Voluntourism Guidelines Survey Summary Report
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) 2011
With support from Planeterra
Acknowledgments A sincere thank you to the members of the International Advisory Committee, whose advice and guidance were critical in the creation and dissemination of this survey. Their knowledge of voluntourism and experience within the industry continues to prove invaluable in evaluating the results of the survey. Bodhi Garrett, Co‐Director, Andaman Discoveries, Thailand Valeria Gracia, Asociación Civil Voluntario Global, Argentina Sallie Grayson, Programme Director, People and Places, U.K. Leah Griffin, Destination Manager, Central America & Caribbean, Gap Adventures Kristin Lamoureux, Ph.D., Director, International Institute of Tourism Studies, The George Washington University School of Business, U.S.A. Lelei LeLaulu, President, Community Benefit Development and Co‐chairman, Innovation for Sustainable Development Centre, U.S.A. Nancy McGehee, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Virginia Tech University, U.S.A. Paul Miedema, Founder, Calabash Tours, South Africa Thandi Miedema, Founder, Calabash Tours, South Africa Daniela Ruby Papi, Founder, PEPY Tours, Cambodia Gopinath Parayil, Founder and Chief Executive, The Blue Yonder, India Jeremy Stafford, Owner, Voluntours, South Africa Marnie Heim‐Stafford, Owner, Voluntours, South Africa Stephen Wearing, Associate Professor, University of Technology, Australia Andy Woods‐Ballard, Director of Operations, Global Vision International, U.K. TIES would also like to thank the Planeterra Foundation for their continued support of this project. In particular, a special thank you to Megan Epler Wood and Kelly Galaski, for their extensive comments and help in relation to both the survey and this report. Lastly, thank you to all who have supported this project along the way. TIES is grateful to a number of organizations and individuals that have expressed interest in contributing to future initiatives related to voluntourism guidelines, and is always open to contributions and feedback from others.
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Table of Contents Introduction............................................................................................................................................... 4 Background............................................................................................................................................ 4 Literature Review ............................................................................................................................... 4 Purpose and Objectives ................................................................................................................... 4 Stakeholder Meetings ....................................................................................................................... 4 Survey Data............................................................................................................................................ 5 Methodology.............................................................................................................................................. 6 Findings........................................................................................................................................................ 8 Conclusion.................................................................................................................................................26 Future Research Considerations .................................................................................................27 General Comments...............................................................................................................................28 Specialist Comments...........................................................................................................................34 References ................................................................................................................................................36
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Introduction Background The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), with the support of Planeterra, has launched the International Voluntourism Guidelines project in order to address the needs of an increasing number of travel companies that are adding volunteer opportunities to their tour itineraries worldwide. The goal of the project is to develop a set of criteria (Voluntourism Guidelines) that will help international voluntourism providers plan and manage their programs in a responsible and sustainable manner. The 2008 Condé Nast Traveler/MSNBC poll, for example, stated that the number of regular volunteer vacationers has doubled since 2002. According to the 2009 Green Traveler Study by CMIGreen, 59.1% of those surveyed said they were interested in volunteering during a future trip. The definition of voluntourism is still emerging, and there are many valid definitions depending on different sources and perspectives addressing the trade. For the purposes of this study, ‘voluntourism’, as defined on VolunTourism.org is, “the conscious, seamlessly integrated combination of voluntary service to a destination and the best, traditional elements of travel – arts, culture, geography, history and recreation – in that destination.” This growing trend comes with a myriad of issues and challenges, including: project development concerns, impacts on host communities, travelers' skills and experiences, and the potentials for positive change. There is an increasing need for effective tools that help providers make smart decisions. Literature Review Prior to creating the survey questions, an extensive literature review was conducted to learn more about the current challenges and ongoing work within the voluntourism field. The review included various publications, surveys, recent articles, and existing guidelines. Purpose and Objectives This global industry survey is intended to gather data on current issues, challenges, and opportunities in the field of voluntourism. The International Voluntourism Guidelines will ultimately be created out of a process based on research from a wide range of industry and global practitioners. Conducting the survey was the first step in the process and the second step is to have the results of the survey reviewed by the Advisory Committee and discussed further at the upcoming stakeholder meeting. Stakeholder Meetings The stakeholder meeting will be held during the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) organized by TIES in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA (September 19‐21). In October, the results of research to date will be reported at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) Summit in Chiapas, Mexico. The results will be The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
presented with tailored questions for a working group session with ATTA conference participants. TIES also plans to participate in various online and offline industry meetings and networking events in order to connect with and gather feedback from voluntourism organizations. These meetings will serve as important platforms to review the results of the industry survey and this collaborative effort will ultimately result in a set of international criteria.
