Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Chair of Sport Sociology

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Sport Sciences | Chair of Sport Sociology | Projects | All Projects | Corporate volunteering of a large enterprise in Germany. - An evaluative study of voluntary community engagement in the E.ON Westphalia Weser Corporation in the area of personnel work

Corporate volunteering of a large enterprise in Germany. - An evaluative study of voluntary community engagement in the E.ON Westphalia Weser Corporation in the area of personnel work

Project description


This evaluative study of the community involvement of the employees of the E.ON Westphalia Weser corporation forms one of the first scientific investigations in Germany in which the voluntary community engagement of a large firm (or corporate citizenship) with regard to the work of its personnel is empirically studied. The aim of the evaluative research is to develop a scientifically grounded program for corporate volunteering for the E.ON Westphalia Weser corporation. This program shall advance the voluntary community or civic engagement of the employees of E.ON Westphalia Weser for the aid of public welfare.


For a long time civic engagement was neglected and under the category of honorary work, was rather dismissed as being outdated. Yet meanwhile, various studies both locally and overseas have been able to show that civic engagement contributes towards increasing the ‘social capital’ of our society and raising the ‘cultural capital’ of those involved.

What does that mean? On one hand solidarity networks are built up in a region through the action of civic engagement, by people working together for a particular cause for the benefit of the local community: for example, they work on projects for socially disadvantaged youth; they help the dying through their work in hospice groups; they train children and youth in sports clubs; they help others with questions of faith and meaning through their confessional involvement in churches; they organise social evenings in old people’s homes, youth clubs or shooting clubs; they organise musical and cultural events for the public or protect our lives through their participation in voluntary fire brigades.

From this engagement the whole region benefits, because where there is readiness for mutual help and support, social trust between people also develops. Social trust is in turn an essential basis for a far lower need for the exercising of control by fellow citizens, the state or enterprises. Not least, this has sizeable economical consequences – since social networks build social security and social order, they produce mutual commitments and social control, which cannot be achieved solely by the regulatory function of the state. That is why economically successful regions often stand out for the fact that a high proportion of the inhabitants are involved in the community.

All this outlines the positive effects of civic engagement on the cultivation of so called ‘social capital’ in a region. Additionally, people engaged in the community are ever active. Time and again they are confronted with situations that they would not or only limitedly experience in their everyday family and professional life: they plan and organise club festivities, they speak freely in front of groups or negotiate their views with other interest groups (perhaps with the construction of a preschool or playground), they run the affairs of a sports club or chair a sports group, they care for people in phases of sickness or save people from burning houses.

All these tasks demand knowledge and competences, the latter needing in many cases to be acquired along the way, by way of learning by doing, in order to overcome the challenges. Within the bounds of this lifelong learning process people who are active in the community can gather ‘soft skills’, which are often only developed to a limited extent in the narrower working sphere. In other words: practical areas for learning and experience lay commonly beyond the workplace, where employees (mostly unknowingly) broaden their competences. And this so called ‘cultural capital’ – as our latest research shows – is frequently brought back into the occupational activity.

Civic engagement is therefore a resource that has a beneficial effect on both the regional community and the engaged persons themselves. The extent of the resulting ‘social’ and ‘cultural capital’ in turn constitutes an important requirement for successful economic activity and thus for the prosperity of a region. That is one reason why in other countries such as the USA, UK or Denmark, the facilitation of civic engagement among employees (or corporate volunteering) in corporate citizenship programs is viewed as an essential part of business development.

With this background E.ON Westphalia Weser – as one of the first firms in Germany – is endeavouring to elaborate strategies to promote civic engagement among its employees. This is part of their self-conception as a company which adopts voluntary social responsibilities. For these purposes the Research Centre for Civic Engagement at the University of Paderborn was charged to guide these steps systematically and to evaluate them scientifically.


The first phase of the investigation is based on a written survey of the entire staff concerning their civic engagement. The second phase involves obtaining personal valuations from the management of E.ON Westphalia Weser as to which opportunities and problems are associated with the furthering of voluntary community or civic engagement among their employees. This information serves to generate scenarios in the third phase, about which potentials, possibilities and boundaries are connected to the promotion of staff voluntary activity. A review of the results of the employee survey and the management interviews forms the basis of these scenarios.

More information

Project team: Prof. Dr. Sebastian Braun (head of the project), Saskia Ritter, Christina Weiß, Kathrin Sliep, Carina Schmidt, Meike Zöpnek

Duration: 11.2005 till 10.2006

On behalf of: Westfalen Weser Energie (formerly E.ON Westfalen Weser Inc.)