Reconceptualising International Volunteering

ESRC Seminar Series

‘Volunteering’, ‘development’ and ‘tourism’ have all been discussed within national (domestic) and international contexts and underpinned by a range of disciplines, most notably sociology, development studies, leisure studies, tourism studies and management and business studies. However what is less evident are discussions bringing these fields together and opening up debate about the overlaps and mismatches between the volunteering experience in practice and the purported theoretical underpinning.

These mismatches are also evident in practitioner debates where not-for-profit companies (predominantly associated with development initiatives) criticise more commercial tourism operators, only to change their own services later to stay competitive in a complex, fragmented and changing marketplace.

The growing levels of criticism around international volunteering are evident in many arenas; in academic literature, practitioner comments and media reports. Individuals, practitioners, communities and governments as well as researchers therefore need to engage in ‘reconceptualising’ their perceptions of volunteering and particularly international volunteering as both a theoretical and a practical undertaking.

This seminar series is designed to offer an opportunity to do just this: recognising the need to broaden discussions beyond any single academic field; engaging international speakers from all the areas under discussion and ensuring that practitioners are fully engaged with academic researchers. The series is both innovative and timely in addressing these discourses.

Whilst the seminar series may not answer all the questions, it will engage in informed discourses that help formulate future research agendas that are international in focus.