Volunteers doing field research on volunteerism in fragile communities and post-conflict environments

News
23 March 2017
Bonn, Germany

Instability and fragility are becoming more frequent and intense in many countries, making communities more vulnerable and reliant on their own resilience. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, in partnership with ActionAid, the Association of Voluntary Centres (in Russian), the Beijing Volunteer Federation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), is deploying 15 national and international volunteer researchers to collect evidence on the contribution of volunteerism in fragile communities and post-conflict environments.

Volunteer researchers in Bonn, Germany, during an induction workshop before they start their assignments in 15 countries to gather evidence for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report.
Volunteer researchers in Bonn, Germany, during an induction workshop before they start their assignments in 15 countries to gather evidence for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report. (UNV, 2017)

The volunteer researchers are currently deploying to 15 countries to gather evidence for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) on the theme of “Resilient Communities: The Role of Volunteerism in a Turbulent World”.

Christina Giannopoulou is a national volunteer with Action Aid in Greece who will be doing field research in a deprived area of Athens with high unemployment and low access to basic services, where many volunteering initiatives have sprung up from various actors in response to social problems. “We don’t have many people researching in the non-profit context, and we don’t have reliable data about volunteering, so I think this report is an important effort to generate knowledge about volunteerism in Greece at these difficult times of economic and migration crisis.”

Volunteers in the community are often the first to offer support in the event of destabilization and disasters, and could become more critical actors in humanitarian crises, post-conflict situations and peacebuilding efforts at local, national and global levels.

“I hope that the findings of this report will encourage governments to support the work that volunteers are doing in the field, which in turn would enhance community efforts to cope with adverse events, for example related to climate change,” says Consuelo Fernández Manchego, UN Volunteer SWVR Research and Volunteerism Specialist from Bolivia who will be conducting research in Guatemala.

I hope that the findings of this report will encourage governments to support the work that volunteers are doing in the field, which in turn would enhance community efforts to cope with adverse events, for example related to climate change.

Sae Ishihara is a volunteer with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) who will be carrying out field research for the SWVR in Sri Lanka. Through the 2018 SWVR, she also hopes to be able “to present evidence showing that volunteering contributes to people’s well-being, and to convey this evidence-based message from the grass-roots to the higher policy levels.” 

In an Amazonian community of Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, where volunteers transfer sustainable livelihoods knowledge and ancestral farming practices between indigenous people and farmers, Jimena Cazzaniga Pesenti, from Argentina, will be conducting research as UN Volunteer SWVR Research and Volunteerism Specialist. “We will be conducting primary research for the SWVR for the first time, working online in peer-to-peer collaboration with the other researchers. I am very much looking forward to learning from the community in Bolivia, and from my fellow researchers.”

Azizi Bahar, a new Red Cross volunteer from the Netherlands, will use the research experience gained while studying for her MA in Psychology to collect data for the SWVR on volunteerism’s impact on resilience in a multicultural community near The Hague. In her view, resilience is needed not only by refugees and immigrants from the South, but also by many people from the majority cultures of developed countries, like native born Dutch nationals. 

Julia Oliveira is being deployed to Toliara, Madagascar as an international UN Volunteer SWVR Research and Volunteerism Specialist. She was looking forward to her 10-month assignment with its chance for her to work autonomously to create the research and even, to some extent, the methodology. Referring to the other induction participants, Julia said: “It was stimulating to meet peers and feel part of a team even though we will disperse.” 

All the researchers share a sense of the importance of the SWVR to UNV, and great expectation in the 2018 edition to fill the gaps of previous reports. They will engage with communities and with multiple stakeholders, including governments, civil society and the private sector, under the leadership and supervision of a professional research team.


The volunteer researchers will spend up to six months living with different communities in Bolivia, Burundi, China, Greece, Guatemala, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Tanzania to generate evidence and data to inform the report.

Previous reports include the State of the World's Volunteerism Report 2015: Transforming Governance and the State of the World's Volunteerism Report 2011: Universal Values for Global Well-being.