How Participatory Practice can Help to Strengthen the Role of Volunteering in Sustainable Development: An Organisational Perspective

Volume 46 Number 5
Published: September 3, 2015
The post-2015 development debates highlight that the experience of the poorest and most marginalised is one of exclusion due to power inequalities and discrimination. The Valuing Volunteering study demonstrated that volunteering has the potential to challenge power imbalances and strengthen ownership over change for individuals who are traditionally excluded from decision-making processes. However, this article also explores some of the barriers to this approach, such as paternalistic models of volunteering that seek to present the volunteer as the ‘silver bullet'; or the pressure to respond to the top-down agendas of governments and donors that are not aligned with the needs on the ground. The article will look at how participatory practice – reviewing existing mechanisms within VSO programmes as well as some new approaches trialled through the Valuing Volunteering research – can help to overcome some of these barriers and the opportunities and challenges of embedding participatory approaches within an international organisation.


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