Origin and History of SVSP, Inc.

Studies of Voluntarism and Social Participation, Inc. was incorporated as a research and educational enterprise in 1985, 501 (C) (3) nonprofit & tax exempt. Founder George K. Floro had become professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1984, and at the time of SVSP incorporation was adjunct professor of sociology at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. The corporate name combines two variables: voluntarism and social participation -- the latter being the central variable during American sociology's early history.

The founder’s work and study around these two social variables began in the early seventies. At approximately the same time (early 1970s) he began three highly voluntary pursuits. He became a regular jail visitor at the Eau Claire County jail and followed prisoners into state prison, mental hospitals, and back into the local community. Sponsors were the local Quaker meeting and sociology colleagues at the university. The most recent paper on this period, which explicitly cites the experience, was prepared for the eleventh annual meeting of the Association for Humanist Sociology, November 6-9, 1986. Title is: "Innocence and Satisfactions for a Shared-Life Voluntarism." (Types of voluntarism had been clarified much earlier. A formal statement appeared in a forum presented before sociology department colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: "Toward a Model of Three Types of Voluntarism," April 29, 1982.)

A second front in voluntary participation came within a circle of professional sociologists in Wisconsin. Floro became editor of the Wisconsin Sociologist and continued in that role for thirteen years. During that time the journal adopted a voluntary program in which every academic sociologist was encouraged to actively participate with others in any of several forms of research and scholarship. Some of this activity is drawn upon in a paper entitled "When Voluntarism Succeeds in Academic Associations," presented at a meeting of the Association of Voluntary Action Scholars (now ARNOVA) in New Orleans, October 6-9, 1985. (Much earlier, voluntarism had been contrasted as an alternative to professionalism as an approach to work.) The third direction of concentrated voluntary participation was animal agriculture, first as a hobbyist and then (within three years) to a serious and intense interest in dairy goat breeding and the creation of a goat herd. Eventually milk was being produced for a cheese plant and shipped cooperatively with that of other goatkeepers. Papers on this experience have been written from 1982 to the present. In 1982 "The Voluntary Side of Raising Dairy Goats" was presented at the third International Conference on Goats, Tucson, Arizona. Papers were given at subsequent conferences in Brazilia, Brazil in 1987, New Delhi, India in 1992, and Beijing, China in 1996. In the last two papers voluntarism is linked with community development. Title of the 1996 paper is "Restoring Goats to Agriculture in the Big Bend Area of West Texas."

In the 1970s Floro became affiliated with AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action Scholars (now ARNOVA – Association for Research of Nonprofit Organization and Voluntary Action). He is a past director and abstracted articles for its publication of abstracts from 1977 until recently when it ceased to utilize colleague abstracts of publications other than its own.

Feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the empirical scientism in the professional group, he wondered why they put up with him! In recent years he has likewise had difficulty over preoccupation with economic sectors. He salutes voluntarism but neither science nor the nonprofit sector. In recent years he has attempted to offer an independent voice in support of voluntarism.


Return to SVSP Home Page