EVA H KARLSEN
MASTERS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE IN SERVICE MANAGEMENT COPENHAGEN BUSINESS SCHOOL | JUNE 2012
FACILITATING CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF VOLUNTEER SENDING ORGANISATIONS
SUPERVISOR: ANA MARIA MUNAR DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS AND MANAGEMENT PAGES: 80 | TOTAL STUs: 181.931
Abstract In recent years volunteer tourism has become an increasingly popular form of travel. This has led to a commercialisation of the sector and an expansion of the number and type of volunteer sending organisations that provide opportunities for young people wishing to 'make a difference' during their gap-year. Consequently, critical literature is increasingly wary of the outcome of these programmes and questions the type of difference the volunteers can make. This thesis builds on the premise that cross-cultural understanding should be the outcome of volunteer tourism, and argues that the commonly held perception of volunteers as development aid workers is unrealistic, considering their age and lack of skills. On this grounds, volunteer sending organisations are examined to gain an insight into how crosscultural understanding can be facilitated based on the notion that a mere encounter between two different cultures does not necessarily lead to increased understanding. This is done by examining the practises of a Danish volunteer sending organisation, and illustrating how its volunteer training and programme structure can enhance cross-cultural awareness in participants. In conclusion, volunteer sending organisations are recommended to provide preparation for their volunteers that incorporates Experiential Learning techniques encouraging reflection. The content of the training should focus on shaping volunteer attitudes and providing skills and knowledge useful for the cultural context and type of activity the volunteer will engage in. They can also encourage cultural interaction and enhance cross-cultural understanding by sending volunteers in small groups, accommodating them with host families and setting a minimum timeframe for the duration of stay.
Table of Contents
ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................................................ I TABLE OF CONTENTS .......................................................................................................................... II PROBLEM FORMULATION ..............................................................................................................1 1.1 INTRODUCTION ...............................................................................................................................1 1.2 RESEARCH QUESTION .....................................................................................................................3 1.3 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES ..................................................................................................................4 1.4 PROBLEM OWNERS .........................................................................................................................4 1.5 LIMITATIONS ..................................................................................................................................4 1.6 STRUCTURE ....................................................................................................................................5 THEORY .................................................................................................................................................6 2.1 DEFINING VOLUNTEER TOURISM AND HOST COMMUNITIES ...........................................................6 2.2 HISTORICAL CONTEXT AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE VOLUNTEER TOURISM SECTOR .....................7 2.3 THE ROLE OF SENDING ORGANISATIONS ........................................................................................8 2.3.1 Sending organisations in the Danish volunteer market ..........................................................9 2.4 VOLUNTEER TOURISM: A MORALLY SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVE TO MASS TOURISM? ......................9 2.4.1 The notion of Othering..........................................................................................................10 2.5 WHO ARE THE VOLUNTEERS? .......................................................................................................11 2.6 VOLUNTEER TOURISM IN THE CONTEXT OF DEVELOPMENT AID ..................................................11 2.6.1 The volunteer narrative ........................................................................................................12 2.6.2 Volunteer tourism and development theory ..........................................................................13 2.7 CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING ...........................................................................................14 2.7.1 Increasing tolerance and breaking stereotypes ....................................................................14 2.8 THE POSSIBILITY OF CROSS-CULTURAL MISUNDERSTANDING .....................................................16 2.8.1 Volunteer attitude and unequal relationship ........................................................................16 2.8.2 Need for critical reflection....................................................................................................18 2.9 BUILDING RESPONSIBLE PROGRAMMES .......................................................................................19 METHODOLOGY ...............................................................................................................................20 3. 1 PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE .............................................................................................................20 3.1.1 Review of philosophy of science in social sciences ..............................................................20 3.1.2 Philosophy of science in tourism studies ..............................................................................21 3.1.3 Methodological approach of this study ................................................................................22 3.2 RESEARCH METHOD .....................................................................................................................23 3.3 VALIDITY ......................................................................................................................................24 3.4 RELIABILITY .................................................................................................................................25 3.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE METHOD .....................................................................................................25 3.6 APPLIED METHODS AND DATA COLLECTION ................................................................................26 3.7 QUALITATIVE RESEARCH INTERVIEWS .........................................................................................26 3.7.1 Thematisation and design .....................................................................................................27 3.7.2 Interview ...............................................................................................................................29 3.7.3 Transcription ........................................................................................................................29 3.7.4 Analysis and reporting ..........................................................................................................30 3.8 DOCUMENT AND TEXT ANALYSIS .................................................................................................30 3.8.1 Training manual ...................................................................................................................30 3.8.2 Website ..................................................................................................................................31 3.8.3 Blogs .....................................................................................................................................31 188.8.131.52 Blog selection.....................................................................................................................32 184.108.40.206 Blog analysis ......................................................................................................................33 3.9 TRANSLATIONS .............................................................................................................................33 3.10 SUM-UP .......................................................................................................................................34
PRESENTATION OF CASE ..............................................................................................................35 4.1 INTRODUCTION TO MELLEMFOLKELIGT SAMVIRKE ....................................................................35 4.2 MELLEMFOLKELIGT SAMVIRKE’S VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME ......................................................36 4.3 MS' VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME STRUCTURE .................................................................................37 4.4 THE TRAINING COMPONENT .........................................................................................................38 4.5 AT THE VOLUNTEER DESTINATION ...............................................................................................39 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION .........................................................................................................40 5.1 THE VOLUNTEER BLOGS AND THEIR AUDIENCE ...........................................................................40 5.2 MS' PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL .....................................................................................................42 5.2.1 Promotional narrative ..........................................................................................................42 5.3 CORE ELEMENTS OF MS' VOLUNTEER TRAINING .........................................................................44 5.3.1 Attitude ..................................................................................................................................45 5.3.2 Knowledge ............................................................................................................................47 5.3.3 Skills ......................................................................................................................................49 5.4 EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING .............................................................................................................50 5.4.1 Volunteers reflect on their experiences ................................................................................51 5.4.2 Breaking stereotypes and prejudices ....................................................................................54 5.5 VOLUNTEER PREPARATION AND THE DEMONSTRATION EFFECT ..................................................56 5.6 CONTEXTUALISING THE 'DIFFERENCE' .........................................................................................57 5.6.1 Social change ........................................................................................................................59 5.7 ADAPTATION FACILITATED THROUGH DURATION OF THE VOLUNTEER STAY .............................60 5.7.1 Adaptation facilitated through cultural preparation ............................................................62 5.8 GROUP SIZE AND ACCOMMODATION ............................................................................................63 5.9 A TOURIST EXPERIENCE WITH A DEEPER CROSS-CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING? .........................65 CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVES ............................................................................................68 6.1 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................................68 6.2 PERSPECTIVATION ........................................................................................................................71 BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................................................................................................72
List of abbreviations FEC: Field Experience Course GC: Global Contact MS: Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke
Part 1 Problem formulation 1.1 Introduction In recent years, more and more young people have decided to travel abroad during their gapyear to 'make a difference', making volunteer tourism an increasingly popular form of travel (Guttentag, 2009). While the concept is not new, it is only recently that volunteering abroad has grown into an industry. There are an increasing number of organisations and private companies offering volunteer opportunities whereby people travel to foreign destinations, usually developing countries, where they join projects to help the local communities. But while the growth in quantity of volunteer tourists going abroad has risen over the years, there is a debate concerning the perceived quality of these volunteer projects. The notion of quality refers to concerns the impacts these programmes have on the receiving host communities, the extent to which volunteers really contribute with something 'meaningful' as promised in the sending organisations' promotional, and whether the volunteer stream from North to South creates relationships reminiscent of colonial practises. These concerns are, however, often embedded in an understanding of volunteer tourism as a form of development aid. Common to both literature and media, is the perception, that the goal of volunteer tourism primarily concerns the work being done. This perception is not undue considering how the sector has promoted its programmes. There has been a tendency of some volunteer agencies to suggest how important the volunteers are for the receiving host communities, and by mixing descriptions of poverty in the developing countries with statements of 'make a difference', insinuating that the volunteers can, in effect, be a solution for these types of problems (Simpson, 2004). This can lead to untenable expectations by volunteers and host communities alike and create a gap between expectations and realities (Palacios, 2010). It also contributes to the understanding of volunteer tourism as being a form of development aid. Much debate and criticism have evolved around this idea that the volunteer work should contribute to effective help or development aid, emphasising service delivery and the transfer of knowledge and skills (Palacios, 2010).
Counter to this, the question has been raised as to whether the value of volunteer tourism is in the work itself. The suggestion that young gap-takers can be the solution to social and economic problems of the developing world has been deemed improbable, especially because of their young age and inexperience (Ingram, 2011). Another perceived goal of volunteerism is that it should lead to increased cross-cultural understanding between the volunteer and host. Studies on volunteer tourism have found that this type of tourism can lead to intense social interactions, where engaging, genuine and mutually beneficial narratives are created between volunteer and host (McIntosh & Zahra, 2007). It has been argued that programmes emphasising the intercultural meeting can foster cross-cultural skills and global awareness, leading to increased tolerance, international solidarity and civic engagement (Sherraden et al., 2008). But although some have recognised the value of cross-cultural understanding, most of the existing literature is still dominated by the development aid goal (Palacios, 2010). Given the age and inexperience of the volunteers, the volunteer programmes' attributes, in the context of development theory (more on this section 2.6.2), and the fact that many organisations do not state that they perform development work (Simpson, 2004), this study will discuss and build on the premise that cross-cultural understanding should be the primary goal of volunteer tourism. I.e. the impact and outcome of volunteer tourism should not be evaluated as contributing to larger development goals of developing countries, but rather on the small impacts the meetings between different cultures can bring about. Focusing on cross-cultural understanding as the aim of volunteer tourism still calls for improvement to the sector. A meeting between two different cultures does not necessarily lead to an increased understanding. On the contrary, it has been argued that it can lead to misunderstandings and reinforcement of stereotypes (Raymond & Hall, 2008; Simpson, 2004). This is likely to happen when critical reflection is not part of the programme (Raymond & Hall, 2008), and when volunteers have not been properly prepared for their role, the local context and what to expect (Fee & Mdee, 2011). While much of the existing literature has been about the positive and negative stances, little has been done to attempt to examine how volunteer tourism programmes can be developed to ensure that they benefit the involved parties (Raymond, 2008). Research in volunteer tourism is still in its infancy stage and so far the bulk of it has focused on the volunteers who go abroad. Little is known about the many sending organisations promoting and organising the programmes and how they can impact the outcome of the programmes (Benson, 2011). 2
According to Sherraden et al. (2008), the outcome of volunteer tourism, and whether it leads to increased cross-cultural understanding, depends on various factors including the volunteers' and sending organisations' attributes (Sherraden et al., 2008). As the number of volunteer sending organisations grows, there are an increasing number of questions surrounding the quality of their programmes and the role they can play in shaping the volunteer experience. It is therefore important to gain further insight into the sending organisations' practises to form a better understanding of how they can adjust and plan their programmes to promote crosscultural understanding. On this basis, this study will explore the role of the sending organisations and how they can impact the outcome of the programme by imposing programme measures that can facilitate cross-cultural understanding. While aspects such as volunteer preparation have been recommended by previous literature, this study seeks to contextualise how such training can be carried out and what other programme structures can be adjusted to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. This will be examined through a case study of a Danish non-governmental organisation, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, and their international volunteer programme, Global Contact. This organisation has been chosen because of its central focus on volunteer preparation and minimum requirements of duration of stay - features that may be conducive to cross-cultural understanding (Fee & Mdee, 2011; Raymond & Hall, 2008). All volunteers travelling with Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke have to attend 5 weeks of preparatory training, and are required to volunteer for a minimum of 12 weeks. This is rather unique compared to many other sending organisations that neither provides preparation nor make demands on the volunteer time frame. The study is explorative in nature and should provide new insights that future research can build on, and other sending organisations can gain inspiration from.
1.2 Research Question The principal aim of this study is to investigate the role that volunteer sending organisations can play in facilitating cross-cultural understanding in volunteer tourism. The main research question is: How can volunteer sending organisations develop and manage volunteer tourism programmes that facilitate cross-cultural understanding?
1.3 Research Objectives In order to answer the problem formulation, the research objectives are as follows: (i)
Explore excerpts of the existing literature on volunteer tourism and discuss the disparity between different perceptions of the goal of volunteer tourism.
Identify problems, as well as recommendations, regarding how volunteer programmes can increase cross-cultural understanding among their participants.
(iii) Examine the elements of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke's volunteer programme that facilitate cross-cultural understanding and why. (iv) Analyse the volunteer experience in the context of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke's volunteer programme and in relation to the theory-based categories of importance in facilitating cross-cultural understanding. (v)
Relate the intended cross-cultural outcomes to the findings and determine key recommendations for sending volunteer organisations.
1.4 Problem owners With the increase in popularity of volunteer tourism, the issues concerning the outcome of the programmes and their effect on cross-cultural understanding has growing relevance. Such knowledge is relevant, first and foremost, for the wide range of different volunteer sending organisations that are the focus of this study. This counts both the many commercial, and noncommercial sending organisations. It will also be applicable for potential volunteers and donors supporting the industry, including governments who fund the volunteers or support the sending organisations and not least the receiving host communities and local partners of cooperation. The study is also valuable for the academic community as it contributes to the knowledge on volunteer tourism, which can also benefit other researchers within the more general tourism sector who are engaged with cross-cultural issues.
1.5 Limitations There is an array of different types of volunteer programmes on offer, each catering to different segments of the market. This study will look at volunteer programmes for young people aged 18-25 years, which is the age group of the selected case. As the objective of this study is to examine the sending organisations, it will not discuss situations where volunteers choose to volunteer without the use of intermediaries.
Furthermore, the focus is on the volunteer sending organisation and how they can facilitate cross-cultural understanding through their programme structure and preparation of the volunteers, as these features are identified as unique to the chosen case. The study is therefore limited to exploring these elements and has not included their partnership approach with the local communities. The empirical data of the study provides insight into the behaviour and opinions of the sending organisation and the volunteers. It has not been within the scope of this study to include the receiving host communities. Since the research is exploratory in nature, the data only takes a preliminary look at the requisite mechanisms for facilitating cross-cultural understanding.
1.6 Structure The study is divided into six Parts: 1. The first part consists of the introduction to the study and the problem formulation. 2. The second part introduces the theoretical foundation discussing the existing literature on volunteer tourism and the context of the study. 3. The third part consists of the methodological considerations and specification of research methods. 4. The fourth part presents the case study, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke. 5. The fifth part presents and discusses the empirical data. 6. The sixth part concludes and makes suggestions for future research.
Part 2 Theory This section explores an excerpt of the current literature on volunteer tourism relevant to the empirical data of this study. Based on previous research, this part firstly introduces the development of volunteer tourism and compares it to general mass tourism. This is followed by an examination of the current literature on the impacts and value of volunteer work in relation to a) development work and b) intercultural understanding.
2.1 Defining volunteer tourism and host communities The study of volunteer tourism is still relatively new and consequently academic research is in its infancy (Benson, 2011). One of the issues that researchers are still struggling with, is the fact that there is still no commonly agreed definition of the term ‘volunteer tourism’. It is being used broadly to encompass a variety of meanings, ranging from professionals working abroad in exchange of reimbursements and a ‘token pay’ such as UN volunteers (UNV, 2012) to short-term gap year travels for young, unskilled volunteers who pay for all expenses themselves. One of the most cited definitions of volunteer tourism comes from Wearing (2001) who defines it as “…those tourists who, for various reasons, volunteer in an organized way to undertake holidays that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment” (p. 1). Although this definition has been broadly used, it has also been deemed too limiting as a universal definition (Lyons & Wearing, 2008) because it confines volunteering to holidays or vacations, which might not always be the case, and it does not include the intercultural aspect of volunteer tourism, nor the importance of interaction between the volunteers and the host community (Lee & Woosnam, 2010). Most literature acknowledges this lack of a universal definition, and Benson (2011) encourages research that will set the boundaries of ‘what is’ and 'what is not’ volunteer tourism to define it universally. This study is concerned with the growing body of volunteer tourism projects available to the young, unskilled population in industrialised countries, who volunteer abroad during their gap year. Henceforth, the term volunteer tourism will refer to this type of volunteers and will be restricted to the age group of 18-25 years.