TIES will produce the final draft of International Voluntourism Guidelines for publication in early 2012. The Guidelines will be made available online (via TIES website and partners' websites) for free download. In addition, TIES plans to utilize the International Voluntourism Guidelines as part of the organization's educational efforts by incorporating the guidelines into new educational modules for operators and other tourism stakeholders. Survey Data Upon request, detailed results of the survey are available to researchers with academic credentials, who are working on relevant research projects (*Please contact Ayako Ezaki, Director of Communications, TIES, at firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Methodology In order to reach professionals involved with voluntourism, an online survey was created using SurveyMonkey, and incorporating information gathered from background research on existing guidelines, tools, and literature surrounding voluntourism. To ensure that the survey included a diverse range of industry knowledge, TIES and Planeterra created and worked with an Advisory Committee representing a variety of industry sectors and regions. Considering that many of the questions ask about personal experience, an online survey is beneficial because it allows respondents to answer freely and with anonymity. The survey was distributed by TIES via email on Wednesday, May 4th 2011 and closed on Wednesday, May 25th 2011. The survey was sent to individuals in the following membership categories of the TIES database: Association, Business, University & College, Institution, NGO and Professional. Members of the International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) and other professionals involved with the voluntourism industry for which TIES had contact information also received the survey. The industry sector categories used for the survey are: academic; tour operator; local NGO/project; international NGO; local business practitioner; international business practitioner; voluntourism provider (based in outbound country); local voluntourism partner organization (based in destination country); and other. The administrator of this survey estimates that the survey sample can be broken down as follows: Academics 118
Tour Operators 300
Local NGOs/Projects 147
International NGOs 58
Local Business Practitioners 373
International Business Practitioners 84
Voluntourism Providers 24
Local Voluntourism Partner Organization 1
The response rate in each category cannot be calculated accurately because the database provided did not have the categories necessary for this survey research, and the above numbers were reconstructed but cannot be considered firm. The survey was sent to 1,109 people in total, and 76 completed the survey. This gives us a response rate of 7%. Of the survey respondents, nearly half (46%) were from North America. The next largest group of respondents was from Asia (18%). South America, Central America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania each weighed in with less than 10% of total responses. The sample was comprised mostly of tour operators (45%). About 1/4 of respondents were academics (28%) who formed the second largest group. The remaining categories of local NGO/project; international NGO; local business practitioner; international business practitioner; voluntourism provider (based in outbound country); and local voluntourism partner organization (based in destination country) each accounted for less than 1/5 of the total responses. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) 6 PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Findings The following are summarized results and analyses of findings from each question. Please follow the links “See Comments” to review comments submitted by survey respondents. Some of the questions were intended only for people who are involved with planning, managing, or designing voluntourism programs, and those questions are marked with "FOR SPECIALISTS" below. 1. Volunteers should have:
Flexible time commitment – 41% Agree Applicable general skills – 51% Agree Specialized skills – 34% Maybe Educational background in relevant fields – 36% Maybe Work or life experience in relevant fields – 39% Maybe Cross‐cultural understanding – 59% Strongly Agree
Survey respondents tended to agree more than disagree that volunteers should possess the six qualities listed above. “Cross‐cultural understanding” stood out with more than half of respondents indicating that they “Strongly agree” volunteers should possess that quality. Many commented that volunteer qualifications depend on the nature of the volunteer work and the needs of the project being supported. For example, some trips require specialized skills, while others encourage opportunities for learning. See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
