The Changing Tides of Volunteering in Development: Discourse, Knowledge and Practice

Volume 46 Number 5
Published: September 3, 2015
This article explores the changing narratives of volunteering in development and the interplay of volunteering with global and local theories of how change happens. Firstly, we analyse the links between the evolution of mainstream development trends and changes in volunteering approaches and programmes. Secondly, we look at how changing conceptions of volunteering have repositioned international volunteering in relation to national and local contexts. Thirdly, we present the implications of shifts in understandings of knowledge creation, which happens from the ground up, on volunteering research and programming. This discussion is situated within pressure for ‘results’ within contemporary development discourse and practice. The article concludes that the volunteering sector is at a crossroads; organisations working in meaningful partnerships with volunteers from local to global levels must remain at the forefront – questioning mainstream trends and advocating people-centred development. This article draws on a literature review undertaken to inform the Valuing Volunteering project.


  • Volunteering
  • VSO
  • Participation
From Issue: Vol. 46 No. 5 (2015) | What is the Unique Contribution of Volunteering to International Development