Learning from Communities: The Local Dynamics of Formal and Informal Volunteering in Korogocho, Kenya

Volume 46 Number 5
Published: September 3, 2015
Taking the Korogocho community as its starting point, this article explores the respective roles, dynamics and relationship between formal and informal volunteering. Following an overview of the research's participatory systemic action research (SAR) methodology, the article outlines how the widespread use of stipends and allowances by external development organisations has blurred the distinction between formal volunteerism and low-paid work – something that disincentivises volunteering through local organisations who lack the resources to pay allowances. It examines informal volunteering, such as mutual aid and self-help groups, and highlights how they add significant value when they emerge in response to a directly experienced community need. Finally, it discusses the risks and opportunities associated with formal and informal volunteering. Issues include how volunteering can be used in complementary ways to address community needs, the scales at which they are most effective, and their potential in promoting greater inclusion and more equitable gender roles.


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