The Efficacy of International Volunteerism: A Qualitative Review
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International volunteer service (IVS) plays an integral role in international development by supplying non-profit, nongovernmental and charitable organizations with manpower to serve marginalized populations across the globe. Despite the critical importance of international volunteers, the overall efficacy of IVS is open to discussion. Due to the nature of international volunteerism, volunteers often feel as if their service is ineffective, while at the same time host organizations often feel that volunteers do not adequately suit their primary needs. Through fifteen interviews with Peruvian and Ecuadorian host organizations and fourteen interviews with international volunteers, this qualitative study seeks to assess the challenges of IVS and to identify methods of best practice for this field. This study found cultural obstacles, namely language barriers and difficulties associated with acclimating to foreign environments, to be contributing factors that hinder the efficacy of IVS. Other factors include the duration and personal motivations of a volunteer’s service. Additionally, this study also identified a mismatch of supply and demand between international volunteers and host organization needs as a major deterrent of IVS effectiveness. This mismatch is predicated on the discrepancy between the qualifications and expectations of international volunteers and the needs and expectations of host iii organizations. The interviews conducted in this study identified specific methods of best practices that enhance international volunteerism and contribute to mutual benefit and fulfillment for volunteers and the organizations to which they render their service. These practices range from volunteer management strategies to characteristics of successful volunteer behavior. It is hoped that these practices will increase the utility IVS even in the face the inherent mismatch of supply and demand of international volunteers.
Womack, Leslye 1989- (2012). The Efficacy of International Volunteerism: A Qualitative Review. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from