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Through a different lens: The potential impact of development education on a short-term volunteer

This study examines the potential impact that development education could have on a short-term volunteer. It also recommends ways in which a short-term volunteer sending organisation could adopt a development education programme into their organisational approach. In order to research the potential impact of development education I use two Irish short-term volunteer sending organisations in a comparative analysis. The current attitudes of both the short-term volunteers and the organisations towards development education are examined using both qualitative and quantitative methods, namely, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires.

From the literature reviewed, I find that development education has significant capacity for a positive impact if a learner is placed at the centre of a learning strategy. I find that the volunteers interviewed are very willing to learn more about development and global issues. The findings indicate that although both organisations currently have elements of development education included in their programme, they will need to place significantly more emphasis on the area if the impact is to reach its full potential on the volunteer.

In order to achieve this, the organisation must commit to mainstreaming development education into its organisational strategy and approach. This is likely to require a degree of necessary change within the current structure. In respect of the two organisations examined in this study, I believe it is possible to introduce a structured approach to development education into both. One organisation is relatively new and so the structure is still quite fluid which would allow for the introduction of a additional development focus. The second organisation, although more established, already has the foundations of a development education programme in place and so in my opinion just needs to accredit more time and resources to the approach. With the organisation’s support, this learning experience has the potential to be transformative in a number of ways both on the individual and, in time, on society as a whole.

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