Having defined the type of volunteers there is also a need to define different aims of programmes. Sherraden et al. (2008) distinguishes between programmes that emphasise the outcome of international understanding and those that emphasise development aid and humanitarian relief, although, they add, these goals often overlap (p. 400). While this study engages with the goal of cross-cultural understanding, as stated in the introduction, the goal of development aid predominates in previous research and both goals will be discussed further down to clarify their differences.
2.2 Historical context and development of the volunteer tourism sector Volunteer tourism is argued to have its roots in the organisation Service Civil International (SCI), which was set up in Europe in the early 1920s following the First World War. The founder, Pierre Cerresole, was horrified by the events of the war and wanted to create an organisation, which could enable volunteers to provide help for those in need (Tomazos, 2010). After Second World War similar organisations sprung up in the US, where, among others, the Peace Corps initiated a range of volunteer projects (Daldeniz & Hampton, 2011). Others have connected the history of volunteer tourism to the missionary movements (Raymond & Hall, 2008), which resemble a similar concept of people helping others in need on a voluntary basis. Regardless of its origin, volunteer tourism has, since the 1990s, experienced marked growth and the sector has become increasingly commoditised as it has emerged as a new popular alternative travel, especially for young people taking a gap year (Guttentag, 2009). The phenomenon of taking a gap-year has resulted in a fast growing industry of companies and organisations offering different forms of experiences for young people, who are in between education. The gap-year phenomenon is particularly popular in certain countries, such as the UK, Australia and Canada, and it is countries like these that turn out the most volunteer tourists (Lyon et al, 2012). There is no exact number specifying how many people travel abroad to volunteer. The fact that there is no agreed definition on the concept also complicates any attempt to count the volunteers. The Association of Tourism and Leisure Education calculated that the market had grown to 1.6 million volunteer tourists in 2008, contributing between USD 1.7-2.6 million (Tomazos, 2010). Such figures should be viewed with caution because it is so difficult to estimate, but even if the numbers are not correct, there is a general agreement between researchers that volunteer tourism has increased dramatically in recent years (Guttentag, 2009, p. 538).
2.3 The role of sending organisations The volunteer tourism market consists of an increasing number of organisations and companies that market and sell their volunteer products. Both commercial and non-profit agents will be referred to as volunteer sending organisations henceforth. Similar to the mass tourism industry, these volunteer sending organisations work as intermediaries who transform an available good by bundling raw components into a product that can be purchased and consumed (Page & Connell, 2009). These products consist of a variation of components such as work placement, accommodation, transport/flights, introduction/preparation, language courses and so on. Many of the volunteers are first time travellers and rely on these intermediaries for volunteering. By nature, the final product cannot be 'tried on' before consumption and this makes both the operation and type of volunteer sending organisation very important for the final outcome. The structure of operation often includes several layers, where volunteers travel out with a sending organisation and are received by a separate host organisation that places the volunteers (Sherraden et al, 2008). The types of volunteer sending organisations vary; although the majority of sending organisations are still non-profit organisations, the commercial segment is growing rapidly, and “evidence of a move towards the commodification of volunteer tourism is already at-hand with large tourism operators competing for a share of this new market” (Lyons & Wearing as cited in Guttentag, 2009, p. 541). Overall, the outcomes and impacts of volunteer tourism on the parties involved (including volunteers and receiving host communities) rely to a great extent on the attributes of the volunteer sending organisation and their institutional capacity1 (Sherraden et al, 2008). The sending organisation defines the goal of their programme, who participates, what type of partners they cooperate with, and the outcome depends on their ability to leverage individual capacity and shape volunteer impact (ibid). The type of sending organisations therefore plays an important role in shaping the outcome of the product. Despite this, few studies have engaged with how these organisations can facilitate different outcomes and it is an area that remains underexplored (Benson, 2011; Raymond & Hall, 2008; Sherraden et al., 2008).
The third factor of impact in Sherraden et al.'s model for impact are the volunteer attributes
2.3.1 Sending organisations in the Danish volunteer market Although it is very popular to take a gap-year in Denmark, little is known about the Danish volunteer tourism market. Current research on gap-year organisations is almost exclusively centred on studies from the UK (Lyon et al., 2012). This study has used www.udiverden.dk, a Danish website administered by the Danish Administration of Universities and Internationalisation, to create an overview of the market. The site provides a list of links to many of the sending organisations providing volunteer tourism experiences to Danes. The Danish market also consists of a mix of non-government organisations and for-profit agencies, and the programmes at offer vary markedly. Important for the analysis below, it is noted that many of the Danish sending organisations offer short term volunteering (from two weeks duration), only few offers preparation for the volunteers and especially the commercial players seem to send the volunteers in large groups accommodated at volunteer camps.
2.4 Volunteer Tourism: a morally superior alternative to mass tourism? Volunteer tourism is considered a niche sector of regular mass tourism, and has been given a variety of names such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘alternative’ tourism. Although no widely accepted definition of alternative tourism exists, it is generally used to represent "a marketdifferentiated and an ideologically divergent form of tourism that is considered preferable to mass tourism and more sustainable" (McIntosh & Zahra, 2007, 541). There are different suggestions as to how volunteer tourism is distinguished from regular tourism, but it is often related to the tourists’ degree of involvement in the foreign culture. Looking at the conventional mass tourism industry, it has been argued that it is formed and controlled by Western society and a commodification process has lead to “the segregation and exclusion of local communities from participating in or sharing the process, functions and economic benefits of the industry” (Wearing & Gabrowski, 2011, p. 196). With an increasing number of tourists visiting the developing world, there has been a growing critique of how mass tourism interferes with and changes the local culture. This includes issues such as the commodification of the local culture, feelings of resentment or how staging of rituals for tourists can lead to the risk of losing these cultural rituals (ibid). A big influx of tourists can, by volume and presence, shape and possibly damage, the culture in the tourist-receiving communities. One of the oft-repeated concerns within tourism is the 'demonstration effect', which is the copy of behavioural patterns of tourists by the local population (Fisher, 2004). Foreign tourists expose the locals to their different lifestyles and items of wealth, which on
some occasions inspire positive change, but are most commonly connected with negative impacts, leading to feelings of discontent when such consumption patterns and lifestyles are out of reach for the local communities (Wall & Mathieson as cited in Guttentag, 2009, p. 547). In trying to incorporate the elements of ethics and responsibility, other forms of tourism such as ecotourism, pro-poor tourism and volunteer tourism have emerged. These forms of tourism are said to avoid some of the ills of regular mass tourism and try to “ensure that the resource and destination impacts are minimized” (Wearing, 2001, p. 7). Consequently, volunteer tourism has received a lot of positive attention and has been promoted as “a morally superior alternative to mass tourism” and the volunteers have been labelled the “new moral tourists” whom, opposed to the mass tourists, involve themselves in, and contribute to the local communities (Butcher as cited in Gray & Campbell, 2007, p. 465). According to Wearing (2001) volunteer tourism is mutually benefitting for both volunteer tourist and the receiving host communities, and promotes a genuine exchange between the two. But although volunteer tourism has received much praise and recognition, critical voices have also emerged. Guttentag (2009) argues that this predominant focus from existing literature on the positive aspects has overlooked many of its potential negative impacts. He finds that much of the literature has focused on the ‘mutual benefits’ for both host and volunteer, but the studies have been based on the volunteers, not on the host communities. The critical voices and the concerns raised are important for developing and improving the volunteer tourism sector and will be discussed in more detail further below. On this line, the degree to which volunteer tourism stands as a morally superior alternative to mass tourism is questioned, and the reason to look more closely at the sending organisations is accentuated, in order to see if they can play a role in averting such negative impacts. 2.4.1 The notion of Othering When discussing intercultural meetings in tourism studies the notions of authenticity and Othering are often brought up. Tourists are believed to consume and place relative value on their tourism experience based on the level of authenticity involved (White, 2007, p. 26). This authenticity often implies the pursuit of the Other, defined as "an equally homogeneous, but diametrically opposed set of people that are untainted by the violent orderings of modernity" (Jack & Phipps as cited in Wearing & Gabrowski, 2011, p. 196).
In trying to cater to this presumed quest for authenticity, promotional tourist material has been found to capitalise on the concept of Othering by portraying destinations as 'real' and 'authentic' experiences, describing the local population as homogenous groups and generally hinging on differentiation mechanisms (White, 2007). Such simple illustrations of the Other may in effect create platforms of 'us' versus 'them', which pinpoints cultural differences without identifying any commonalities (Simpson, 2004). The presence of such notions is also important in volunteer tourism and will be explored further down.
2.5 Who are the volunteers? The volunteer tourist usually comes from a developed country and volunteers in a developing country (Guttentag, 2009). Based on research from Europe and North America, gap-year volunteer tourists are found to be young, educated, affluent and white (Sherraden et al, 2008). The preponderance of research in volunteer tourism has focused on the volunteers and their different motivations for volunteering. Volunteer tourism has been considered an altruistically motivated form of tourism because the young people pay in order to go to a foreign country and lend a hand somewhere their help is needed. A Study by Alexander and Bakir (2011) on volunteer tourists’ motivation and expectations revealed that the key component is ‘engagement’, where engagement is defined as a form of interaction where the participants are connecting with the Other. The important factor for the volunteers was the fact that they were going somewhere to get involved and do something. But studies have shown that motives are not purely altruistic, but self-serving as well, as volunteers are also motivated by career and personal development (Wearing & Gabrowki, 2011), and by the “opportunity to re-evaluate their core beliefs and values, as well as the intrinsic rewards gained from the volunteering experience” (Ingram, 2011, p. 215). Motivational aspects such as having fun and going on an adventure are also part of the motivation, and Sherraden et al (2008) suggest that volunteers who are primarily motivated by their own benefits may have less to offer on their volunteer placements (p. 399).
2.6 Volunteer tourism in the context of development aid Volunteer tourism is often set in relation to development aid, where the volunteers are regarded as a type of development workers who can ‘aid or alleviate material poverty of some groups in society’ (cf. definition in section 2.1). A great deal of the critical literature engages with the presumed miss-match between work performed by gap-year students and the
substantial task of aiding less developed countries. The following sections looks at volunteer tourism in the context of development. 2.6.1 The volunteer narrative The notion of volunteer tourists providing a form of development aid partly stems from the promotional material of the sending organisations, which is filled with statements of ‘needy’ communities in the developing world and how volunteers can ‘make a difference’ there (Simpson, 2004). In Simpson’s (2004) study of volunteer sending organisations’ promotional material, she focused on the commercial sector of the industry to identify the language and narrative used in their sales material. While there were few direct claims of doing ‘development work’ she found many allusions to this. Sales material was filled with statements of “making a difference”, “doing something worthwhile” and “contributing to the future of others” (p. 683), notions that, however, remained vague and were not properly contextualised. These statements were coupled with descriptions of host communities as ones with “poverty, disease, hunger and monotony” and “disadvantaged communities” (p. 684), illustrating the type of context in which they would "make a difference". Furthermore, a 'geography of need' was created to convince the volunteers that they could directly influence these societies: We have carefully selected the projects that present the opportunity for you to be of genuine value to an indigenous community and to give something back
(Venture Co. as cited in Simpson, 2004, p. 686) This is argued to shape the expectations of the participants in their roles as volunteers, but also encourage a perception of development as a simple matter that can be alleviated through the volunteering of young, unskilled volunteers. Simpson (2004) argues that although the word ‘development’ is sparsely used, the message is thinly disguised. This is supported by Palacios (2010) who believes that the use of this 'helping narrative' consequently leads to the colonial connotations on which much of the volunteer critique is based. It also shapes the volunteers' expectations about their contribution, which may not be met, and can create a gap between expectations and reality. A relevant question becomes whether this helping narrative is used because the sending organisations' goal of volunteer tourism is development aid, or whether it is an outcome of the commercialisation of the sector. Guttentag (2009) suggests that the predominant theme of 12
volunteer motivations in the literature has caught the attention of volunteer sending organisations that are increasingly trying to satisfy the needs of the volunteers as a marketing strategy. According to Fee and Mdee (2011), the volunteer sending organisations are not lone offenders in drawing on such market hooks, but they do invoke the suggestion that volunteers - regardless of skills - are able to make a difference to poverty and deprivation. They declare, It is the reinforcement of this myth that is perhaps one of the most problematic aspects of the volunteer tourism encounter and contributes to an over-expectation on the volunteer’s part of their own direct impact, and a seeming disregard for a need to learn about and respect other ways of doing and being.
(Fee & Mdee, 2011, p. 225) 2.6.2 Volunteer tourism and development theory So how does volunteer tourism relate to development aid theory, and does it have a place there? In order to find out whether volunteer tourism follows good development principles Ingram (2011) examined current development models and juxtaposed them with the volunteer tourism models to see if the volunteer sending organisations’ claims of "contributing in a meaningful way", are more than just catchy slogans (p. 211). The development discourse, which is dominated by Western thinking, has evolved from modernisation theory, which claimed superiority of the ‘developed West’ over the ‘underdeveloped Third world’, placing the ‘Third world’ in a role of dependency. Development in the 'Third world' was considered to be contingent by the aid and transfer of knowledge by the West. This conceptualisation of development has changed dramatically and current development models are now based on empowerment principles of building capacities in partnerships with local communities (Ingram, 2011, p. 217). Especially during the past two decades, NGOs have used these models that apply a bottom-up approach, where participation is carried out in long-term partnerships and where the locals are the initiators of the actions. This view places the local communities in a central role when defining and acting upon development issues. In opposition to this model, Ingram (2011) finds that volunteer tourism promotes a simplistic understanding of development. Based on Simpson's study (2004), she argues that the volunteer narrative portrays development as something one should just ‘get on with’ as expressed in the sales material of a sending organisation:
We provide the materials and get on with it, alongside local people
(Teaching and Projects Abroad as cited in Simpson, 2004, p. 685). According to Ingram (2011) such attitude presumes that western volunteers can model and influence development, externalising the development process. And similar to Simpson (2005), Ingram argues that the promotional material creates spaces of need for the volunteer rather than defining the specific needs the volunteer assist in meeting (p. 218). Such approach seems to “ignore the root cause of poverty and inequality [and] [i]nstead, volunteerism propagates a public myth of development, one of simplicity, where participation and good intentions are considered enough and the use of unskilled labour is validated as the ‘solution’” (Ibid, p. 218-219). This view is supported by Palacios (2010) who argues that the development aid goal is both unrealistic and undesirable. It is unrealistic because of the volunteers' lack of skills, their questionable motivations and the short timeframe involved. Moreover, it is undesirable because of the negative outcomes it can produce, such as role ambiguity among the volunteers (this will be discussed further in section 2.8.1), public scepticism and accusations of neo-colonial traits.
