Funding from the Economic & Social Research Council in the UK has provided the necessary support for a six-part seminar series to address “Reconceptualising International Volunteering,” slated to kick-off at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne Campus) on 11 February 2015. The collaboration between the University of Brighton, University of Kent, the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, and ATLAS Special Interest Group-Volunteer Tourism Research Group is bringing academics and practitioners from around the world to engage in six day-long dialogues over the course of 16 months with peers regarding the future of international volunteering in an ever-changing world.
Since the global economic crisis of 2008, the critical analysis of international volunteering, volunteer travel, and voluntourism has increased significantly. The criticism has been delivered via research conducted by the global academic community, through student-led debates, and as blog posts and articles featuring the opinions and experiences of journalists, practitioners, participants, and hosts worldwide. However, little has been done to move beyond debate and critique, other than setting forth approaches to addressing the most egregious circumstances surrounding the well-being of children in the context of volunteering in orphanages and shelters in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, and South Africa.
It is hoped, therefore, that “Reconceptualising International Volunteering” will serve as a space for dialogue in the collective interest of the entire stakeholder body and to expand our awareness and perspective in order that we may shift into a deeper understanding of how service in this unfolding, 21st Century-context will continue to emerge.
I am privileged to participate (as both presenter and attendee) in the inaugural seminar to be hosted on 11 February 2015 and look forward to meeting with academics and practitioners in attendance as we consider the “Blurred Boundaries of International Volunteering.” Some of the remaining seminars will focus on topics such as: “Examining the ‘Self’ (volunteer) and the ‘Other’ (communities),” “Impact, Sustainability and Legacy,” and “The Future of International Volunteering.” Two seminars will be held at each campus: Seminars #1 and #6 at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne Campus), Seminars #2 and #4 at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, and Seminars #3 and #5 at the University of Kent (Canterbury Campus).
The attendance is limited, as the gatherings are designed to initiate small-group dialogue following presentations and Q&A sessions with presenters. For more information on the conference, please visit the ESRC Seminar Series page on the University of Brighton, School of Sport and Service Management website.
An atmosphere of dynamic change is enveloping and permeating this globe and its populace in ways we could not have conceived of in the post-World War II era in which international volunteering began to truly manifest. Nearly 70 years following the conclusion of that massive transition for the planet, and the advancement of an agenda to assist one another in rebuilding our collective humanity, hosting a series of dialogues to revisit international volunteering, with the underlying intention of reconceptualising it, seems more than apropos.
Is it reasonable to request that other such gatherings may occur elsewhere – in North America, in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, and in Australia and Oceania?
The grand shifts in our planet-wide systems, the introduction of new technologies, and the re-emergence of wisdom long-forgotten have us poised to embark on a collective reconceptualisation of international volunteering. Although initial foundational elements of our desire to serve, particularly in the recovery from the unimaginable devastation of World War II, may have lingered over the past seven decades, how we consider international volunteering in the emerging complexity of 2015 and beyond deserves much more attention and intention on our collective part.
The ESRC Seminar Series: Reconceptualising International Volunteering [#(hashtag) RIV] represents an initial step in this direction. Here’s hoping that we can all experience the evolutionary purpose inherent in this undertaking – one that will have implications not merely for those currently dwelling on this earth, but for future generations yet to do so!