2. How valuable are voluntourism programs that cater to nonskilled volunteers? Not valuable – 8%
Valuable – 20% Sometimes valuable – 40% Very valuable – 27% Not sure – 5%
Again, those surveyed indicated that the value of voluntourism programs that cater to non‐ skilled volunteers largely depends on the volunteer project as well as the information and training the volunteer receives. Respondents noted that, in some cases, it can be beneficial to engage more people as long as they’re not taking resources away from local communities. See comments 3. Do you think there is a gap between volunteers' expectations about their contributions and the actual impact of their work? If yes, how do you think voluntourism providers should address this challenge? Yes – 64%
No – 11% Not sure – 25%
Respondents who agreed there is a gap between volunteers’ expectations about their contributions and the actual impact of their work had a few different suggestions for how voluntourism providers should address this challenge. Recommendations included managing expectations by giving as much preparatory information as possible in regards to what will realistically be achieved, emphasizing the experience as a cross‐cultural learning opportunity, and educating volunteers about how their short‐term volunteer experience contributes to long‐term goals and progress. See comments 4. Voluntourism providers should provide the following information publicly (i.e. on websites or in annual reports): Statistics on how the project is meeting goals and benchmarks – 50% Agree References from local stakeholders benefiting from the project – 46% Agree References from past volunteer participants – 55% Agree Independent audit of project goals and benchmarks – 38% Agree
The majority of survey respondents tended to either “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” with publicly providing the information outlined in this question, citing the importance of information and transparency in voluntourism. See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Training of volunteers should include: Cultural sensitivity – 81% Essential
Local language – 40% Desirable Safety and basic medical knowledge – 37% Desirable Gender issues – 38% Essential Code of Conduct for volunteers – 85% Essential
See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
6. Facilitation during voluntourism program should include:
Regular feedback sessions on cultural cues – 43% Essential Confidential feedback mechanism from community members – 40% Desirable Regular check‐ins on health and safety issues – 36% Desirable Assessment of whether or not project goals are being met – 61% Essential
“Assessment of whether or not project goals are being met” received the strongest response from respondents with about 60% deeming this as “Essential” to be included in facilitation during a voluntourism program. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) 12 PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
7. What portion of the entire voluntourism trip should be dedicated to volunteering for the following itinerary lengths? 10 days – 30% said 50‐75%
2 weeks – 33% said 25‐50% 1 month – 43% said 50‐75% 3 months or more – 44% said 50‐75%
Those surveyed had more scattered answers as to what portion of a voluntourism trip should be dedicated to volunteering. Comments noted that it depends on the nature of the project as well as the volunteers’ desires and the host community’s needs. See comments 8. Should there be a clearly stated amount or percentage of the voluntourism project fee that goes directly to the community project? Yes – 78%
No – 9% Not sure – 13%
Over 3/4 of survey respondents (78%) thought that there should be a clearly stated amount of percentage of the voluntourism project fee that goes directly to the community project. Many commented that financial transparency is a key component to responsible tourism and it is important for volunteers to know where their money is going. See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
9. How effective are the following strategies to implement mechanisms for sustainability so that local communities are not dependent on fees and donations from voluntourists? Create charitable trusts – 44% Moderately effective
Encourage community‐owned enterprises – 72% Very effective Offer training for positions that meet local market needs – 63% Very effective Engage the tourism industry within the community – 62% Very effective Help to diversify the economy in the community – 59% Very effective Connect community with other sources of revenues such as NGO or government funding – 42% Moderately effective
See comments 10. What types of organizations should voluntourism providers partner with?
