"Soft power,” selfishness, or altruism? Motivations and satisfaction of US-based international volunteers

Liz JACKSON, Genejane ADARLO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

Postcolonial critiques of international development organizations scrutinise their role in “soft power” public diplomacy, observing as symptomatic the partly self-serving motivations and naïve beliefs about the world of many volunteers. However, international volunteers are not necessarily influenced by political agendas or selfishness; nor should they be assumed as naïvely complicit in problematic international relations strategies. This article examines the perceptions of United States-based volunteers in education and public health working with an international development organisation, exploring their motivations and senses of satisfaction with their experiences. By framing volunteers’ experiences as fundamental to the field of international volunteerism, our findings add nuance to simplistic views of volunteerism as a broad tool of soft power or as acts of selfless altruism, enabling volunteer programmes to become more holistic, grounded, and critical in conceptualizing their work. Copyright © 2016 Common Ground Research Networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-34
JournalThe International Journal of Diversity in Education
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Citation

Jackson, L., & Adarlo, G. (2016). "Soft power,” selfishness, or altruism? Motivations and satisfaction of US-based international volunteers. The International Journal of Diversity in Education, 16(3), 21-34. doi: 10.18848/2327-0020/CGP/v16i03/21-34

Keywords

  • International volunteering and service
  • Development
  • Motivations
  • US
  • Altruism

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