fields! Here are some first thoughts:

1) We might learn more about diagnosing the health vs. unhealth of a field.

2) We can be more aware of something we already do to some extent – moving helping fields to places where needed, e.g. bringing puppies, kittens, babies, and clowns to nursing homes. As I say, greater awareness will lead to more of the same, or more intensity, as when day care centers are established in the same building as nursing homes and there are more poets in corporations. There are limits, of course. I can’t conceive of incentives which would lure honeymoon couples to nursing homes or boiler factories.

3)Similarly, we might do more to move people from less to more favorable fields. We already do this to some extent, e.g. in removing children from dysfunctional families to hopefully more healthy foster or adoptive family homes.

4)We could do more deliberately to select, orient, and train individuals to be helping field generators, e.g. as clowns, mediators, Feng Shui Practitioners of Interior ‘Decorators, network builders, healing practitioners, and the like. Especially important here, would be making the training and the field generation practice accessible and available to a wide range of people as a spare time as well as full time occupation, not requiring years of education and thousands of dollars in preparation. I also envisage a case in which the trainee is equipped with a wide field production skills and methods, to apply selectively.

5)We could do more to "manufacture" groups fields, e.g. establish broad-based mediation groups and prayer circles in workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. There are also definite methods of facilitating networks and building support systems which, as a ‘by-product," can generate auras of trust and good feeling among the participants.

These examples already exist. I’m only saying there could be more of them, pursued more deliberately and resolutely. There was, for example, an effort some years ago to establish mediation groups among prisoners, and ultimately a more positive aura in the prison. The effort was abandoned because prisoners refused to close their eyes – understandable in that environment. Looking back, a more resolute approach would have explored eyes-open forms of mediation, and/or possibly some form of protective border between inmate mediators.

In parallel to all the above, we might make more deliberate efforts to disrupt negative fields. At first glance, this seems harder to me than building positive fields afresh. I just don’t know enough even to discuss it seriously at this point, except to suppose this is precisely what Mediators try to do. In any case, it’s likely social Workers would be far more knowledgeable about dismantling negative fields and indeed about everything in this essay. So I suspect, would public relations experts.

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Ivan Scheier
607 Marr
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 87901
Tel (505) 894-1340

For comments and editing suggestions please contact Mary Lou McNatt