Local NGOs that work in areas specifically related to the project (i.e. conservation, education, etc.) – 47% Essential Local NGOs that serve a wide range of stakeholder groups in the country or region – 44% Desirable Local community organizations such as citizens groups, neighborhood associations, and school clubs – 43% Desirable International NGOs with experience working in the country or region – 46% Desirable Local businesses operating in the community – 43% Desirable Local government – 31% Desirable National government – 32% Desirable
Most survey respondents indicated that it is “Essential” to partner with Local NGOs that work in areas specifically related to the project (47%), but comments noted that partner organizations should be addressed on a case by case basis depending on location, project, and effectiveness of each organization. See comments 11. Local partner organization(s) should: Be legally registered in the area where the voluntourism project resides – 35% Agree Maintain a strong and ongoing relationship with project leaders on the ground – 58% Strongly agree Focus on generating revenue for voluntourism provider – 27% each for Disagree, Maybe, and Agree. Focus on building capacity within the community – 49% Strongly agree
See comments 12. Local partner organization(s) should receive:
No information about the volunteers – 0% Limited information about the volunteers – 7% Some information about the volunteers via application forms – 46% All available information about the volunteers via direct contact with volunteers – 41% Not sure – 6%
Respondents were pretty evenly divided between whether local partner organizations should receive “Some” (46%) or “All” (41%) information about the volunteers. See comments 13. Voluntourism providers should receive the following from partner organizations: Defined benchmarks for success – 43% Essential
Time‐frames for each benchmark – 41% Desirable Regular feedback about project performance based on benchmarks – 43% Desirable Input on project logistics – 41% Desirable Advice on improving projects – 53% Essential Reports and updates on partner organizations’ experiences – 48% Essential The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
See comments 14. Which stakeholder groups should be involved to ensure effective voluntourism project planning? Voluntourism providers – 79% Essential
Local NGOs – 48% Essential International NGOs – 33% Useful and 33% Desirable Donors – 38% Useful Local community organizations – 61% Essential Local community members – 55% Essential Volunteers – 35% Useful Local tourism business – 37% Desirable Local government – 37% Useful National government – 34% Useful
Survey respondents commented that the stakeholder groups involved in planning depends on the project because situations can vary greatly from place to place. Despite that, over half of those who answered indicated that it is “Essential” to involve voluntourism providers (79%), local community organizations (61%), and local community members (55%). See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
15. What are the appropriate procedures for voluntourism providers to effectively select local project partners? Collect references on potential project partners – 38% Essential
Conduct interviews with potential project partners – 57% Essential Implement project effectiveness review to assess goals and achievements – 44% Essential Have meetings with local project managers – 72% Essential Spend time at local project to gain better understanding of their work and the volunteers’ experiences – 68% Essential
The majority of respondents signified that all five of the procedures listed above are “Essential”, highlighting that the most critical need is conducting needs assessment with community members to learn what the community really needs. See comments 16. FOR SPECIALISTS: Is it important to establish contact and cooperate with a local NGO or community group in order to reach local community members? Yes – 71%
No – 20% Not sure – 10%
The majority of specialists responded yes to this question, emphasizing the necessity of securing buy‐in from the local community. Often it is important to work within the local structures of NGOs or community groups to secure this support. Involvement of local community members is essential because they are the most valuable stakeholders in sustainable development.
See comments 17. What is the importance of the following in relation to volunteer flow at local projects?
Project work can continue without consistent flow of volunteers – 38% Important One volunteer can pick up a project where another volunteer left off, so progress is made over time – 47% Very important Projects that short‐term volunteers work on contribute to an ongoing process – 55% Very important The local needs for volunteers cease to exist over time due to increased ability to manage project at local level – 49% Very important
See comments 18. Do you think there is a gap between the local communities' expected benefits from voluntourism projects and the actual benefits that the local community members receive? (If yes, how do you think voluntourism providers should address this challenge?) Yes – 56%
No – 15% Not sure – 29%
To address the gap in expectations, survey respondents recommended that voluntourism providers set and manage tangible goals and expectations, while also engaging community members in the planning and evaluation process. Honest and clear communication from the beginning is necessary. See comments 19. FOR SPECIALISTS: Have you been involved with a voluntourism program where the expectations of the local community were not met? Yes – 43%
No – 46% Not sure – 11%
Of the respondents who indicated that they had been involved with a voluntourism program where the expectation of the local community were not met, some cited instances in which local community members expected to receive handouts from the volunteers. Another example was one in which the local community was overwhelmed with planning for the volunteers. See comments 20. What methods do you recommend as effective ways to assess the needs and readiness of the local community to host voluntourism projects? Conduct individual interviews with local community members – 47% Important Distribute questionnaires to local community members – 33% Moderately important Hold meetings with community leaders – 59% Very important Hold meetings with local NGOs – 35% Very important Collect data available through existing channels – 47% Important
To “hold meetings with community leaders” was highly recommended as a method to assess the needs and readiness of the local community to host voluntourism projects with 59% of respondents selecting it as “very important”. On the flip side, questionnaires were not recommended and many respondents noted that they are impersonal and also problematic because of illiteracy. See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