2.7 Cross-‐cultural understanding As much of the literature on volunteer tourism has been monopolised by the development aid goal, it has been suggested that “volunteer tourism academics should consider reframing their perspectives and incorporate the goals of international understanding and intercultural learning to their research agendas" instead (Palacios, 2010, p. 864). The purported goal of cross-cultural understanding is not new but has - perhaps because of the commercialisation of the sector - been underexposed as a valuable outcome. The following examines how volunteer tourism can bring about positive social impacts in the form of increased intercultural understanding. 2.7.1 Increasing tolerance and breaking stereotypes Cross-cultural issues between the volunteer and the host communities have only just started to be examined in the literature (Wearing & Gabrowski, 2011; Lee & Woosnam, 2010). It can be difficult to measure, but increased cross-cultural understanding has nonetheless been assumed to bring about desirable outcomes. According to McIntosh & Zahra (2007), interaction and exchange of narrative can lead to an increased understanding of the world and can be mutually beneficial for the host and the volunteer. 14
It has been proposed that a prerequisite for cross-cultural understanding is the process of intercultural adaptation, defined as "the process whereby people adapt their behaviour to facilitate understanding in cross-cultural understandings" (Reisinger as cited in Wearing & Gabrowski, 2011, p. 199) and that realistic expectations are key to achieving a greater ease of adaptation (ibid). Compared to conventional mass tourism, volunteers stay at the same location on average for much longer and are more likely to gain a deeper insight into local practises. Through working and living closely with the foreign culture they are able to engage in a cultural exchange and both experience and learn about the Other. Beyond gaining a deeper and more enriched cultural understanding, Lee and Woosnam (2010) suggest that volunteers may bring these insights with them and become global citizens more partial to involvement in changing the world. They argue that through direct interaction with people who are less affluent, volunteers are considered to gain a better comprehension of world matters, such as poverty. In this way, volunteer tourism has the potential to raise social consciousness, and become a platform contributing to peace and broader global justice movements (Conran, 2011). But as addressed previously, such outcomes will depend to a large degree on the sending organisations' goals and aims of their programmes. The values ascribed to cross-cultural understanding are intangible; they are not monetary and are difficult to measure. In this sense volunteer tourism and the assumed benefits that come from cross-cultural understanding can be explained as a positive externality with social benefits exceeding the private supply. An important part of what comes out of voluntourism is social capital: It breaks down stereotypes. For the traveller, it can help you retool and rethink your life philosophy, and the local people end up with a different image of foreigners
(Elliot, 2008, as cited in Guttentag, 2009, p. 545) This view is supported by Palacios (2010). He argues that we have to understand volunteer tourism through these 'intangible outcomes'. In his study of students volunteering abroad he found evidence of volunteer-host encounters that went beyond mere amiability, but were friendships with deep conversation and reciprocity. He argues that "the intercultural relationships born out of these micro-scenarios have a significant value" (p. 872) and such close cultural contact can lead to "strong economic, social and learning outcomes for both
hosts and students" (ibid). These cross-cultural experiences can be a valuable source of cultural learning and respect, inspiration and appreciation leading to feelings of solidarity and civic engagement (McIntosh & Zahra, 2007).
2.8 The possibility of cross-‐cultural misunderstanding Using volunteer tourism as a way to foster cross-cultural awareness and understanding may, according to the above, seem like an ideal educational process, but does it always happen? Raymond and Hall (2008) argue that the process of cross-cultural understanding is not automatic and social interaction between cultures may not always lead to a genuine awareness. The volunteer tourist experience can, in fact, lead to a reinforcement of previously formulated expectations such as assumptions that “host communities accept their poverty” (Raymond & Hall, 2008, p. 533). This is because ‘seeing’ does not equal ‘knowing’ and merely facilitating contact with the Other does not break down assumptions or stereotypes - in fact there is a danger they may be strengthened instead (ibid). This can lead to a deepening of the dichotomies between ‘them' and 'us’, if the volunteer stay is used to confirm, rather than question, pre-conceived perceptions. Lyon et al. (2012) stress that the proliferation of the gap-year market and the increasing commodification of volunteer tourism products have made it questionable whether volunteer tourism provides a sustainable alternative to mass tourism. They contend that the linking of volunteer tourism to global citizenships remains empirically unsupported, and question that the volunteers' experiences can be the basis for a change of world view or for less racist or stereotypical perception of the Other (p. 373). The following examines some of the problematic aspects in the meeting between cultures. 2.8.1 Volunteer attitude and unequal relationship An oft-debated issue in volunteer tourism regards the attitude of the volunteer and the perception of their role in the host community. The problem arises when the volunteer takes on a role as an 'expert', which might be inappropriate considering their (lack of) experiences or qualifications (Fee & Mdee, 2011; Raymond & Hall, 2008; Simpson, 2005; Wearing 2001). An example is when volunteers initiate projects, which may not be needed by the locals or may lead to discontent. In Sin's (2010) study she describes how the installation of solar panels by volunteers became a source of unsettling power hierarchies and unhappiness in a village.
The solar panels were installed to provide electricity for computers that the volunteers had brought. In the end, the computers made little impact and an internal power struggle over the control and access to the solar panels emerged, causing much unhappiness (p. 990). Accordingly, Sin argues that the lack of knowledge among the volunteers may unwillingly lead to negative impacts. She also argues that volunteer tourism involving the handing out of presents and money can lead to perceptions of the foreigner as a bestower of gifts. This may lead to a relationship of dependency where the receivers will come to expect that things like, infrastructural developments, for example, are provided by external agencies for free (ibid). In relation to this concept, volunteer tourism has in many cases been likened to neocolonialism, with the perception that Western knowledge can play a 'saviour' role (Fee & Mdee, 2011, p. 228) and may be seen as racially and culturally superior (Raymond & Hall, 2008, p. 531). Sin (2010) argues that the relationship in volunteerism is unequal to begin with, as the volunteer is put in a position of power when they are coming down to 'care'2, implying a position of privilege and power (p. 986). She goes on to describe this as a paradox because [...] the call for responsibilities based on universal justice, or ‘‘sameness” between people despite the distance, is itself continuously placing the ‘‘same people” into distinct categories of the ‘‘rich” and therefore ones who need to assume responsibilities; and the ‘‘poor” and therefore ones who will always remain on the receiving ends of responsible actions.
(Sin, 2010, p. 988) Erikson Baaz (as cited in Fee & Mdee, 2011) also found attitudes of superiority in volunteers who were not aware of the context they were operating in and believed they knew the answers (p. 228), which is not helpful for building respectful relationships between host and volunteer. According to Fee and Mdee (2011) the volunteer attitude is part of what determines the process of cross-cultural understanding. Based on literature on personal attitudes in development practitioners, they suggest that the experience between the volunteer and host can be improved when expectations and attitudes are managed more effectively, and that volunteers need to be open, willing to learn, and slow to judge (p. 228). This can be done through training and preparation of volunteers prior to their arrival. Simpson (2005) suggests that the uncritical adoption of a position as an expert, and the powerful inequalities framed by 2
This is based on Sin's (2010) finding of many volunteers performing social and caretaking work.
it, can be avoided by incorporating greater levels of reflection during the learning process, which will be discussed below. 2.8.2 Need for critical reflection According to Simpson (2004; 2005), the confirmation of stereotypes is the likely outcome when volunteer sending organisations promote simplistic views of the Other. In her study she found sweeping generalisations in the descriptions of the receiving host destinations and these were continued throughout the volunteer experience because of the lack of critical engagement (Raymond & Hall, 2008; Simpson, 2004). If the focus is on cultural explanation alone without addressing the structural relationships between communities, volunteers will retain a myopic concentration on the individual rather than an increased understanding of some of the global mechanisms, according to Simpson (2004). Furthermore, she argues that for the cultural meeting to be an educational process, volunteer organisations cannot rely on social interaction alone and need to include interpretation and critical reflection in the process (Simpson, 2005). On similar lines, Raymond (2008) argues volunteers should be provided with opportunities to reflect on their behaviours, think critically, and not just 'experience'. He argues that while his, and other studies, suggest that cross-cultural understanding and a sense of global citizenship is possible, the volunteers need to engage in deeper reflections about their actions and the larger issues surrounding the programme for it to have long-term effects on the lives of the volunteers and their worldview (Raymond, 2008, pp. 54-55). Fee and Mdee (2011) suggest, that such critical reflection need also include the volunteers' ability to reflect upon the validity of their own views and how well these views fit into the new context they operate in. Such reflections can be included through Experiential Learning techniques, according to Raymond and Hall (2008). Following Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory, Experiential Learning is "the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). This specific theory is implemented by the case in this thesis and is therefore considered important. Kolb's Idealised Learning cycle, figure 1, illustrates how concrete experiences are the basis of reflections and observations. Such reflections are transformed into abstract conceptualisation from which new implications for action can be drawn, actively tested and become the basis for creating new experiences (Kolb & Kolb, 2005, p. 2). Therefore, in order for learning to take place, it is important that the participants reflect on their experiences. 18
Figure 1. Learning cycle
(MS, 2010, p. 6) Evidence from studies of other educational forms3 have emphasised the need for 'experience' to be part of the educational process (Krnas & Roarke, as cited in Simpson 2005, p. 464), but Simpson (2005) finds such active processing "to be woefully missing from gap year programmes" (p. 464).
2.9 Building responsible programmes It is questioned whether volunteer tourism experiences reduce the way we Other cultures of developing countries, despite rhetoric linking volunteer tourism with global citizenship (Lyons et al., 2012, p. 373). If volunteer tourism leads to cross-cultural misunderstanding rather than a raised awareness and global consciousness, it might be hard to distinguish the sector as alternative to conventional mass tourism. But it has also been recognised that volunteer sending organisations can play a role in mitigating and avoiding such cultural misunderstandings in volunteer tourism. Therefore, Raymond and Hall (2008) call for a greater examination of this role, to gain a better understanding on how cross-cultural understanding can be facilitated.
I.e. other than volunteer training
Part 3 Methodology The purpose of this section is to account for the methodology that underlies the empirical study and to explain the implementation of the method. It is therefore relevant to reflect upon and explain the philosophy of science on which the study is based. This will be followed by an account of how the empirical data was obtained and the considerations and reflections of the process.
3. 1 Philosophy of science This section discusses the underlying principles of research traditions. Firstly, different paradigms in philosophies of science will be reviewed, and secondly there will be a discussion specifically on the paradigms present in tourism studies. This will lead to an explanation of the methodology of choice for this study. 3.1.1 Review of philosophy of science in social sciences Philosophy of science is concerned with the assumption, methods and implications of science. Throughout history, one of the most dominant and influential philosophies of science has been the positivist paradigm (Delanty & Strydom, 2003a). Broadly speaking, the positivist philosophy deems that an objective reality exists, which is arrived at independent of personal, subjective elements or ethical self-reflection (Delanty, 2005, p. 12). The empirical is given the ‘supreme value’. The positivists focus on existence, reality or nature (Delanty & Strydom, 2003a, p. 15), and rely mainly on quantitative data for verifiability of reality. The dominance of positivism in the sciences has been challenged throughout the 20th century and positivism itself has gone through major internal transformations, such as the shift from an inductive approach to the neo-positivist deductive approach. An important actor in this methodological shift was Karl Popper (1902-94), who addressed the problem of induction4. He dismissed that inferences from single statements could become universal theories. Instead he proposed that systems should be tested and that the criterion of demarcation should be falsification, i.e. he contended that while a singular statement could not translate to a universal truth, a singular statement can contradict such truth (Popper, 1934, pp. 42-45). This 4
The problem of induction is ”[t]he question whether inductive inferences are justified, or under what conditions” (Popper (1934) in Delanty and Strydom, 2003, p. 42).
has been the instigator of a research tradition with hypothesis testing and rigid use of statistical measures. Critical theory Critical theory developed as an objection to the positivists’ rigid, quantitative and statistical measures, their logical empiricism, and their claim to objectivity and value-freedom (Delanty & Strydom, 2003b, p. 208). The positivistic process of developing quantified measures has been accused of being inappropriate for the creation of knowledge in the social sciences as it strips the context of its meaning. The interpretivist philosophy (a broad term, which encompasses a number of paradigms) focuses instead on the study of meanings and experiences of human beings. Interpretivists believe that the social world is constructed by the people living in it and hence differs from the world of nature (Williamson, 2006). This leads to a very different research approach that often relies on qualitative methods to interpret and understand an ever-changing world. Constructivism Constructivists believe that social reality is partly constituted by science. Social science is “a construct designed to produce knowledge of something other than itself but is forever confined to the limits of its own methodology. Constructivism therefore entails a degree of ‘reflexivity’” (Delanty, 2005, p. 137). Within constructivist belief are the social constructivists who are concerned with how people construct the world they live in, focusing on research concepts such as cultural values. It accentuates the fact that “research is conducted in a world where language, concepts and well-formed disciplinary rules already exist. These are not universal but vary across time and place so that different cultural ensembles sustain different recipes for truth and knowledge” (Tribe, 2006, p. 361). Reality depends on what individual human experience and is therefore socially constructed. Social constructivists are specifically engaged with discourse analysis and the shared meanings that reflect social constructions (Williamson, 2006). 3.1.2 Philosophy of science in tourism studies Studies of research journals and articles in the tourism research field have uncovered heavy use of pure quantification and a dominance of a positivist research approach (Tribe, 2006). While evidence exists of a recent trend in tourism research to increasingly make use of
qualitative data and include reflexive and critical academic enquiry (Pritchard et al, 2011), the dominant method is still positivistic. A critical response to the dominance of the positivistic approach has emerged. Pritchard et al. (2011) argues there is a dire need for critical research in tourism studies which is political, value-led, and “regards ethical obligations as intrinsic to its enquiry” (p. 947). He believes that “the tourism management community is rooted in neo-liberal philosophies and dominated by a drive for industry-oriented solutions which seek to enhance and reinforce the existing systems” (Pritchard et al., 2011, p. 946). Coming from a social constructivist approach Tribe (2006) opposes the dominance of the current discourse in tourism studies. He contends that due to the power of discourse, it is possible for the dominant positivist discourse in tourism to sustain a regime of truth, which need not be the absolute truth. He scrutinises the congruence between the ‘phenomenal world of tourism’ and its ‘knowledge-constructed world’ and explores how the different understanding and approaches applied by the positivists and the interpretivist leads to different knowledge on tourism. He argues the world of tourism is not found by researches, but is constructed and limited by a ‘Knowledge Force-Field’ which is defined as the “factors which mediate in the process where the phenomenal world of tourism is translated into its known world” (Tribe, 2006, p. 362). It is the individual researcher who decides what to study and how to do it and the individual will inevitably be influenced by his own pre-conditioned knowledge and values. 3.1.3 Methodological approach of this study This study is based on a social constructivist approach. It will seek an interpretive understanding of the study content and apply critical theory to understand and contribute towards a change of society. It is based on the understanding that the values, outcome and impact of volunteer tourism are not a single truth in itself, waiting to be discovered. Volunteer tourism is socially constructed in the interplay between the participants such as the volunteers, sending organisations and the receiving host organisation. Impacting or altering these players can influence the outcome. The study engages with the examination of the 'tools' or 'ways' to increase cross-cultural understanding as the outcome, i.e. valuing social and cultural outcomes that can be produced in the transformation of the individuals engaging in cultural encounters. These are 'soft' values, which cannot be measured by number nor be monetised. The researcher acknowledges the fact that the outcome of the study, i.e. the knowledge gained on tourism, and the selection of topic, case and research question, will be influenced by the 22
Knowledge Force-Field of the researcher as described by Tribe (2006). This specifically relates to the researcher's background at Copenhagen Business School, study of service management and work experience in the volunteer tourism sector. The choice of topic and direction is furthermore influenced by the researchers previous education in development studies and by working in a development organisation. Truth and reality is subject to the social context, where the creation of meaning is dependent on the individual’s subjective realisations and interpretation. Likewise, the knowledge gathered from the informants in this study will also be based on their subjective interpretation of the truth. Finally, this study will apply a deductive approach where the literature reviewed provides theoretical background to the study, and defines the discourse of what is considered to be relevant knowledge within the field.
