IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) recently undertook the largest and most thorough review of their volunteers ever taken. The report based on this review was co-authored by Matt Baillie Smith (based at Northumbria University, Newcastle and also my external supervisor).

The report highlights a number of themes that have emerged from the interviews conducted with volunteers across the world:

  • The presence of volunteering cultures that challenge global assumptions about volunteering. There are tensions present within a global organisation that is also present at national/local levels. Volunteering ‘here’ is not the same as volunteering ‘there’.
  • The movement of people (whether large-scale migration due to conflict or gradual movement due to urbanisation) has had a profound effect on the practice of volunteering. 
  • The issue of renumeration has been contested as well. Whereas in some collectivist cultures, voluntarism is built into the community fabric and the issue of financial recompense is not mentioned, in other areas due to factors such as extreme poverty, monetary compensation is a hot-topic.
  • The fourth major theme is the crucial role played by volunteers in conflict and crisis situations. The authors looked at the Ebola crisis in Western Africa, the Syrian civil war etc. and  highlight the challenges faced by volunteers on the ground there, including resource containts and lack of psycho-social support. 

I am currently working on a project looking at the role of volunteering in conflict settings. So I think I will be focussing on the last theme over the next year. More posts about this to come. You can find out more information about the report here.