21. In what ways should voluntourism programs benefit local communities?
Empower local communities through economic opportunities – 58% Strongly agree Strengthen long‐term social development of the community – 58% Strongly agree Address short‐term critical needs for the well‐being of local people – 43% Agree
See comments 22. What are some of the ways in which voluntourism projects should benefit local communities financially?
Donations from volunteers – 35% Moderately important Organizational fundraising initiatives – 32% Moderately important and 32% Important Shared revenues with local community from voluntour sales – 41% Important Indirect financial benefits through supplementary tourism services – 57% Important Additional employment generated for local community – 52% Very important
“Donations from volunteers” was only considered to be “moderately important” by about 1/3 of survey respondents (35%). This finding supports comments made by respondents that emphasize the need for sustainable sources of revenue within local communities. See comments 23. Please indicate the importance of voluntourism programs to focus on the following types of capacitybuilding with local community members: Offer workshops to local community on managing volunteers – 40% Desirable Teach local community members same skills volunteers are providing – 47% Essential Instruct trainers in the community (i.e. teachers) on methods for improvement – 56% Essential Exchange with other community volunteer projects for observation and opportunities for learning – 41% Desirable
Comments suggest that voluntourism should be a two‐way learning process, and as such, it is important to share skills without imposing skills. At the same time, more than half of those surveyed (56%) said it was “Essential” to “instruct trainers in the community on methods for improvement.” See comments The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
24. FOR SPECIALISTS: What methods do you employ to inspire volunteers during the trip to change their attitudes and actions upon their return home? Education on tour such as lessons from trip instructors and guest speakers – 77% Distribution of newsletters following tour – 37% Reading material before/during/after trip – 63% Annual surveys – 11% Discussion of social innovations and success stories in destination – 77% Interaction with local volunteers – 71%
“Education on tour, discussion of social innovations and success stories in destination, and interaction with local volunteers” are all methods used by approximately 3/4 of specialist respondents to inspire volunteers during the trip. See comments 25. Please indicate the importance of the following types of monitoring and reporting for voluntourism providers and partners to utilize: General project results – 54% Essential
Feedback on customer feedback forms – 44% Essential Specific project results according to pre‐established goals – 57% Essential Feedback from local stakeholders – 54% Essential Feedback from volunteers using surveys – 40% Desirable Feedback from volunteers using interviews – 41% Desirable
26. Who should solicit feedback for voluntourism providers? Independent observer – 53%
Project manager working for the provider – 71% Project manager of an independent NGO – 41% Corporate representative – 17%
Survey respondents were asked to “check all that apply” for this question. It’s interesting to note that over half (53%) thought that an “independent observer” should solicit feedback for voluntourism providers. 27. What nonfinancial information should project reports issued by voluntourism providers include? Evaluation of partner relations – 43% Desirable
Project goals and objectives – 63% Essential Project benchmarks and time‐frames – 47% Essential Social, environmental, economic impacts on local communities – 76% Essential Benefits to volunteers – 52% Essential Benefits to local communities – 87% Essential
The majority of survey respondents answered that it is “Essential” for project reports issued by voluntourism providers to include both the “benefits to local communities” (87%) and the “social, environmental, & economic impacts on local communities” (76%). 28. What financial information should project reports issued by voluntourism providers include? Sources of funding – 49% Essential
Allocation of funding – 59% Essential Results of regular audits – 39% Desirable Disclosure of voluntourism program budget excluding overhead costs – 29% Desirable Disclosure of voluntourism program budget including overhead costs – 30% Essential
About half of survey respondents said that it is “Essential” to include sources of funding (49%) and allocation of funding (59%) in project reports, however, only one third (30%) consider disclosing the exact breakdown of program budgets “Essential”. See comments 29. FOR SPECIALISTS: What examples of existing resources and tools do you use or recommend? a. International development monitoring and evaluation programs as used by development agencies, such as the Logical Framework Approach (LFA). b. Resources at www.voluntourism101.com. c. Resources at www.voluntourism.org d. Information and data at People and Places ‐ www.travel‐peopleandplaces.co.uk. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Conclusion Overall, the comments received on this survey emphasized the need for transparency, communication, and information within the field of voluntourism. In many cases, survey respondents noted that appropriate processes are largely dependent on the nature of the project. Thus, projects should be approached on an individual basis while keeping in mind the importance of being transparent, encouraging open communication, and providing as much information as possible to all parties involved. There are also a handful of questions from this survey that, in particular, would benefit from another look and further stakeholder discussion. Please see below.