3.2 Research Method In order to investigate how volunteer sending organisations can facilitate cross-cultural understanding, this study conducted a case study. Case studies allow for in depth investigation of how people act and interact with each other within their own physical surroundings (Maaløe, 2002, p. 96). The case study is considered suitable when the understanding of the phenomenon requires an investigation of the context in which it is happening (Yin, 2009, p. 18) and when the research question requires the answer of a “how” question in relation to contemporary events, in which the researcher has no control over those who are investigated (ibid, p. 13), which is the case for this study. The chosen case is a Danish volunteer sending organisation, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, and the training and preparation practises of their programme. Due to limited previous knowledge on volunteer sending organisations, the case study will be descriptive in nature and shed new light on practises and outcomes performed by the Danish volunteer sending organisation. The single case study is chosen because of the uniqueness of the practises of the chosen case (Yin, 2009, p. 47). The researcher is not aware of any other sending organisation conducting such lengthy preparation of volunteers and wants to shed light on this practise and its relevance in facilitating cross-cultural understanding. The chosen method will allow for an examination of the volunteer training as well as the programme structures of Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, which can be juxtaposed with the empirical data on the volunteers and their experiences. Jointly, this can give an insight into how volunteer sending organisations actively can model their programmes in a way that can influence cross-cultural understanding as an outcome for the participants. 23
It should be noted that the researcher's awareness of the case stems from a student job in the organisation of investigation through the past 3,5 years. Such affiliation is useful for creating trust between the researcher and the researched and has been an advantage in getting access to information held by the organisation. At the same time, the researcher should be highly aware of the possible bias that might be present due to such affiliation. Being acquainted with the interview subjects from the organisation could, for example, unintentionally make the researcher less critical. A researcher should not attempt to prove or disprove any particular conclusion by default, but should be led by reflection over aspects which puzzle or surprise and let the process of investigation become a voyage of discovery (Maaløe, 2002, p. 73). On this line, the researcher has been critically aware of the need to clearly distinguish between the role of being an employee and a researcher.
3.3 Validity It is essential for any study, to consider the research design’s validity in order to establish the quality of the empirical work (Yin, 2009, p. 41). In order to construct validity, this study has applied methodological triangulation. Methodological triangulation is when different methods or sources are used to corroborate each other in the data collection (Silverman, 2005, p. 121). Case studies have been criticised for the use of subjective judgements and a lack of a sufficiently operational set of methods for data collection (Yin, 2009, p. 41), but using a combined set of methods can be a way to overcome this. Triangulation has been found useful in the study of organisations and their practises. Organisations are a collection of social entities, and in the study of their practises, it is important to get a holistic understanding of a phenomenon through the use of multiple methods. This is often omitted in management literature where information is regularly based solely on the managers (Maaløe, 2002, p. 221). In this study it was therefore deemed important that the findings were based on a holistic and many-sided insight into the practise of volunteer preparation and to extend the research beyond the organisation to include the volunteers, revealing a fuller picture and enabling validation of the conclusions. Different types of triangulation have been defined, and the researcher can use one or all of these types of triangulation to gain a fuller understanding of a given situation (Yin, 2009, p. 116). This study has used both data triangulation and methodological triangulation. Data triangulation is the collection of information from multiple sources in the attempt to 24
corroborate the same fact. It also addresses the potential problem of constructing validity because several sources of evidence point to the same phenomenon (Yin, 2009, pp. 116-117). During the data gathering process, information was collected from both Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke who conducted the volunteer preparation, and from the volunteers who received it. Methodological triangulation is the use of multiple methods for checking that the findings are consistent through the use of different data collection methods. This type of triangulation was used in this study, which relied on both interviews and text analysis (websites, training manuals and blogs) in the examination of both the volunteer programme and volunteers.
3.4 Reliability In order to attain reliability, a study should be described in such detail that another person would be able to replicate the study and arrive at the same results. This requires a rigid protocol in the data gathering that describes and includes all the steps involved. The purpose of this is to minimise the errors and biases of the study (Yin, 2009, p. 45). This study has endeavoured to achieve a transparent process of data collection, which should make it possible for other researchers to replicate the study. This has been done through a detailed description of decisions and methods used. Furthermore, many citations are included in the analysis section, which gives the reader the opportunity to interpret the results and hopefully derive similar explanations. But even with full transparency it should be noted that researchers could arrive at different results, both because of the differences in the Knowledge Force-Field of the researcher, which can result in different analysis and conclusions, and because of the interviewed respondents' varied opinions and views. However, although it could be deemed desirable to increase the reliability of the interview results in order to counteract any subjectivity, a strong emphasis on reliability would also discourage creative innovations and variability (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 272).
3.5 Limitations of the method This study is an exploration of the practice of a single case, which brings some limitations when making generalisations in relation to the study. Compared to surveys, case studies do no generate conclusions from which one may make statistic generalisations. Instead, case studies can rely on analytic generalisation, where “the investigator is striving to generalize a particular set of results to some broader theory” (Yin, 2009, p. 43). Single case studies can also be useful for demonstrating the uniqueness of a case. Hence, this study is limited to
contributing with new knowledge in an underexplored field, which can contribute to current theories, but the findings cannot be generalized to a universal truth. The conclusions will be illustrative of tendencies from which one can render probable what might be possible in other situations.
3.6 Applied methods and data collection In accordance with the triangulation method, the data collection has included a mix of sources and methodologies. Table 1 provides an overview of the different sources and methods applied. The following two sections will describe the purpose and process of the data collection and explain how the data was analysed. Table 1. Overview of applied methods Source
Documentary analysis Training manuals Online promotional material (Secondary data) Interviews (Primary data)
Volunteers travelling with Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke • •
Interviews (Primary data) Text analysis Blogs (Secondary data)
3.7 Qualitative research interviews The qualitative interview has been chosen as one of the applied methods in this study because it can give valuable insights into human affairs and behavioural events (Yin, 2009, p. 108). Qualitative interviews allow the researcher to get a deeper understanding of the social world of the interviewed. This understanding is not a mirror reflection of the social world, as the positivist would endeavour, but gives and account of the interview subject’s understanding and interpretation of his/her social world (Miller & Glassner, 2011, pp. 132-133). This study is based on Kvale and Brinkmann’s (2009) approach and use of semi-structured lifeworld interviews for research. This is defined as “an interview which purpose is to gather descriptions of the interview subject’s lifeworld with a view to interpret the meaning of the
described phenomena” (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 19) 5. An advantage of the semistructured interview is that it creates an open dialogue with the possibility to explore and dig into the experiences of the interviewed. An interview is an active process in which meaningful knowledge is constructed through the dialogue between the researcher and the interviewed (Kvale & Brinkmann), which is in line with the social constructivist approach of this study. Kvale and Brinkmann (2009) have outlined seven steps for the research interview, which covers the decisions and considerations taking place prior, during and after the interview (pp. 122-133). Inspired by these steps, the following describe the decisions important to this study. 3.7.1 Thematisation and design Themitisation refers to the formulation of the research question and the theoretical clarification of the researched topic (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 125) and design encompasses the planning of the procedures and techniques of the research interview (ibid, p. 129). Based on the previously defined research question, the researcher decided to conduct interviews with the organisation and participants who had volunteered through the organisation. The selection process for the interviews will be addressed in the following. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke Employees Two interviews were conducted with employees from Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke, to give an insight into the purpose, preparation and execution of the volunteer programme and its training components. Employee interviews at Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke •
Lasse Jensen: Head of Global Contact, Interviewed 16th of March 2012, Copenhagen
Mira Rønje: Project Manager of the Global Volunteer Course, Interviewed 15th of March, Copenhagen
Lasse Jensen, Head of Global Contact, is in charge of the operation and development of the volunteer programme. Mira Rønje, Project Manager of the Global Volunteer Course, has played a prominent role in the development of the training manual. She has previously been a facilitator at Global Platform Kenya and is currently one of the facilitators of the five-day preparation course for the volunteers. The researcher selected Lasse Jensen and Mira Rønje 5
In Danish in the original
for the interviews because they were considered to be the employees in Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke who could contribute with most knowledge and insight about the programme and the training of the volunteers. The interviews were conducted one-to-one and lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. A follow-up interview was made with Lasse Jensen on the phone to clarify some of the content from the first interview. Volunteers The volunteer interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of the volunteer experience in relation to elements and processes, initiated by the sending organisation, considered conducive to cross-cultural understanding. The selection of volunteers for the interviews was initiated at MS' volunteer debriefing weekend in Copenhagen, 18th February 2012. The volunteers who attended had all returned from their volunteer stay within the last four months. The researcher introduced the topic of research and asked volunteers interested in participating to sign up on a list. From the list three volunteers were selected (out of 14) based on the criteria in the following order of importance: 1. a variety of volunteer destinations, 2. a mix of gender, and 3. volunteers who lived near Copenhagen. It can be difficult to know how many interviews will provide enough data to make generalisations from. If too much data is gathered, the researcher may not have time for in depth analysis of the interviews (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 134). In this case, the volunteer interviews were supplemented with volunteer blogs (see below) and the researcher estimated that three interviews would be enough. Despite the attempted gender selection, the overriding majority of girls on the list is reflected in the final selection. The interviews were conducted one-on-one and each lasted approximately one hour each. Volunteer interviews: •
Volunteer 1: Volunteered in Guatemala, Female, Interviewed 6th of March 2012
Volunteer 2: Volunteered in India, Female, Interviewed 6th of March
Volunteer 3: Volunteered in Tanzania, Female, Interviewed 9th of March
Prior to the interview the volunteers were informed that their identities would be kept anonymous in the thesis. All references to volunteers from the interviews have used the above given number. This was to encourage them to talk more freely. Many volunteers participate in activities with MS after they return home, and the researcher did not want them to hold back
any critical views about MS in the fear of being confronted with it later on. For the same reason, the researcher did not mention her work affiliation to MS. 3.7.2 Interview The semi-structured interview is neither an everyday life conversation nor a closed survey but a conversation in which the researcher attempts to understand certain themes from the interview subject’s own perspectives (Brinkman & Kvale, 2009, p. 45). In this study, the researcher used an interview guide to structure and give consistency across the interviews. The interview guide (See appendix 1-3) covered predefined themes and topics identified from literature on volunteer tourism. These topics were used as a guideline and checklist during the interview. The interviewees were informed about the topic of discussion prior to the interview, but they had not seen any specific questions. The semi-structure of the interviews allowed the researcher to explore topics beyond the interview guide and expand on the topics brought up by the interview subject’s responses whenever it was relevant to the overall purpose. For further considerations applied during the interviews, see appendix 4. 3.7.3 Transcription In this study, all interviews were recorded on a recording device and were later transcribed (see appendix B-F) into written text. There is no set standard that defines how it has to be done (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 202). A transcription is a translation of a verbal discourse into a written discourse, which can be two very different ways of expression and one is not easily translated into the other. A clearly expressed verbal sentence might sound unclear when transcribed word for word and the transformation process can therefore create forced constructions that might not express the meanings precisely (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 200). In this study, the interviews were transcribed almost word for word, so that parts of the transcription could be used for citation later on. Empty words such as ‘uhm’ and ‘er’ have been removed as well as feedback comments such as ‘yes’ and ‘okay’. A few times descriptions and stories have been left out because they were considered irrelevant for the analysis. Such cases are indicated with brackets giving with a short description of the content such as [volunteer explains how to make Ugali]. Apart from transcripts, the researcher took notes of the parts of the conversation take took place before and after the recording device was turned on and off. Notes of importance to the study have been added below the transcripts in the appendix.
3.7.4 Analysis and reporting The primary purpose of the analysis phase is to construct meaning from the interview content. In order to structure this process Kvale and Brinkmann’s (2009) method of meaninginterpretation has been used. Meaning-interpretation extends beyond a structuring of that which is manifested in the interview as it seeks a deeper and critical interpretation of the text (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 230). The researcher looks beyond that which has been clearly stated in the interviews to find different relations and structures of meaning. This has been done using the identified themes of importance from the literature as the frame of reference for interpreting the interviews. The method of interpretation follows the hermeneutic interpretation principles. This includes a method of continuously going back and forth from parts to the whole of the text, setting each in relation to the other to reach an overall understanding, also referred to as the hermeneutic circle (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 233). This does not include any step-bystep method and only lays out general principles (ibid, p. 234).
3.8 Document and text analysis Using documents as a method can include a variety of different sources and in this study, the term will refer to written documents. Generally speaking, the use of documents is useful for corroborating evidence from other sources (Yin, 2009, p. 104). Documents can be useful in providing detailed description of evidence of past happenings, future planning, evaluation of practises etc. and are often used for content analysis (Prior, 2011). In the study of an organisation, documents can provide insight into the ‘reality’ as understood by the organisation (Atkinson & Coffey, 2011, p. 79). When analysing such written text it is important to keep in mind that they are written for a specific purpose and audience and will therefore be biased in that direction (Yin, 2009). The following will explain the use of each of the different document types used in this study. 3.8.1 Training manual This study has used Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke's Field Experience Course training manual (see appendix A). The training manual is used by and written for the trainers of the volunteer course. It has been retrieved from the organisation and is not publicly available. The training manual covers the four-week Global Platform training and introduces the purpose of the fiveday preparation course in Denmark and the de-briefing course.
The document will be used to study the content of the training to provide an insight into how the sending organisation attempts to facilitate certain learning outcomes. It will also be used to analyse the narrative used by the organisation, which can lead to a better understanding of the organisation’s perception of reality. 3.8.2 Website The promotional website of the volunteer programme was also be part of the gathered data (GC, 2012a). The researcher has only focused on the content on the page that concerned the Volunteer youth programme, which is the subject of investigation. This includes project details on the 28 country pages found under “VOLONTØR UNG” in the menu, as well as complementary information about Global Contact and the programme found under “OM GLOBAL CONTACT”. The promotional material was mainly used for analysing the narrative used by MS in their promotional material and to compare this with the content of their programme. The website is distinguished by having the volunteers as their target audience, hence understanding how the programme is promoted will also give an idea about the type of volunteers they attract. 3.8.3 Blogs Another method of gaining insight into the experiences of the volunteers was to analyse blogs written by volunteers travelling with MS. Through the blogs, the researcher could access information on their thoughts and reflections in relation to their experiences and the training provided by MS. This was used to gain a better understanding of how elements imposed by a sending organisation to facilitate cross-cultural understanding were experienced by the participants. Many of the volunteers keep an online ‘diary’ in the form of a blog, which is publicly available for others to read. This makes it an easily accessible medium for the researcher to access the experiences of the volunteer tourists (Enoch & Grossman, 2010). The blogs were studied to supplement and corroborate the findings of the volunteer interviews. An advantage of the blogs is that they capture the volunteers’ feelings, expressions and experiences at the moment of time. Blog entries on the internet leave visible traces for a researcher, and can be used to study how social realities are displayed and negotiated over time (Markham, 2011, p. 122). The researcher acknowledges that the content of the blogs may present a biased view of things that happened. Firstly, the accounts are based on the volunteers’ subjective view and secondly the bloggers may wish to represent their social reality in a certain way. Furthermore, 31
the blogs cover topics chosen by the volunteer, and the researcher has no possibility of asking additional questions or influencing which topics to discuss. But these reservations can also work as an advantage to the researcher. Firstly, the researcher may gain access to experiences that the volunteer would not easily have shared with a stranger during a one-hour interview, and secondly, the researcher may be able to discover new relevant topics that would not have emerged in an interview directed by an interview guide with pre-defined topics. A debated issue regarding the use of internet material more broadly concerns the ethical considerations involved. Many users consider their publicly accessible content to be private and find a researcher’s use of their writing to be intruding (Markham, 2011). Such considerations are included in this study where the researcher has asked for permission to study the blogs written by the volunteers. 220.127.116.11 Blog selection The selection of blogs had basis on Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke’s blog site, where they link to recent blogs by volunteers (GC, 2012g). MS has no influence on the content of the blogs and leave them 100 percent uncensored, which, according to Lasse Jensen, Head of Global Contact, increases the credibility of the organisation (personal communication). Blogs were skimmed and selected according to the following two criteria: 1. The blog should have a minimum of 10 entries covering both the experiences at Global Platform and at their volunteer destination, 2. The main content of the blog should be about the volunteer stay (some blogs concerned matters other than the volunteer stay and were sorted out). An exception was made with the Middle East, where the few blogs available did not qualify within the above set criteria. The solution was to analyse blogs of volunteers who had not yet finished their volunteer stay. These blogs covered the majority, but not full length of the volunteer stay. In the end, 12 blogs were picked out and the volunteers were contacted to ask permission for the researcher to use the blogs. The final selection was based on those who gave permission (11 replied positively, 1 did not reply), and on purposive sampling representing a mix of genders, continents and countries for the blogs. The blogs selected for analysis are listed in table 2. None of the selected blogs belonged to volunteers who had been interviewed. A total of eight blogs were examined. One blog was written by two volunteers, Kenneth and Brian, so there were nine bloggers in total. All the bloggers were Danish volunteers who had volunteered abroad through MS. The blogs were written between August 2010 and April 2012 and all of them were in a format that allowed others to comment on the blog content. 32
The bloggers were between 19 and 25 years old, five of them female and four of them male. All future references to the volunteer bloggers have used their first name only. Table 2. List of blogs Global Platform/ Volunteer destination Nepal/Nepal
Name of blogger
Number of blog entries 19
El Salvador/El Salvador
& Brian Dalsgaard
18.104.22.168 Blog analysis Contrary to the semi-structured interviews, the researcher was not able to direct the blogs in a particular way regarding content, but the content was analysed according to the same previously identified themes from the literature as the interviews. The blogs were analysed line for line for theory-based themes of importance, which helped to organise the data. Apart from the pre-selected themes, the researcher also looked for new themes emerging. Although some of the blogs contained photos from the volunteer stay, the researcher only focused on the textual content. The analysis of the text was carried out in a similar way to the meaning-interpretation of the interviews as described above (see section 3.7.4) as the researcher could search for new interpretations and meanings within the written text.
