Capacity Building Contributions of Short-Term International Volunteers

Previous research suggests that international volunteer service may have both positive and negative effects on host organizations. Applying a capacity-building perspective, this study uses semistructured interviews to ask staff in hosting organizations to identify the main outcomes of short-term volunteer service. These views were compared with perspectives of staff from matched organizations that do not host international volunteers. Findings suggest that international volunteers may increase organizational capacity by supplying extra hands, providing technical and professional skills, contributing tangible resources, and enhancing intercultural understanding. Volunteers may also challenge organizations as they absorb staff time and resources. Staff members from both types of organizations identify individual and institutional variables that may affect the quality of these outcomes, including volunteers’ language capacity and the intensity of the service placement.

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