Ethnographies of Volunteering: Providing Nuance to the Links Between Volunteering and Development

Alice Chadwick El-Ali, Chris Millora, Bianca Fadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


This paper explores how ethnographic approaches to third sector and nonprofit studies allow for context-based understandings of the links between volunteering and development. Drawing from our ethnographies of volunteering in Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Philippines, we argue that ethnographic methods could tease out local ideologies and practices of volunteer work that can challenge knowledge monopolies over how volunteering is understood and, later, transcribed into development policy and practice at various levels. The contribution of ethnography as a methodology to third sector research lies not only in the in-depth data it generates but also in the kind of ethos and disposition it requires of scholars—providing attention to issues of power and voice and leaning into the unpredictability of the research process.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date17 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2021


  • Development
  • Ethnography
  • Positionality
  • Qualitative methods
  • Volunteering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Strategy and Management


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