2013 marks the 10th Anniversary of VolunTourism.org. Watching this space for the past ten years has proven to be a roller-coaster adventure to say the least. It just so happens that as we enter this second decade of monitoring the progress of voluntourism, we have an opportunity to do so at the beginning of several interesting threads to pay attention to in the coming years.
First, President Obama is entering his second term in office. There are some real opportunities for voluntourism to expand in the U.S. due to an increased focus on domestic voluntourism, but also a very unique opportunity for the potential engagement of international visitors in volunteering at U.S. National Parks, which turn 100 years of age in 2016. (I discuss this further in the latest issue of The VolunTourist Newsletter – “Could Voluntourism See Significant Growth During Obama 2.0?“)
Second, we are but two years removed from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) final year (2015). The next couple of years will bring forward many questions as to how well the world has responded to the call from the United Nations nearly 1.5 decades ago. And questions will be raised as to the effectiveness, or ineffectiveness, of voluntourism to contribute to the MDGs during this final two-year span.
Third, Brazil will play host to two major sporting events over the next 3 years – – The World Cup (2014) and The Olympics (2016). The favelas will doubtless be brought into the conversation at some point. Will visitors contribute to the well-being of the Brazilian society and the environment when they visit the country? Will they be volunteering during their stays? Might they possibly help Brazilian sex workers learn English, or other foreign languages, to enable them to negotiate better situations for themselves?
Finally, calls for Aid Transparency will create a whole new genre of voluntourism – geo-coding voluntourism – and will encourage travelers of all ages to use smartphone technology to upload data on official development assistance (ODA) projects around the planet. Geo-coding voluntourists will not be confronted with rhetorical questions such as: “Are you doing more harm than good?” Their contributions will be accepted and redistributed in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, for them and the world-at-large to see.
If you are wondering why voluntourism will be moving in these directions, well, you have to realize that a growing number of people on this earth are beginning to resonate with the potential socio-economic impact of voluntourism and are encouraging this type of travel. Critical analysis from academic researchers is now being put forth with suggestions and recommendations on how to improve voluntourism – not whether it is a good idea or not.
As information continues to spread throughout the emerging “global mind” we call the internet, we will see inspiring practices from the ever-growing family of voluntourism practitioners. Time will prove the catalyst for refinement as we discover what’s next for voluntourism.