3.9 Translations It should be noted that all interviews were conducted in the interviewee’s native language Danish. Furthermore, all blogs, but one, were in Danish and so was the Global Contact website. Only the Field Experience Course manual was in English. This study is therefore limited by the extensive use of translation to English when providing examples from the
empirical data. The researcher translated all quotes that were originally in Danish and consequently, some of the original meaning may have been lost in translation.
3.10 Sum-‐up In the following, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke's youth volunteer programme is examined to gain insight on how sending organisations can facilitate cross-cultural understanding based on the above-mentioned theoretical and methodological considerations. The analysis of the programme takes its starting point in the theory-based categories of problems and recommendations related to cross-cultural understanding in volunteer tourism. The employee interviews, the training manual and the website will provide the basis of knowledge about the programme structure and training. The volunteer blogs and interviews will provide insight into the volunteers' experiences of the programme and how different structures and preparation have influenced them. This allows the researcher to identify and generalise ways and tools that sending organisations can utilise to facilitate cross-cultural understanding in their volunteer programmes. Each of the findings will be presented and organised into themes. Textual examples are presented to emphasise the findings and will be related to the theory on volunteer tourism. Hence, in the process of finding new understanding and insight on which the conclusions will be based each part will be set in relation to the whole.
Part 4 Presentation of case This section presents Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke’s volunteer programme. It provides the necessary background information about the organisation and the structure of its programme before proceeding to the findings and discussion. Firstly, an overall introduction to Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (Henceforth referred to as MS) will be given, followed by an examination of their youth volunteer tourism programme.
4.1 Introduction to Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke MS is a democratic membership- based development organisation. When the organisation was founded in 1944 their work focused on reconciliation and reconstruction of war-torn Europe (MS, 2012d). Today, their vision is “[a] world in peace where cooperation among people promotes global equity and ensures improved conditions for the poor and marginalized” (MS, 2012a). MS has in recent years been an organisation in transition. In 2007 they decided to merge with ActionAid International6, an international organisation that is working to fight poverty in cooperation with local partners in more than 42 countries around the world (MS, 2012b). As a member of ActionAid International, MS is able to “reach a much wider scope in the world with support to long-term development efforts” (MS, 2012b). They embrace a partnership based development approach in which they always cooperate with local partner organisations and where the local partners initiate the activities. The intention is to give the partners direct ownership of the development, which MS believes to be more effective because it “starts form the local needs and offers opportunities to share knowledge, ideas and experience” (MS, 2012c). MS is one of the largest development organisations in Denmark and is generally known to the Danish population. Connecting MS with intercultural understanding is not only natural due to the nature of their work, but it is also inherent in their name. In Danish, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke translates into 'international cooperation' with a focus on the relation between people, as 'Mellemfolkelig' translates directly into 'between people'.
After the merging with ActionAid International, MS’ name changed to ActionAid Denmark on an international level, but Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke is still used in Denmark.
MS’ secretariat is divided into four different focus areas, which are ‘Influence’, ‘Capacity Building’, ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Organisation’ (MS, 2012e) (see organisation structure, appendix 5). Within these areas, different sub-teams of the organisation operate. The volunteer programme is part of the capacity building focus area and will be explored in the following.
4.2 Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke’s volunteer programme MS’ volunteer programme is called Global Contact. The programme has its roots in MS’ work camps in Europe, which were instigated in 1946 after the Second World War as a way to initiate peace between nations (GC, 2012b), but it has developed a lot since then. The programme is non-profit. MS currently offer six different types of programmes for people to travel out in the world, and their youth volunteer programme named Global Volunteer Youth is just one of them7. This programme addresses Danish youth aged 18-25 years who want to travel abroad to volunteer. The vision for MS’ volunteer programme is for it to be “leading within the sector of volunteer travel in Denmark. Not only in numbers, but in substance, quality and content rooted in the three objectives below” (GC, 2011)8(for the whole strategy see appendix 6). Their three goals are as follows: 1. To promote global volunteerism and citizenship. Danish volunteers take part in the dissemination of volunteerism and global relations between other countries in the world, in which way they function as a significant positive active in the local society in the global South. As well-prepared volunteers they will not only make local change in the cooperation with our partners, they will also play a crucial role in the individual and collective formation of global citizenship in both North and South. 2. To stimulate volunteer work in Denmark in Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke [...] 3. To ensure that Global Contact continuously can operate under market conditions and contribute to MS’ financial performance [...]
(GC, 2011)9 MS' volunteer programme is managed and developed by the Global Contact Unit of MS in cooperation with the Training for Change Unit that is in charge of developing and conducting 7
The other programmes offered are volunteer programmes for those over 26, internships, work camps, study trips and a Global Citizen’s College 8 In Danish in the original 9 In Danish in the original
the training of the volunteers. Global Contact is one of the big players in the Danish volunteer tourism market, and sent out 297 volunteers in their youth programme in 2011 (Lasse Jensen, personal communication).
4.3 MS' volunteer programme structure Comparing the selected case study to other volunteer sending organisations in the Danish market, MS distinguishes itself by providing a combination of extensive preparation, sending volunteers in small groups mainly accommodated by host families, and setting a minimum timeframe of 12 weeks of volunteering (SUI, 2012). The programme consists of four components that constitute the entire volunteer journey. These are shown in figure 2 below. The first component is a mandatory introduction course in Denmark prior to departure. Approximately one month after this, the volunteers depart to their respective Global Platforms, where volunteers a required to attend four weeks of mandatory training. There is a Global Platform for each of the four geographical regions that MS sends volunteers to: Kenya in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nepal in Asia, El Salvador in Latin America and Jordan in the Middle East. After this, the volunteers split up and travel to their different volunteer destinations where they each volunteer for a minimum of 12 weeks. After they arrive back home they are invited for a three-day debriefing seminar in Denmark. Figure 2. Structure of the volunteer programme
In Danish in the original
4.4 The training component The training the volunteers receive is referred to as the Global Volunteer Course and is divided into three parts. The first part is the five-day Introduction Course in Denmark, the second is the Field Experience Course (MS, 2010), which is four weeks long and takes place at one of the Global Platforms, and the third part is a three-day de-briefing course that takes place in Denmark after the volunteer has returned from their stint abroad. The overall aim of the collected Global Volunteer course is to: [provide] youth with tools and knowledge that enable them to be well-informed citizens and capable drivers of change for a better and fairer world order. Through our training they will be able to engage in volunteerism and thereby in active global citizenship and social change through reflection and action on social and political issues in the world together with others.
(MS, 2010, p. 5) The Introduction Course focuses mainly on pre-departure concerns such as practical information about the Global Platform, the volunteer placement, flights, insurance, health, travelling tips etc. The volunteers also get to know the other participants, with whom they will later spend a month at the Global Platform, and the course introduces themes such as cultural understanding, solving volunteer dilemmas, learning how to take initiative and how to be a global citizen. These elements are introductory and are covered in greater depth during the Field Experience Course (FEC). The content of the FEC is divided into three modules:
Module 1: Volunteerism and social change
Module 2: Poverty and Rights in the "Global Village"
Module 3: Democracy, Equality and Global Civil Society
The three modules are covered during the four weeks at the Global Platform and each module contains three levels of learning, which are 1) Attitude, 2) Knowledge, and 3) Skills. The focus of the FEC is to make a practical link between the lessons and the reality surrounding the volunteers at the different Global Platforms. Hence "[t]he course is not theoretical, but practical and focused on giving concrete, relevant knowledge and skills to prepare the volunteers for their placement" (MS, 2010, p. 3). See appendix 7 for an example of a schedule of the course. The course is taught by a mix of Danish and local facilitators. The content of the modules and the levels of learning will be explored further in the analysis below. 38
The final debriefing course welcomes the volunteers back after volunteering and evaluates their stays. Volunteers are given tools and inspiration through workshops and social activities, which they can use for future voluntary work in Denmark. They are introduced to volunteer possibilities in MS and are presented with new skills in oral and written communication and presentation and campaigning (ibid). The Global Volunteer Training standards are developed by MS' Training for Change department which place a great emphasis on experiential and participatory approaches. The training is built on the concept of "the world as our class room", where the content of the theoretical lessons mirror or contrast with practical activities in the local community (MS, 2010)
4.5 At the volunteer destination MS sends volunteers to 28 different countries in the developing world. The majority of the volunteers live with host families at their volunteer destinations, although a few are accommodated directly at the project (for example at an orphanage) or other types of volunteer accommodation. The most popular types of volunteer work are teaching at local school or working at orphanages (Lasse Jensen, personal communication). The volunteers typically work 25-30 hours a day, five days a week (GC, 2012a). Volunteers are usually sent out in pairs although some volunteers may go alone and other sometimes go in groups bigger than two. In the above, the structure and content of MS' volunteer programme has been introduced. In the following, these elements will be explored more closely and their relative importance to the research question will be discussed.
Part 5 Findings and discussion This section examines MS' volunteer programme to identify elements that are important for the facilitation of cross-cultural understanding. This will be done by looking at MS' training of the volunteers and the structural components of the programme, such as volunteer duration, accommodation and group size. Firstly, a brief analysis of the volunteer blogs is presented, to gain a better insight into some of the empirical data and its social media context. Then an analysis of MS' promotional material, with a focus on their narrative, is provided and discussed in relation to the theory. This will position MS in relation to sending organisations from previous studies. This is followed by an examination of MS' preparation of the volunteers, with a focus on the Field Experience Course at the Global Platform. The analysis will explore elements of the training, which are considered important for facilitation of cross-cultural understanding, organised into theoretical and empirical based categories. Then the programme structure will be analysed for components that the sending organisation can actively change to increase the interaction between volunteer and host as a mean to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. All findings are continually discussed in relation to the literature.
5.1 The volunteer blogs and their audience The blogs are a central part of the empirical data wherefore an insight into the targeted audience and the volunteers' motivations for writing them is considered important. The volunteers either started their blogs in Denmark prior to their volunteer stay or after arriving at the Global Platform, and usually began by expressing their anticipation in the lead up to their trip. All the blogs ended either by a last entry in the country they volunteered in, or with a final note after returning to Denmark11. None of the returned volunteers have continued their blogs after their stay, indicating that blogs are used as travel diaries with the specific purpose of documenting the volunteer stay. The intended audience of the blogs was mainly friends and family. This was either stated directly, or evident through the comments that were almost exclusively written by friends and family, or through small messages written in the blog post directed specifically at a friend or 11
The endings of the two blogs from Palestine are unclear as the volunteers were still at their placements at the time of writing
family member. This made the blog content seem very private and indicated that the target audience was limited. A few comments were quite personal and expressed the love and gratitude between family members. It could be questioned whether such comments were intended to be public data, and the researcher often felt like an intruder in a private sphere. Such public display seems, however, to be a common trait of social media, where the division between private and public content often becomes diluted (Munar, 2010). Despite being public and accessible to like-minded youth through MS' blog-site, there were hardly any comments on the blogs from people unknown to the bloggers. Comments left to the bloggers were often very encouraging and complimentary of what they were doing. As an example, the response of a friend commenting on Amanda's blog entry about a project she initiated was very positive: Great with the swings. Kudos to you :o) [...]
From the comment it may be noted that the volunteer gains a form of 'street credit' for her actions. In this way, the volunteer blogs held trends similar to the findings of Munar (2010), who studied social exhibitionist trends in the use of social media. Munar finds users to be increasingly conscious about their online image building capabilities, as individuals use technology to "build and shape their virtual identities" (Munar, 2010, p. 414). This encourages exhibitionist behaviour and evidence of this, also seemed present in the volunteer blogs. Christina Today I was confirmed in that many fight for the rights of the street children, but I was also confirmed in that a lot still has to be done. I am here now and try to do whatever I can to reduce the problem. What are you doing?
In the example above, Christina can seek solace in her own actions and awareness and by asking others what they are doing, seems like a way to accentuate her own deeds. Hence, volunteers may use the blogs as a way to shape an online identity, which may be important in understanding their motivations for choosing what, and how, to write. Munar (2010) furthermore argues that the use of Web 2.0 technologies eludes reflexivity in the user comments, which is however not supported by this study, where volunteers were found to exhibit a high degree of reflexivity (this is examined further below). This difference
may be because Munar mainly focused on microblogging trends (as opposed to the more diary-type of entries in the blogs) or simply due to differences in the reflexive level of the participants.
5.2 MS' promotional material MS' volunteer programme is mainly promoted through its website (GC, 2012a), which is separate from MS' website (www.ms.dk). Global Contact also produces a small number of fliers and posters, but according to Lasse Jensen, Head of Global Contact, the majority of resources are spent on maintenance and development of the website, and an online presence. This is in line with the findings of Grimm and Needham (2012), who point towards the internet as being the primary, and almost exclusive, source of information used by volunteers when searching for volunteer projects abroad. In terms of marketing, Global Contact attends a few travel and educational fairs and organises regular information meetings for potential volunteers. Generally, the resources spent on advertisement are limited and the volunteer programme relies to a great extent on MS' brand and a word-of-mouth marketing for attracting new volunteers (Lasse Jensen, personal communication). Besides the content of MS' promotional material, which will be examined below, MS' image as a non-profit organisation, grounded in many years of international development work, may influence the type of volunteers it attracts 5.2.1 Promotional narrative In the analysis of Global Contact's website, special attention is placed on the use of narrative and the prevalence of a 'helping language' (Palacios, 2010), simple dualisms of Other (Simpson, 2004) and whether there are references or insinuations to development or intercultural understanding (cf. section 2.6.1). The content on the website sends two core messages to the potential volunteer. The most frequently occurring message is the promotion of the meeting with, and understanding of, a foreign culture. This is expressed in various ways throughout the site such as "you will meet a new language, face other customs [...] and not least get a new angle on the world" (GC, 2012f). And in a general description of the programme:
Global Contact [...] works to promote dialogue and intercultural understanding among people from all over the world. Global Contact arranges [volunteer] stays where you come close to a foreign culture through a personal meeting.