3. Do you think there is a gap between volunteers' expectations about their contributions and the actual impact of their work? About 2/3 of survey respondents (64%) answered “yes”. 4. Voluntourism providers should provide the following information publicly (i.e. on websites or in annual reports): Half of all respondents (50%) agree that voluntourism providers should provide statistics on how the project is meeting goals and benchmarks. It should be discussed how much of this is currently being done and how. Further data on this issue is required and it is recommended that voluntourism experts review existing approaches and recommend best practices. 5. Training of volunteers should include: Only about 2/5 of survey respondents (38%) thought that it was essential to include “gender issues” in the training of volunteers. This is a low response on an issue that is frequently overlooked and therefore it would be good to discuss further. 8. Should there be a clearly stated amount or percentage of the voluntourism project fee that goes directly to the community project? Nearly 4/5 (78%) answered “yes” to this question. This would be good for a stakeholder discussion to learn how this can be achieved.
9. How effective are the following strategies to implement mechanisms for sustainability so that local communities are not dependent on fees and donations from voluntourists? Stakeholder discussion would be valuable here to examine effectiveness and also learn about other recommended strategies.
18. Do you think there is a gap between the local communities' expected benefits from voluntourism projects and the actual benefits that the local community members receive? The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
Over half of survey respondents (56%) think that there is a gap in expected benefits vs. actual benefits and further discussion would provide more suggestions on how to successfully address this challenge. 19. FOR SPECIALISTS: Have you been involved with a voluntourism program where the expectations of the local community were not met? This question is another excellent talking point for the stakeholder meeting. It would be interesting to discuss issues that were raised, such as local communities expecting handouts and being overwhelmed with planning, in further detail to avoid these problems in the future. 27. What nonfinancial information should project reports issued by voluntourism providers include? Over 3/4 of respondents (76%) indicated that project reports issued by voluntourism providers should include social, environmental, and economic impacts on local communities. This is a large number, so it would be interesting to discuss what organizations currently do this and how they measure those impacts.
Future Research Considerations The global industry survey was successful in gathering data on current issues, challenges, and opportunities in voluntourism. The results of the survey will be useful as a platform for review and as a tool to promote further discussion. At the same time, voluntourism organizations were a small part of the survey sample and future research would benefit from more dialogue with those directly involved with the voluntourism industry. There were a number of limitations with this sampling plan because of the contact information that was available for distribution of the survey. There are many organizations and professionals around the world who unfortunately did not have a chance to complete this survey. In addition, since the International Voluntourism Guidelines project focuses specifically on voluntourism providers, the survey did not include community members or members of the public who are exposed to voluntourists either directly or indirectly. Further research on impacted communities would be an excellent future research endeavor for industry to undertake in order to enhance this work.
