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Redistribution, Reciprocity and Solidarity: Towards a Theoretical Conceptualization of Volunteering for Development

Thu, July 12, 8:30 to 10:00am, Room, 14A 33


Empirical research on volunteering for development (V4D) has usually focused on issues such as the motives and benefits for volunteers (Mundorf 2000; Wearing 2001; Mostafanezhad 2013; Smith & Font 2014; Boluk, Kline, & Strooback, 2016) or on their impacts on host communities (Palacios 2010; Schech et al. 2015; Lough/Tiessen 2017), yet the field remains generally under-theorised. Over-rigid and traditional definitions of what is V4D do not capture the variety of models, approaches and funding that currently proliferate.
Our paper presents an evolving theoretical framework that demarcates the different activities and trajectories of V4D, allowing us to conceptualize new hybrid forms that occur in the field. Using the classical third sector model by Evers and Laville (2004) and drawing on Polanyi (2001 [1944]) and Mauss (1990 [1924]), in particular their concepts of redistribution, reciprocity and solidarity, we develop a model that allows us to reveal different logics and features of V4D trajectories. We build on recent research on V4D (Georgeou 2012), volunteer tourism (voluntourism) (McGloin and Georgeou 2015), and on different volunteer programmes in development (Haas 2012, Fischer/Haas 2016) to empirically explore the various conceptualisations and experiences of V4D actors, and to locate them within our theoretical model. In particular, we examine Australian University V4D Programs, the German youth volunteering programme weltwärts, in both cases presenting examples from our own research. The Australian V4D represents a hybrid form of cooperation between public sector and private business, while the German weltwärts can be seen as a programme in which governance structures make it particularly difficult for civil society organizations to define their own goals within volunteering and development. Our theoretical model helps to capture current trends and trajectories within V4D to understand these organisational and stakeholder structures of diverse volunteering activities, and their relational logics.
We argue that new V4D trajectories aimed towards consumption of ‘the development experience’, like voluntourism, disrupt traditional understandings of volunteering as occurring within civil society. Our paper raises new questions regarding the relationship between civil society, the market sector and the state as these new hybrid forms of V4D partnership evolve. Ultimately, the discussion leads to the question of whether the legitimacy of traditional non-profit organisations and civil society activities are in fact at risk due to the increasing involvement of both ‘for-profit’ organisations as well as of mixed public/non-profit of public/for-profit schemes within V4D.