(GC, 2012c) In many of the descriptions, the intercultural meeting is connected with how the volunteer will "challenge [themselves] and [their] view on the world" and "expand [their] understanding of the world" (GC, 2012b), leaving the impression that the trip will be educational and change their perspective. The second message found is that the volunteers can "make a difference", which is continuously stated on the website. This difference is, however, not concretised in any of the general descriptions of the programme. The reader only gets an idea of the differences they can make when navigating to the specific country-pages and projects they can join. Reading about the projects, it is obvious that the volunteer can contribute, e.g. by teaching English, but the extent to which this is valuable is not apparent. There are a few references to the usefulness of the volunteers, such as on the Philippines' page: "it is a big resource for the organisation to receive volunteers" (GC, 2012d), but without further elaboration. Most country-pages just outline the activities the volunteer can do. The volunteer role is described as 'assisting' leaving the impression they work in cooperation with a local partner and the actual work is often mentioned to depend on local needs. There are no direct references to the volunteers as performers of development aid, but being a development organisation, MS is inherently connected to the development context. As presented in the theory part, even simple statements of 'make a difference' when placed in a development context, may insinuate a certain 'development aid' role of the volunteer (Simpson, 2004). When, as in this case, the context of the difference remains unexplained, it leaves plenty of room for individual interpretation. What kind of difference are they making? Is it a difference in the context of development aid? Is it a big difference? Effectively, potential volunteers can ascribe their own meaning and interpretation to this 'difference', which can lead to a gap between expectations and reality as described by Palacios (2010) in section 2.6.1. There are also a few places on the website where MS falls into the category of creating simple dualisms and concepts of Other as identified by Simpson (2004). A description of Ghana reads:
If one were to hand out a prize to the country in West Africa with the friendliest population, Ghana would without doubt become the winner. No matter where you go in Ghana you are met by the fantastic Ghanaian hospitality.
(GC, 2012e) According to Simpson (2004), this type of summarisation of entire nations, are used by sending organisations to produce evocative imagery that speak to the Western imagination, and become experiences of Other that are easy to consume. Though these descriptions exist in MS' promotional material they do not, however, dominate the website. As mentioned, MS stands out by promoting intercultural understanding as its core message. The above examples from their website suggest MS is particularly focused on verbalising the intercultural meeting and how it can change the volunteer's view on the world. They do not present the volunteer as an 'expert' needed by the poor developing countries - at least not to the extent portrayed by Simpson (2004), but describe the role as 'assisting'. Despite this, there are also similarities in the narrative, such as the creation of simple dualisms and the "make a difference" statements - a difference that is not contextualised and remains vague. With the mix of messages and indistinctness of the intended meanings, MS does not really get around the previously defined pitfalls of using a 'helping language' (Palacios, 2010) and insinuating a development aid role (Simpson, 2004). Further examination of the volunteer programme (as will be presented below) shows that in contrast to this ambiguity, MS' volunteer training and message outside of the website takes a strong distance from labelling volunteers as providers of development aid and has clear programme definitions of intercultural exchange and social change. Social change seems to be a buzz word in the organisation, but is not even mentioned on their website. The seeming incongruence between the vagueness of their promotional narrative and the MS' narrative outside the website could suggest that the promotional narrative is used as a marketing hook to attract volunteers, similar to previous suggestions presented in the theory part (Fee & Mdee, 2011; Ingram, 2011; Simpson, 2004).
5.3 Core elements of MS' volunteer training As previously mentioned, MS' training of the volunteers works with three levels of learning, which are 1) Attitude, 2) Knowledge and 3) Skills. These three levels are incorporated into 44
the different modules and contribute to the overall aim of the course: "preparing volunteers that are active and well-informed drivers of change" (MS, 2010, p. 5). Based on these levels of learning, the following sections will examine the content of the Field Experience Course and explore how it relates to the facilitation of cross-cultural understanding. 5.3.1 Attitude The aspect of 'attitude' relates to the education of human being in values such as "identity formation and ways of viewing the world that help the participants become more conscientious global citizens" (MS, 2010, p. 5). Throughout the course, the volunteers are trained in aspects of how to become a good volunteer and to identify strengths and weaknesses in that role. This is taught within the framework of MS' broader values and understanding of social change. More specifically, MS is trying to shape the volunteers' worldview and perception of the fellow human beings with whom they are going to work. Mira Rønje, Project manager for MS' Global Volunteer course, explains their goal of developing the necessary respect for our differences, [...] and [developing] a solidarity principle [...] Even when we view things differently, then we need to be respectful and try to understand the other, but of course without becoming a cultural relativist.
MS' effort to shape the attitude of the volunteers to become more open and respectful towards other cultures permeates the entire course by being present in all the modules. For example, in module 1 on volunteerism and social change, examples of the learning goals are That it is important to assume responsibility as part of a Global World The importance of being humble and supporting what is already in place That [volunteers] can learn tremendous amounts from the local population
(MS, 2010, p. 15) Including attitude as a learning level is in line with the recommendations from previous studies, suggesting that attitudes need to be shaped to avoid situations where volunteers undermine the capabilities of the locals, show disrespect, or are unwilling to adapt or learn about new ways of doing (cf. section 2.8.1). It has been acknowledged as a principle danger, that "volunteers can reiterate the ethos of an 'expert', thus promoting deference in the local
community to outside knowledge, therefore contributing to the curtailment of self-efficiency" (Wearing, 2001, p. 51). Evidence from the MS' volunteers shows that the volunteers' attitude and expectations are quite different to those described above. When asked about the relevance of her volunteer work, Volunteer 1 expressed [...] I often thought of myself as superfluous because it was a really politically active village in itself [...] I can at least not save the world, and in a way I don't need to, because this village does not need to be saved.
Volunteer 1 expresses respect for the villagers' work and knows that her presence is not changing the larger development work of the village. Furthermore, she is breaking with the attitude of 'rich' saves the 'poor' as presented by Sin (2010) in section 2.8.1 by realising the potential of the work within the village and that its inhabitants should not be viewed as the poor who need salvation. The volunteers were generally found to carry very humble attitudes and articulated awareness about their role as volunteers and the context in which they could make a difference. Christina's comment is in relation to a food handout she participated in during the Global Platform stay: Christina [...] I fear that they will think of me that I come here, the white foreigner from wealthy Denmark, and think that I can save the entire world by handing out some Dal Bhat (almost a form of National dish) once. Volunteer 2 From the very beginning MS has said that a volunteer is not someone who is going out to save the world [...] Volunteer 3 We are here for three months, what can we change? Of course we can inspire and come with good ideas [...] This was a constant lesson at the Global Platform. And it is so important.
Examples like these show that volunteers do not portray themselves as experts nor do they believe that they are coming to save the poor. Furthermore, the references to where they have
this notion from indicate that MS is meticulous in explaining the volunteer role and shaping the volunteer attitude in that direction. Moreover, the volunteers' approach to the new and different is expressed through general respect and interest. In their descriptions of cultural or political differences, their attitude is generally marked by a non-judgemental mind-set. Although they obviously have their own opinions on what they see, they keep an open mind and do not judge or exclaim 'this is stupid' or 'why don't they just...?'. This is exemplified in Mette's statement: Mette Sure there is a conflict, sure the situation here is not normal and no one should pretent that it is. Still, it is not to be pitied or feared or suspected. It is home to my new friends and has also become my home.
The examples given above show that MS actively try to shape volunteer attitudes towards greater cultural acceptance and that volunteers seem to take it in and remember the lessons. Such preparation is in line with the recommendations of Fee and Mdee (2011) who believe the impact of volunteer tourism can be enhanced through better preparation, including the shaping of the volunteers' expectations and attitudes (section 2.8.2). They state that this is particularly necessary if an organisations' promotional material contributes to overinflating the expectations of volunteers in terms of how they can make a difference (ibid). Although MS' promotional material differed somewhat from Simpson's (2004) findings, the preparation can be helpful in shaping expectations of the difference the volunteers can make, which remained vague and undefined on the website (cf. section 5.2.1). Hence, the shaping of volunteer attitudes seems like an important element to include in volunteer training to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. Curtailment of 'bad' attitudes might also decrease the neo-colonial critique of the sector as previously discussed. 5.3.2 Knowledge Knowledge and skills (skills will be examined below) are levels of learning that "will play into and support this new attitude by giving [the volunteers] the tools and insight to act in their new common space for action" (MS, 2010, p. 8). In all three modules of the preparatory training MS seeks to equip the volunteers with fundamental knowledge that can enhance their understanding of development and social change, volunteerism, cultural and historical
conditions of the region, issues of poverty, democracy, equality and global civil society. Examples of knowledge areas they work with are Cultural crash course and introduction to the local language Global Power relations and how they affect the local conditions Local democracy and the role of women and youth Volunteerism and social activism
(MS, 2010) The purpose of this part of the training is to deepen historical, cultural and political awareness concerning the countries the volunteers go to. According to Mira Rønje, the volunteers need this knowledge to gain a [...] better understand the world they enter, and to analyse and juxtapose it with a greater context. So that they not only focus on, for example, the orphanage they might volunteer at, but also focus on why the children are where they are, and what local, national and international structures make people live the way they do at the communities they go to.
Introducing the volunteers to these areas of knowledge seem crucial in shaping the attitudes discussed in the previous section. Furthermore, the type of preparation is relevant for increased cultural sensitivity and understanding of different behaviours. In the interview, Volunteer 1 expressed how the Global Platform helped her take a distance from her Danish mentality and teach her about Latin American culture. It was a big shock. I thought: why didn't I know anything about all of this? [...] I am so happy to have learned about these issues, because if I had gone straight [to my volunteer placement] I wouldn't have known anything about it. And then I would have - I would have had a nice trip, but it would have been completely different.
Volunteers also expressed a greater awareness of some of the complexities around development and conflict in the world. In Søren's blog, for example, he writes about a debate they attended during the Global Platform stay where the Israel-Palestinian conflict was discussed. Two of the participants - both Palestinians who volunteered at ActionAid - had very different opinions on the conflict. The entire blog entry deals with the conflict and their different points of view, and Søren concludes: 48
Being external to the conflict it can be difficult to relate to the different stances. I quickly found out that I mostly agreed with Alia while I sympathised with Morad.
Søren is realising and responding to the complexities that he is introduced to during his preparation. Gaining deeper knowledge can lead to a higher degree of reflexivity and critical thinking by the volunteers. This point is very important and will be discussed in further detail in section 5.4. 5.3.3 Skills The 'skills' level of learning refers to the competences and tools the volunteers are given during the FEC. Mira Rønje explains: [This level] is tool based and is about how you start a small project with the locals, tools within conflict management, education, how to make a team-based workshop, about body language, homework assistance. [...] and much more. This level is about the things you can actually do.
The purpose is to equip the volunteers with useful skills for their future volunteer work. While some of the skills are very practical, e.g. how do you make a workshop, other skills are more fluid and concern the mental state of the volunteers and how to deal with, for example, conflicts due to cultural differences. Volunteer 2 explains an exercise that was very useful for her, which defined concepts of 'safety zone' and 'danger zone' and their level of comfort: [...] it is really nice to dare to be conscious and dare to say that I actually feel that this has become uncomfortable. I am in this zone, and would like to return. That was definitely a tool we could use. It became easier to express - I feel uncomfortable.
The volunteers also had to observe and teach in a school to understand the context and the challenges in this. About such school observation, Line writes: Observation was hard and a real eye opener. The teaching methods, the teachers, the subjects, and the relation between teacher and the students were significantly different.
It is evident through the interviews and blogs that the volunteers gain something from these tools. The tools they end up using might differ, but the lectures, role-plays and excursions are valuable lessons they can relate back to when useful. Volunteer 3 explains about a text used in a class on culture meetings that she specifically remembers. [...] first you heard it from her perspective, that she had come, kind-hearted, and she had prepared for months [...] everything would be so good and now was the time to create a 'Western' society [...] then later you hear it from the locals' perspective, about the foreign woman who has come and presents them with all sorts of things and everything is turned upside down and we don't understand what she says [...] I have thought about this text many times.
Equipping the volunteers with specific skills they can draw from at their volunteer placement can save them time and make it easier for them to adjust. The examples above show that volunteers gain skills they actively use later to help them navigate within the foreign culture. Volunteers, like Line, who are volunteering as teachers have already tried what it is like to teach in a foreign culture, and although the experience is short, it gives an initial foundation to build on. In this way, the Global Platform introduces the volunteers to their first cultural encounters, which can ease the process of adapting to their projects (cultural adaption will be discussed later). Although skills learned during four weeks are limited, they should not be underestimated considering the short amount of time they are out to volunteer. Previous research has proposed that a way to enhance cross-cultural exchange and global perspective in volunteers is through emphasis of attitude and skills, and by introducing them to the contextual background (Fee & Mdee, 2011, p. 229). The examples provided in the last three sections build on this by contextualising how attitude, knowledge and skills can be included in the preparation of the volunteers and how the volunteers utilise these elements.
5.4 Experiential learning The methodological approach in MS' training focuses a lot on active participation of the volunteers, and is based on the concept of Experiential Learning. MS aims at allowing the volunteers to experience the things they learn and include different forms of experiential elements in the training, such as role-plays, excursions, social activities with the local population, work shops etc. This is in accordance with Raymond and Hall's (2008) 50
recommendations on approaching volunteer tourism as a learning experience through use of experiential learning techniques. MS' training methodology draws on Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory, presented in section 2.8.2, with the underlying understanding that for learning to take place, participants need to reflect on their experiences. Accordingly, during the training each experience is "always followed by reflection to make sure the learning becomes conscious" (MS, 2010, p. 6). Examples of this are given in the following section. Apart from the training at the Global Platform, the volunteer stay is, in itself, an experience from which the volunteers can gain deeper intercultural awareness, provided that they keep on reflecting on their experiences after their training. It is the processing of their experiences that can lead to better cross-cultural understanding, the breaking down of stereotypes and give the volunteers a different worldview in the long run (cf. section 2.8.2). Lasse Jensen [...] we believe it is important that the young people we send out not only make a difference and get an experience, but we think it is important that they also gain insight and tools for reflection about why the developing countries and their inhabitants are in the situation they are.
A higher degree of reflection is part of what can shape and distinguish volunteer tourism as an alternative sector, and what enables the transformations of the volunteers. But the process of reflection after experiencing is not an inherent trait in the volunteer that can be taken for granted. Simpson's studies (2004; 2005) suggest that many sending organisations do not encourage such critical reflection in their programmes. MS' attempt to include a higher level of reflection is therefore in line with suggestions from several studies (Fee & Mdee, 2011; Palacios, 2010; Raymond, 2008; Simpson, 2005). The next section examines the volunteer's level of reflection followed by a section on how experiential learning can help break down stereotypes. 5.4.1 Volunteers reflect on their experiences Volunteers in this study were found to express a high level of reflection in response to their experiences, both during the training and their volunteer stay. While being at the Global Platform, volunteers spent a lot of time on excursions and meetings with locals. Christian writes about a trip to a small village where they spent the night. 51
There are so many contrasts in life here. Compared to the Danish youth, because we have so many opportunities, and they have so few. In their own life, because the girls have to work at home all day and the boys don't do anything but nevertheless manage to arrange a party for six Danes on poverty tourism.
Christian notices many of the differences between the El Salvadoran village and life in Denmark, but importantly, he also reflects on the reasons for these differences and how the local youth lack the same opportunities as where he grew up. Comments posted in response to the volunteer blogs also suggest that the experiences impact and possibly transform the volunteers. For many of them, this trip is a form of Grand Tour12, and their family members can see the changes in them and are impressed by the reflective nature of the volunteers. In response to Christian's blog entry from the above example, his mother wrote: I have learnt something about you on this journey: you are fantastic at experiencing and telling about your experiences [...]
Finally, using the term 'poverty tourism' furthermore implies that Christian is conscious about how his own role and presence might appear. This is also a topic introduced to the volunteer during their training, which is where he might have picked it up from, thereby suggesting that the volunteers incorporate their learning from the Global Platform. Poverty tourism is a term that has been attached to volunteer tourism (as well as other forms of tourism) because volunteers often visit and live in areas of poverty. The relationship between poverty and tourism is contentious and it has been argued, that the interest of tourists in seeing poverty, effectively commodifies and aestheticises poverty, something scholars have posed serious concerns about (Mowforth and Munt as cited in Scheyvens, 2001). According to Scheyvens (2001), there is evidence to suggest that poverty tourism can be beneficial to the visitors and hosts alike, and ultimately it is the approach taken to this form of tourism and the attitudes of the tourists themselves, that matters. Hence, if MS, as the intermediary is able to shape the volunteers' attitudes and make them critically aware, there is reason to believe that the outcome can be beneficial to the parties involved.
Old term used to describe journeys in Europe undertaken mainly by men from the upper-middle class as an educational rite of passage. Translates into the more generally used "dannelsesrejse" in Danish.
