At Palms Australia we don’t shy away from honest evaluations of the value and impact of volunteers in international development.
While we are tasked with promoting the good done by our volunteers, both to recruit more and to secure funding for them, we know that done badly, global volunteering can be very damaging to host communities and volunteers themselves.
It was this understanding of the need for honest, research-based evaluation that we partnered with the University of Wollongong to support Nichole Georgeou’s research into International Development Volunteering.
The result, titled Neoliberalism, Development and Aid Volunteering, has now been published by Routledge and is available at numerous online bookstores.
The book explores, among other things, how the motivations of volunteers and the approaches of International Volunteer Sending Agencies (IVSAs) are shaped by the dominant western neo-liberal world view.
“This research has important implications for Palms Australia and all other volunteer-sending agencies,” says Assistant Director, Brendan Joyce. “On one hand, promoting a particular agenda during recruitment, whether it be a saviour model, unsustainable short term ‘adventures’ or just career advancement, might result in a greater numbers of volunteers.”
“On the other, however, it risks undermining volunteering as a legitimate development approach, placing the individual volunteer at the centre, removing the host community from the driver’s seat, and setting unrealistic or inappropriate development goals.”
Stay tuned for more news about this topic, including a possible Australian launch of the book, as it comes to hand.
Since completing the research, Nichole Georgeou has continued researching related topics as an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at UOW.
She was elected to the Board of Palms Australia in October 2011.