|Abstract: ||As a result of globalization and increased interconnectivity, it is easier than ever before to travel to different corners of the earth. This phenomenon has also made individuals more aware of the impact that their actions have elsewhere in the world. This global consciousness is causing a shift in the dominant paradigm. Voluntourism is a growing industry that is attempting to bridge the gap between a strictly commercial enterprise, such as travelling, and a more charitable venture, volunteering. These new enterprises are in the midst of transforming a sector in search of an identity and for that reason it is incredibly important to understand who they are, what they do and how they are perceived.
This paper examines the phenomenon of voluntourism with the use of a case study of participants on a six week voluntourism program arranged by the organisation Operation Groundswell. It makes use of before and after surveys of participants to assess their ex-ante expectations of the experience and compare them to ex-post assessment of the venture. This case study takes the study of voluntourism a step further by examining through participant observation, the role of the managing organisation outside of simply a facilitator. The influence of the organisation on the expectations and assessments of its participants is highlighted to better understand the new sector identity being created as a result of the emergence of such enterprises.
The results of this study indicate that while an individual may be inspired by one group of motivations more than any other, they evaluate their experience on the basis of elements of all three categories. In order for a voluntourism excursion to be considered a success it must provide the opportunity for altruism, personal/social development and professional development. Additionally, this study’s multi-method approach demonstrated the need to contextualise survey information when comparing ex-ante expectation and ex-post assessment in order to account for the influence that events that cannot be captured by a survey have on responses. A final conclusion reached in this paper is that Operation Groundswell had a very large impact on its participants’ experience. The organisation helped to shape motivations in the provision of reading material prior to the trip departure date and shaped the experience of the trip through daily discussions and meetings in addition to organising accommodation, meals and volunteer activities.
While the results from this study do not have statistical significance because the number of participants studied was too small, they propose a new way of thinking about this new middle between strictly-business corporations and pure charities. Moving forward, it is important to understand the influence that these organisations have in creating a new identity and shifting the dominant paradigm as they continue to gain popularity and notoriety around the world.|