The Growth of a Field: Best Practices and Research in International Volunteering, Global Service-Learning, and Critical Global Engagement

By Eric Hartman

There are existing bodies of literature that have established some research and best practices in international volunteering and global service-learning. The challenge, at this point in the field’s development, seems to be gathering those various research strands in one space. One year ago, we posted Situating Global Service-Learning: Drawing on Diverse Fields for Informed Practice, complete with hyperlinks to the research and a chart delineating separate strands.  Last week at Northwestern’s International Service-Learning Summit, I had the good fortune to learn of additional important research strands that are not reflected in that previous post. I’m going to share a few highlights below, but first, I would just like to remind readers and first-time users that this website gathers research and practitioner tools in:

Please let us know about any research you feel is missing or any tools you are willing to share with this growing community of practice. Simply email us at buildingbetterworld(at)gmail(dot)com. We will, of course, clearly credit you and/or your institution for any contributions to teaching tools or community partnership planning processes, etc. We are looking forward to adding additional research publications and practitioner tools to this site.

Ironically enough, given my own PhD fields were international development and public administration, some of the most glaring research literature absences on this site come from work published in journals in those fields.  No longer. I highly recommend reviewing:

  • Sherraden, Margaret Sherrard, Lough, Benjamin J., and McBride, Amanda Moore. (2008). Effects of international volunteering and service: Individual and institutional predictors. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 19(4), 395-421. (abstract below) As well as,
  • Devereux, P. (2008). International volunteering for development and sustainability: Outdated paternalism or a radical response to globalisation. Development in Practice, 18(3), 357–370. (abstract below)

Those articles, both quite engaging, will of course lead to many additional, relevant sources. We will work to add all of that to the research wiki in the weeks to come, along with any other resources you send our way.

Remember you can keep up with the resources and reflections added here using the email sign-up box on the right or by following us on Twitter or Facebook. We are looking forward to a couple of imminent contributions from doctoral students who are focusing on the extraordinary challenge of better understanding community impact assessment. Thank you for reading and for contributing.

Abstracts:

Sherraden, Margaret Sherrard, Lough, Benjamin J., and McBride, Amanda Moore. (2008). Effects of international volunteering and service: Individual and institutional predictors. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 19(4), 395-421.

Despite unprecedented recent expansion of international volunteering and service (IVS), there has been relatively little research on impacts. This paper proposes a conceptual model for impact research based on existing research evidence published in English. The model suggests that outcomes for host communities, volunteers, and sending communities vary depending on individual and institutional attributes and capacity. How institutions structure and leverage individual capacity influences who participates and how they serve, and shapes the impact of volunteer action. The conceptual model provides directions for future research.

Devereux, P. (2008). International volunteering for development and sustainability: Outdated paternalism or a radical response to globalisation. Development in Practice, 18(3), 357–370.

This article discusses the history and evolution of international volunteer-sending agencies and volunteers as a response not only to symptoms but also to causes of global poverty and inequality. It considers how international volunteers might be defined, what makes their role different from other forms of overseas development assistance (particularly their contribution to capacity development), and the positives and negatives that may accompany those differences. It also reflects on international volunteers’ suitability as contributors in the transition to a globally more ecologically sustainable state, presenting some insights from volunteers and other stakeholders.

One thought on “The Growth of a Field: Best Practices and Research in International Volunteering, Global Service-Learning, and Critical Global Engagement”

  1. We are trying to identify any research being undertaken to identify if there is a decline in the number of international volunteers and what (if any) have been identified as potential causes? Do you have any information that might help?

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