The majority of the blog posts made during the volunteers' time at the Global Platform are about experiences they had meeting the local population and 'witnessing' the topics they had discussed in the classroom. For example, in Amanda's blog about their trip to the slum in Kathmandu she brings in the cultural and social elements she has been taught when she explains how many of the people living there are casteless and consequently denied of their rights. Kenneth and Brian tell about how lectures on HIV and AIDS and the social consequences they bring settled in a different way when they experienced it during a visit to a HIV/AIDS organisation where they saw people fleeing to avoid coming into contact with the affected. I.e. trips that could be merely experiences are infiltrated by reflective thought provided in the training. Volunteer 3 It is completely different to go out and experience it and hear them tell about it, compared to some teacher. So it makes a huge difference.
Continuing on to their volunteer placements, such reflection is continuously found. In a long blog entry by Nanna she writes about the concept of poverty (another important topic from the training) and how the media often present poverty in relation to starving children and distended stomachs. The reality she encounters does not fit this image and she asks "what is poverty then?" Based on her own experiences she offers a different view: Poverty is felt and hurts, when my two [host] sisters who are 18 and 20 years only can afford to attend school on Saturdays because transport to the school, lunch, notebooks and so on is too expensive [...] When meals exclusively consists of beans, egg, rice and corn tortilla [...] When every family is halved because family members flee to the US [...] When young men are forced into some of the world's most dangerous gangs [...]
Nanna is bringing her volunteer experiences into a larger context and is challenging and questioning the view of poverty she has seen in the media. These examples contextualise how MS uses experiential learning and suggests that the encouragement of reflective thinking is taken up by the volunteers. This is not to say that volunteers cannot reflect without their Global Platform stay, but when at the same time they are provided with social, political and cultural knowledge about the context they are in, they can reflect at an informed level. Doing this, the volunteers' experiences can become more than
just a fleeting memory, but a learning process as suggested by Simpson (2005). On this line, Volunteer 2 refers to her trip as a 'development-journey': I don't think anyone returns after such a journey without changing at all. There are some thoughts and feelings that have awoken in me which would not have awoken if I had just watched it on TV.
5.4.2 Breaking stereotypes and prejudices As discussed in 2.7.1, intercultural meetings have been praised for being able to break down stereotypes between cultures. But stereotypes can also be confirmed or accentuated, when these meetings are not accompanied with critical thinking (cf. section 2.8 and 2.8.2) and lead to notions of Othering (2.4.1). This section examines whether MS volunteers seemed to break or confirm cultural stereotypes. The volunteers were generally found to engage in mutual and caring relationships with the locals and seemed able to break down boundaries between 'us' and 'them' and use the cultural meeting to part with preconceived notions about the other. Mette I know people here and none of them are oppressive terrorists – of course not! Being here, it seems crazy even to think it. Even if these prejudices were to fit every single Palestinian except those I met (and I’m sure they don’t), those I met certainly don’t deserve these labels.
Mette's presence and affiliation with the locals makes her take great distance to stereotypical labels. In her blog, she is very reflective about the perceptions of Other - both the perceptions found in her homeland, Denmark, and in Palestine, writing about this in several entries. This kind of insight and reflection, which can influence the volunteers' decisions and view of the world, are part of the educational process that MS encourage in their volunteers. Mette's level of involvement in the topic suggests that she is not just observing a phenomenon, but reflecting and acting upon it by voicing her experiences in her blog. Similarly, Søren's stay and involvement with the culture in Palestine encouraged a different understanding and view towards the Other:
Almost all girls and women in Palestine wear a headscarf. You know, the kind that some places are regarded as foreign, dangerous and oppressive of women’s rights in the Danish debate [...] regardless of type, form or colour, every girl wears their headscarf as if it was a colourful summer dress. And they are not less happy or stubborn, giggly and twittering, beautiful and vivacious, engaged, active and girly than so many other women on the planet.
Søren's comment seems to suggest that he had not had this type of insight before his volunteer stay. A change of perception can also work the other way around. Line describes the meeting with her host family: We experienced this enormous family joy that welcomed us and we ended up clearing all prejudices about us wazungu (white in swahili). It was a wild experience that I will never forget [...]
Here, it is not just the volunteers who break their stereotypes, but also the locals, according to Line. Stereotypes can also exist internally within a country, which was experienced by volunteer 1. During her orientation conducted by MS' local partner, she was presented with a scare story about things she would encounter at her placement in a small village. Many of these stories turned out to be the locals' own prejudices about village life - prejudices that Volunteer 1 was able to break away from after spending some time there. Generally, the volunteers seemed to be drawn by the cultural differences and they spent a lot of their time engaging with the locals, attending weddings, church ceremonies and other cultural traditions. In this sense, their quest for the authentic appeared similar to conventional mass tourism (cf. section 2.4.1). Volunteers, however, also seemed eager to break with the notions of 'us' versus 'them' in a quest to view the Other as equal. Christina [...] a fantastic experience to turn a situation from I am the rich, white and they are the small, poor beggars to we are all best friends and will a 100 percent never forget our meeting. I will at least not!
Christina's experience with the street children shows how she is consciously aware of the preconceived labels and that she aspires to break down these notions of rich and poor. Hence, stereotypes exist on many levels, and in order to break with them, one needs to keep an open and critical mind and engage with the locals, which are dominant characteristic found 55
in the volunteers. This accentuates the need for volunteer sending organisations to encourage critical reflection as well as the need for deep intercultural interaction. How the sending organisation may encourage this, will be discussed below.
5.5 Volunteer preparation and the demonstration effect Through the volunteers' descriptions, it seemed apparent that their interest in experiencing the Other was not one-way, but that the host communities were very interested in them as well. Volunteer 3 [...] he really wanted to know so much. So he asked a lot of really good questions all the time. We would sit and talk for hours after work with him. It was really great that he was so engaged
Christian I am trying to understand what two people are explaining to me while the rest of the bar ostensibly have forgotten their undertakings and just follow the situation. I have become an opposite tourist attraction: the foreigner has become a sight for the locals...
This shows that it is not just the locals who are treated as objects of interest by the traveller, as in this situation where the volunteer is likewise an object of interest to the locals. This reciprocity in the interest of the other is evident throughout the blogs. What is more, this interest is often complemented by engagement from both sides, possibly resulting in more than just a single or a mutual gaze but an encounter, an impression or a friendship. The impacts derived from such encounters in tourism are often referred to as the demonstration effect (cf. section 2.4). While conventional mass tourism often triggers a demonstration effect due to the volume of tourist traffic, the volunteers are more likely to trigger this effect through the intensity of their stay. The volunteers’ presence and display of their comparative wealth will most likely have some sort of impact. But the behaviour and type of volunteer can influence such impacts. If the volunteer, for example, shows clear disrespect to local values, wears inappropriate clothes or the like, their presence may inspire different social and cultural values than if they try to blend in, wear the same clothes as the locals, and display respect and equal worth. These attributes can be shaped through better knowledge about the context in which they are volunteering, through the shaping of their attitudes and by being reflective about their behaviour - i.e. attributes that previous examples have shown volunteers capable off.
5.6 Contextualising the 'difference' There seems to be big differences between volunteer sending organisations and their purpose or goal of sending volunteers abroad. As examined in section 5.2.1, the narrative in MS' promotional material focuses on the intercultural meeting while also emphasising that that the volunteers can make a difference - a difference that remains vague and unexplored. To make the goal of MS' volunteer programme clearer, this section explores this difference. In the explanation about the type of changes the volunteers can make at their placements, Mira Rønje explicates: The volunteers rarely have the opportunity to make fundamental changes, but at their placement they can inspire people to view the opportunities of different players differently. When we send out young women, it can help in the questioning of women's role and what women are capable off and what their opportunities should be. This brings in a perspective of equal rights by their mere presence [...]
Both Lasse Jensen and Mira Rønje dissociated strongly from the idea of volunteer work being development aid in the traditional sense (cf. section 2.6.2). Mira Rønje The volunteers do not possess the expertise or have the time necessary for participating in bigger development projects [...] Lasse Jensen [...] it is really the cultural meeting, which is interesting. Where people exchange positions and ideas and in this way try to develop the personal and working relationship.
The fact that volunteers cannot contribute to the bigger development projects does not mean that they cannot contribute with something meaningful at their volunteer placement. But these small contributions have to be properly contextualised for the volunteers, and hosts alike, so neither approach the project with wrong expectations. Mira Rønje explains that the projects the volunteers participate in, or initiate themselves, are commonly activities like a football tournament that [...] makes the children feel a sense of community by working together and possibly gaining some success experiences and opportunities to unfold in different ways[...] It can
be tiny things that only move people's mind a centimetre - that is, the people’s perception of being seen and appreciated and heard and being able to change their own situation on a micro-level.
Many of the volunteers started small projects while at their placements. They were mainly small activities that could either inspire or give the kind of experiences Mira Rønje talks about above. Christian and Nanna, for example, started football training for the youth. Nanna School ended last week and in the provinces of El Salvador there are absolutely no activities arranged for the children - so this had to be changed.
Christian When I saw them leave the [football] field the last time, [the girls] were talking about how they could continue with their team. It made me extremely proud [...]
Coming from different backgrounds with diverse traditions, both Nanna and Christian included the girls at football training and were able to inspire, and perhaps challenge, some of the local values on a small scale. Amanda, who worked at an orphanage, started an exercise activity for the children. [...] they rarely leave the orphanage's surrounding walls unless they go to school. A trip somewhere else is therefore much desired.
Coming with a different perspective, the volunteers are able to see some of the small changes that can make a difference or inspire the communities they live in. These need not be physical activities but can also be through the exchange of perspectives. Søren When a 20-year-old student in my class eagerly after class asks whether "I love/hate/whatever Jews", he is asking the question based on incorrect basic principles. That is a) that you can hate an entire people and lump them together without treating any one unjustly and b) that all Jews are Zionist.
In this case, Søren, as an outsider, might be able to challenge or at least discuss some of these basic principles that underlie opinions and inspire in that way. Likewise, the volunteers expressed that they had changed and developed - inspired by the people they had met while volunteering.
5.6.1 Social change Apart from gaining an increased understanding and awareness about the world, MS hopes the volunteers will bring their experiences home and continue as active citizens: Mira Rønje [...] They can also make a difference by changing their own ideas about the power relations between the Global North and the Global South in that they are people of power themselves and have to accept a redistribution of goods [...] They can enter a struggle where they, when they return, to a large extent can participate in influencing these power structures, and hopefully make a change on a more structural level that redistributes goods and ensure people equal rights.
It is through the training that volunteers go in depth with these concepts of change. They are introduced to MS' values, the history of development work and social change theory. The objective is that [t]he participants will gain an understanding of social change as creating lasting structural changes, be it social, cultural, political, economical, that benefit the poor and marginalised by giving them added influence on own life and future.
(MS, 2010, p. 17) They furthermore strive to distinguish between social change at an individual and structural level, and the different levels of impact they entail (ibid). As mentioned earlier, this concept of social change, although vividly present during the training, is strikingly absent from the promotional material. The potential gap it could provide between MS' goal and the volunteers' expectations appear to be closed after the training. The findings from the volunteers suggest that they were engaged in their volunteer trip beyond mere enjoyment and self-realisation and that they thought about the broader context of how volunteering could change things. Mette [...] being a volunteer is not always about the work you can do, but about watching and listening and understanding [...] Maybe it is something as simple as listening to someone’s story and letting the people at home know about it.
Volunteer 2 To a large degree, this [volunteer tourism] is development work for the Western world [...] If we get more and more of this kind [of people] it must, at some point, influence the decisions taken in relation to development aid [...]
Many of the volunteers expressed great interest in contributing to the writing of this study this was perhaps also in their own quest for adding meaning and value to their stay. Nonetheless, they were very enthusiastic about spreading the stories and experiences they had gained. After requesting permission to use her blog, Nanna answered: [...] It would only make me happy - as us volunteers (or at least me) wish to spread our experiences as wide as possible to get people thinking and perhaps spread ever-widening circles.
According to Sherraden et al. (2008) global awareness could "enhance capacity to solve local, domestic, and international conflicts, and encourage support for development aid" (p. 411). This study suggests that through training prior to their volunteer stay, volunteers can gain increased global awareness, and that this can inspire the volunteers for further action. In the interviews, the volunteers all expressed their wish for engagement and their desire to become active citizens in one way or the other, and all three of them noted that their volunteer experience had influenced or confirmed their choice of further education. Actual long-term impacts on the volunteers would have to be explored in future research. The above shows, that MS' training course attempts to meet the request by Simpson (2004) who believes the gap-year industry is lacking pedagogy for social justice, which she defines in its simplest form as "recognizing the existence of inequality, and then seeking social change" (p. 690).
5.7 Adaptation facilitated through duration of the volunteer stay As introduced in section 2.7.1 adaptation has been viewed as an important prerequisite for gaining cross-cultural understanding. In the volunteer blogs, many referred to their level of adaptation and how they started to feel at "home", which they related to their ease of navigating in a culture different from their own. In Christine's blog she writes about the arrival of new volunteers three months into her stay:
All the things we now see as normal and don't consider raising eyebrows at any longer, are some of the things the newly arrived question - just like we did in the beginning! [...] it has just become our every day life.
Lee and Woosnam (2010) describe the chief outcome of adaptation as a personal transformation, which they define as "individuals who are comfortable within the host cultural environment and negotiate every-day activities on-site with ease" (p. 1887). They encourage research into these processes in volunteer tourism, as they have not received much attention. Byrne (as cited in Lee & Woosnam, 2010, p. 1188) suggests that the volunteer's previous travel experiences, the host community's receptivity and finally the length of time the volunteer spends in the community could explain variances in the transformation, the latter being something the sending organisation can facilitate. As mentioned earlier, MS stands out as a sending organisation in the Danish volunteer market because it requires its volunteers to go for a minimum of 12 weeks plus four weeks at the Global Platform. This is based on the belief that longer time provides a better outcome: Lasse Jensen [...] we know it takes time to adapt to a culture fundamentally different to the context one is used to. And the longer it takes for the individual to adapt, the smaller benefit they can be for the local partner.
The findings from the volunteers in this study were that three months of volunteering was, in their perception, short in terms of what they were able to achieve during that time. This is a perception they held while volunteering and might have changed from what they thought when they were initially signing up to go. Volunteer 2 expresses how time influenced her stay: You do not get the same trust from a person as if you stay for three months where they are. And three months is nothing. But it is still enough to - it was only the last month that it became really great, because it was not until the last month that everyone opened up.
Regardless of the level of preparation, volunteers will have to be present for a certain amount of time to gain the locals' trust and acceptance and thereby immerse deeper into the local culture. Setting a minimum time duration required for the volunteer calls for further knowledge on what is considered short. This will also depend on the level of adaption and
personal transformation desired by the programme, and these issues would have to be studied further. Surely the needs of the host communities would have to be considered in this matter as well. So far there are no common agreements in the literature on what is considered short or long. The volunteer data in this study, nonetheless, suggests that during their time, the volunteers are able to adapt to a level seemingly close to Woosnam and Lee's (2010) definition of personal transformation above. Christian I feel at home in Mexico, I feel Mexican. I talk (more or less) like them, eat like them. I even walk slower on the street - like them [...] Mexico is my second home.
As exemplified in Christian's last blog entry before going home, the volunteers express feelings of comfort and ease of navigation in the foreign culture at their placements. 5.7.1 Adaptation facilitated through cultural preparation Besides setting a minimum time frame, MS also tries to facilitate cultural adaptation by preparing the volunteers for the cultural context they will come across at their projects. This is done at the Global Platform through different lessons on cultural understanding. As Søren's comment below exemplifies, this provides the volunteers with a minimum understanding of some of the cultural codes, which they can use at their placements: Throughout the evening I managed not to break too many cultural codes. I said the correct greetings to the many people who came and went. I resisted the temptation to raise the soles of my feet from the ground [...] And when I ate Magluube (with my hands and a spoon of course) a family member came to shake my hand. My hands were really greasy, so I did as I had been taught: gave him my un-greasy wrist instead. Phew. Crisis averted. Not to shake hands could be offensive.
This post represents an attitude found in the other volunteers as well - that they are very aware about navigating in a foreign context and make a great effort to try to adapt and understand the culture they have entered. Such attitude is similar to Enoch and Grossman's (2010) conclusions about Danish backpackers, whom they categorised as "cosmopolitans". They define cosmopolitanism as a "willingness to become involved with the Other, and the concern with achieving competences
in other cultures" (Hannerz as cited in Enoch & Grossman, 2010, p. 521) They contrast this with "provincials" who do not make the effort to understand foreign culture and envisage the Other in stereotypes. While their study contrasted the difference between cosmopolitans and provincials of different nationalities, this study suggests that cosmopolitan attitudes can be enhanced in certain types of tourism, when the intermediary - in this case the volunteer sending organisations - engage in preparation of the tourist and adjust their programme structure to enhance cross-cultural understanding between participants. Theory also points at preparation regarding cultural contexts as an important element for adaption. According to Cai and Rodriguez (as cited in Wearing & Gabrowski, 2011), misunderstandings between cultures can occur when preconceived notions about the culture are tenuous or there is a lack of shared knowledge between participants. Such situation makes adaptation very difficult. However, if the "outsider is prepared then they can avoid crosscultural misunderstandings and more importantly, effective adaptation and increased understanding will occur as a result of the positive experience" (p. 199). Accordingly, the preparation of volunteers becomes key in facilitating adaptation, and consequently, crosscultural understanding. Giving preparation in areas of attitude, skills and knowledge are important ways for the sending organisation to facilitate cross-cultural understanding.
5.8 Group size and accommodation This section discusses the possibilities of enhancing cross-cultural understanding by regulating programme structures of group size and style of accommodation. One of Raymond and Hall's (2008) three suggestions on how sending organisations can impact cross-cultural understanding is to facilitate "opportunities for interaction with other cultures" (p. 541). As mentioned above, a minimum requirement for the duration of the stay can be planned, but apart from that, sending organisations can also influence how many volunteers are sent to each destination and their style of accommodation - both are parameters that can influence the level of cultural immersion. MS usually sends out volunteers in small groups to live with host families. Lasse Jensen If you are staying at a hotel or hostel or a volunteer house it can very easily happen that you start living in a bubble of volunteers, [...] you have great fun together and that is fine, but you just don't really get that cultural meeting
Among the volunteers examined, five went by themselves13, four went in groups of two and one went in a group of three. Finally, Kenneth and Brian travelled together but lived near to another group of Danish volunteers for the first part of their stay. As has already been discussed, the volunteers showed great efforts to adapt. When going alone or in small groups, the necessity to adapt and form relationships with the locals becomes much greater. If volunteers are sent out in enclaves, they can engage each other and spend less time with the locals. As explained by Volunteer 1: [...] and also because I was alone there was no distinction between us and them, so it was easy to adapt to the culture, because I was not perceived as one of those white people who had come to the village. It was just me.
The volunteers were found to spend a lot of their time interacting with the locals, either at work, during afternoon activities, with their host families and by joining local events. Several volunteers also spent the majority of their weekends in their village/volunteer placement rather than travelling around. Kenneth and Brian 's blog, however, stood out in this regard. In the first part of their volunteer stay, they did not seem to spend much time with the locals and the blog entries did not contain much reflection on cultural meetings compared to the others. But the circumstance of group size and accommodation was also different to many of the other volunteers. Out of all the volunteers in this study, seven lived in host families and three lived at their work placements (e.g. at the orphanage), which gave them lots of opportunities for cultural meetings outside of work as well. Kenneth and Brian lived in an apartment separate from their work placement and very close to another group of Danish volunteers whom they seemed to meet quite a bit - in fact too much according to them: This is the last week with so many Danish in Cape Coast [...], which we are definitely not sad about, as it has been too much of a Danish colony [...]
Another change happening simultaneously to the Danes' departure is that Kenneth and Brian are moving in with a host family in a small village:
I.e. they lived and worked without other volunteers, but there could be other volunteers in nearby village or in same the country. The amount of volunteers going alone seems to be over-represented in this study.
Life in primitive Pebi is something we look forward to, and to finally be able to get just a little bit of familial relationship
This is followed by a blog post summing up some of the many cultural events and encounters they have had through living with the host family and joining them at festivals, to church etc. - a great contrast to the first section of their blog. This suggests that living with a host family can increase the level of immersion within the local culture. On their website, MS does a great deal to emphasise the importance of living with families and how it contributes to the volunteer experience: To live with a local family is in itself a big part of living and becoming a part of another culture. It gives unique possibilities to talk with the locals, get to know the norms, traditions and culture, opportunities to attend private events, and get a familiar home and a local sense of belonging which altogether lets you come really close to the people, society and culture.
This seems to correspond with the volunteers' own narrative about the host families, in which they point out that this interaction is really important to them (and according to the volunteers it is important for the host families alike). It is through the families that many get to join cultural events and customs. The same was found to be true for the volunteers who lived with staff and children at their work placement where relations through work led to similar types of relationships. This result is also supported by the literature. Sherraden et al. (2008) suggest that home stays are likely to increase cultural immersion that can encourage "heightened awareness of cultural norms and community needs among volunteers" (p. 406). They further suggest that volunteers travelling in larger groups can inhibit cultural immersion and meaningful contact, and thereby decrease the level of cross-cultural understanding achieved between volunteer and host (ibid, pa. 405). Hence, group size and living with host families are aspects of the programme structure the volunteer sending organisation can adjust to increase the level of cross-cultural exposure and understanding for the participants.
5.9 A tourist experience with a deeper cross-‐cultural understanding? Throughout this study, volunteers are described as volunteer tourists, which is the most frequently used term in the literature. The sector is, however, trying to provide an alternative
to conventional mass tourism and thus the term tourism seems contradictory to the understanding the volunteers have of their role. In this study it was clear that the volunteers did not perceive of themselves as tourists. For example, in an email correspondence with one of the bloggers it was noted: Volunteer tourism is a quite a harsh term, but that is of course what it is - tourism I mean.
(Emil Baulund, personal communication) MS does not refer to their volunteers as tourists, and using the term had affected Emil enough to comment on it. In the blogs, many of the volunteers also distinguished clearly between volunteers and tourists: Amanda Tomorrow it is time to return to the orphanage and leave life as a tourist. I am really looking forward to seeing the children and returning to my "life" as a volunteer again.
Christian I was the first volunteer there and most probably the first "tourist" there - a term I otherwise reluctantly use for myself to describe my time there.
This is similar to previous findings that both volunteers and sending organisations tend to distance themselves from the term 'tourism' (Raymond, 2008). It is, however, not a feature that is unique to volunteers. Even in charter and other forms of tourism, anti-tourist attitudes, defined as "a tendency to condemn superficial experiences, typified by brief stops in each place" (Jacobsen, 2000, p. 286), are present, suggesting that it is rather normal to distance oneself from being labelled as a tourist. Returning to the initial distinction between volunteer tourism and conventional mass tourism (section 2.4), the previous findings and discussion have shed light on not only how the intermediaries in volunteer tourism can facilitate greater cross-cultural understanding, but also how the volunteers can immerse themselves and get close to their host culture to an extent beyond a typical charter tourist. This is in contrast to critical concerns about the sector: Generally speaking, the 2000s is a decade full of public hesitation about whether vacation volunteering is a more ethical, critical and pro-poor alternative than mass tourism.
(Palacios, 2010, p. 862)
If the gap year is to evolve from an eccentric form of adventure tourism into an experience that offers geographically disparate peoples an opportunity to encounter and learn about one another, then the professional gaze needs to be extended beyond marketing and rhetoric and onto the practises of the programmes that the industry operates.
(Simpson, 2005, p. 467) From the outset, the volunteers in this study did not seem different to any other travellers. Their descriptions in their blogs, for example, consisted mainly of obvious differences between their own and the visited culture, such as crazy traffic, different food and cows in the street - similar to what could be expected in any travel diary. But as exemplified in this study, the volunteer descriptions became increasingly reflective as they gained deeper knowledge and insight into the region and its cultural context. The volunteers may not become morally superior to other tourists (as suggested in section 2.4), but they can gain a more comprehensive insight to the culture they visit due to their level of immersion - at least through some volunteer programmes. The discrepancies between the 'eccentric adventure tourism' and programmes with a 'professional gaze' (as referred to by Simpson (2005) above) are not so easy to distinguish based purely on the promotional narrative. As seen in MS' example, it can be hard to differentiate their type of promotional narrative from those in Simpson's (2004) study. But huge differences exist between programmes and sending organisations, which is also why Fee and Mdee (2011) suggest the possibility of an accreditation system that can distinguish between the different types of programmes. If volunteer sending organisations do not stop insinuating that volunteer work is as a form of development aid and start to promote their programmes for what they are, this could very well be a good idea. Despite the increase of critical literature in the wake of the volunteer tourism sectors' commercialisation, this study showed that not all intermediaries send volunteers on holidays that are based purely on experience and stripped from critical awareness. And furthermore, that the sending organisations can play an active role in securing that volunteer tourism can continue as a form of alternative tourism. Regardless of the volunteer's rightful label - whether they are tourists or not - they seem to be able to gain an insight and cross-cultural understanding through their trip, different to what people stereotypically expect from conventional mass tourism.
Part 6 Conclusion and perspectives 6.1 Conclusion This study has sought to further our understanding of volunteer tourism by exploring the role of sending organisations and how they can influence the outcome of cross-cultural understanding. Although the sending organisations are not the only players responsible in securing such an outcome, this study focused on their role because there is a current lack of knowledge on how they can contribute. This knowledge is particularly pertinent at a time when the volunteer market and the number of volunteer sending organisations are expanding rapidly. Increased criticism of the volunteer sector and its proposed impacts also emphasises the need to look more closely at current practises and generate a better understanding of how to improve the intended outcomes. Looking at cross-cultural understanding as the intended goal of volunteer tourism, the study has examined different elements that can further the volunteers' adaptation to a new culture or encourage an open mind-set to break with preconceived stereotypes. The empirical data has pointed at two ways the sending organisation can plan and manage their programme to enhance cross-cultural outcomes: 1) Through preparation of the volunteers and 2) By adjusting core elements of the programme structure. The following points summarise these main conclusions and recommendations for other sending organisations. 1. Preparation of volunteers It is striking how few sending organisations actually provide preparation for their volunteers, and in light of this, it became interesting to examine MS' volunteer training for elements that seemingly encouraged the enhancement of cross-cultural understanding. The findings can be divided into the content of the training and the pedagogy of teaching. The core elements of the training, and consequent recommendations for other sending organisations as a way to facilitate cross-cultural understanding, are to
Encourage attitudes of respect, responsibility and solidarity in the volunteer, and further define the volunteer role to match expectations.
Increase volunteer knowledge about the cultural, historical and political context of their volunteer stay. 68
Build volunteer skills as preparation for volunteer work tasks as well as cultural navigation
With regards to teaching pedagogy, the findings have emphasised the usefulness of applying Experiential Learning as a teaching pedagogy, as it encourages volunteers to reflect on their experiences, and in turn, creates a learning process. 2. Adjustment of programme structure Three elements of the programme structure were identified as aspects the sending organisation could adjust to further increase cultural understanding. These elements are primarily focused at increasing the opportunities for crosscultural interaction: •
Adjusting the duration of the volunteer stay
Living with host families or in other types of accommodation which encourage the development of similar familiar relationships
Placing volunteers alone or in small groups
Being explorative in nature, it has only been possible for this study to touch the surface of the issues relating to the facilitation of cross-cultural understanding. While this can serve as inspiration for other sending organisations, the themes brought up should also inspire future research. It is also worth noting that besides the role the volunteer sending organisations play in the facilitation of cross-cultural understanding, it should not be underestimated that the volunteers' attributes play an important part as well (Sherraden et al., 2008). Developing a more serious approach to volunteer tourism with more requirements (e.g. such as duration of stay) will attract a certain type of people, which in itself may impact the outcome of crosscultural understanding. As set out in the research objectives, a secondary intention has been to raise discussion over the perceived goal of volunteer tourism. In order for sending organisations to start facilitating cross-cultural understanding, it also needs to be recognised as their predominant aim. Both existing research and the media have a tendency of focusing on volunteer tourists as development workers in the traditional sense. This study has discussed the difference in the purported goal of the programmes, and suggests that the goal of cross-cultural understanding
should be incorporated to a larger extent in the research literature. Furthermore, this study has attempted to contextualise the role that the volunteer can play in the host community – someone who can inspire or contribute with small changes but someone who cannot be compared to a development aid worker. Stating cross-cultural understanding as the goal, it has been acknowledged, that such understanding does not happen automatically, which only highlights the need for the sending organisations to plan their programmes accordingly. The findings emphasised examples of volunteers who displayed attitudes of respect, actively tried to adapt to the new culture, established mutual relationships with their hosts, and were reflective about the context and their experiences. With this in mind, the critical literature should not become the basis for a rejection of volunteer tourism, but should be taken seriously and used to improve the overall content and impacts of the programmes. This study suggests that previous findings of attitude problems and unrealistic expectations of volunteers' capabilities can be avoided when programmes are planned and managed carefully. Another research objective was to examine and discuss the role of the promotional narrative. Although MS' marketing material emphasises the cross-cultural meeting and the possible learning outcome this can bring about, the narrative remains vague and unclear about the volunteers' role. Volunteers are told that they can 'make a difference', but the meaning of this difference is not contextualised. Furthermore, the website also contain simplistic images of Other similar to practises of the conventional mass tourism sector, where such consumable experiences become the central commodity for sale. In these ways, MS' promotional narrative did not deviate much from the commercial sending organisations in Simpson's study (2004). Examining the content of MS' volunteer programme it became evident that there was incongruence between the promotional narrative and the organisation's intentions with the programme. Although volunteer training helps to shape and build volunteer expectations and the understanding of their role and capabilities, the unclear marketing material in not helpful in shaping a broader consciousness about the content of volunteer programmes. The volunteer sector is promoted as an alternative to conventional mass tourism, but for it to stay this way, the marketing trends of the sending organisations need to be adjusted. The goal of the programme should be properly identified and followed by training the volunteers to enhance this outcome.
6.2 Perspectivation The concluding list of recommendations expands our knowledge on how volunteer sending organisations can facilitate cross-cultural understanding, but it is not meant as an exhaustive list of how to do so. Future research can build on and extend this list depicting ways the sending organisations can improve their role. This would include further research into the concepts introduced above, e.g. such as looking more closely at duration of stay and defining different levels of cross-cultural impact depending on the length of stay. An important next step would also be to look at training components that are considered useful for the host communities, which receive volunteers. It might even be worthwhile to provide preparation for the key players in these communities, i.e. by looking at how the volunteers’ training can be optimised for the hosts' benefit, as well as considering ways to better prepare the host for receiving volunteers. In extension to this, there is also a general lack of knowledge about the hosts' perceived cross-cultural understanding through the programmes, which need to be examined. This also requires a closer look at the type of cooperation that exists between the sending organisations and the receiving partner and how different relations can enhance the cross-cultural understanding resulting from the programme. This study has suggested that volunteers can increase their cross-cultural understanding through volunteering, but further research is required to determine what this means for the volunteers in the long run. While the interviewees in this study confirmed that they wanted to become active citizens, and their stay had influenced or confirmed their choice of study, it should be examined how the volunteers view the impacts of their stay years after their return. It should be observed whether the volunteers have acted upon their original intentions and how the volunteer experience catalysed such action. As pointed out previously, the majority of volunteer research is in the context of English and North American volunteers. This study has contributed to the knowledge of volunteer tourism by adding an insight into the Danish volunteer market. Future studies could examine whether cultural aspects, inherent to the volunteers, make a difference to cross-cultural understanding and how preparation might need to be adjusted according to different cultural backgrounds.
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