General Comments 1. Volunteers should have:
“Critically they need the right attitude one that is not colonial and top down, but one that is open minded and into working together with partners.” “There may be areas where specialist knowledge or experience would be relevant, but there should also be plenty of opportunity for general volunteers that don't need a specialist background.” “The most effective volunteer projects we run are with specialized volunteers but the volunteers who participate without any experience learn the most. I think that you need both types of volunteers on a project.” “Really depends largely on the needs of the project being supported!” “It would depend on what the volunteer position is for as far as skills goes. Obviously certain positions should call for specialization however volunteering is also about inclusion in the community and should be regarded as a learning opportunity for any who show interest in particular areas.”
2. How valuable are voluntourism programs that cater to nonskilled volunteers?
“Some projects benefit greatly from access to large labor pools of relatively unskilled labor (e.g., trail clearing, humanuse monitoring, invasive species removal, observation/reporting of natural resource violations, conducting surveys, prepping mailouts, etc.).” “Voluntourism should be available to everyone so that they learn more about voluntourism, nature, bio, geo and have the opportunity to meet people from different countries. It is a valuable tool to engage more people in this mission and to educate/train the nonskilled volunteers.” “There is a need for volunteers in many capacities, and while skilled volunteers are preferred so as to benefit an organization to the greatest extent, it is also very important that nonskilled volunteers have an opportunity to gain skills and knowledge.” “Provides opportunity for cultural exchanges.” “[A program that caters to nonskilled volunteers] can still be valuable if it builds awareness of an issue, and builds financial support for the organization.” “Voluntourism often happens in countries where unemployment is very high, especially under unskilled people. Local people should be motivated to do unskilled work and nonskilled volunteer programs should not be allowed. Especially not when the volunteers need to pay to be able to participate in the project.”
3. Do you think there is a gap between volunteers' expectations about their contributions and the actual impact of their work?
“People are sold a ‘save the world’ experience but reality is that in a few weeks you can't achieve much!” “Educate volunteers on the realistic roles that they can play. It is more about the long term process than their short term experience. Voluntour providers should inform/educate volunteers on their role, the culture and their process. Reflection groups can be held to deal with developments issues and it should be made clear that activities should not be made up to keep volunteers busy but rather that the hosting organisation is responsible for implementing relevant and appropriate work.” “I think there needs to be dialogue between the providers and the volunteer pretrip in order to prevent misunderstanding and dissatisfaction, as well as conflict in communities.” “The marketing and messaging needs to be shifted from giving volunteers the idea that they are performing a kind of service to the community and emphasize the crosscultural learning opportunity that these placements create.” “Organisations need to manage the expectations, outline what the contributions are. If a company is in a community for a long time, it might not be about one individual’s contribution but about their part in the jigsaw puzzle.” “Volunteers tend to have high expectations and it is often the case that their outcomes are lower providers must responsibly manage realistic expectations of what can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe.” “Be honest with the volunteer about the impact of the work and the fact that the volunteer often gets more out of the experience than the local organization. A percentage of the volunteer's fee should be donated to the local organization, thus the small impact of the individual volunteer is made up for by the financial contribution.”
4. Voluntourism providers should provide the following information publicly (i.e. on websites or in annual reports):
“All participants must know how a project benefits local stakeholders.” “Independent audits may at times be useful.” “Small projects do not always have the time or resources to produce such statistics and in many cases, these can be very difficult to quantify anyway.” “The program information should be elaborated in all available communication means, which will help the volunteers and other stakeholders to get information about different activities and their goals.”
5. Training of volunteers should include:
“Cultural sensitivity HAS to include the impact of the culture of the volunteer on the host community it is usually taught the other way round.” The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
“A primer with all the relevant cultural info and basic logistics should be prepared for the volunteers to manage expectations and address any safety/health/legal issues.”
7. What portion of the entire voluntourism trip should be dedicated to volunteering for the following itinerary lengths?
“Very dependant on what volunteer is doing. An environmental project like tree planting doesn't matter whether one day or one month. But if it involves close daily engagement with local people, longer stints will be preferable.” “I think part of the benefits of voluntourism can be drawn from the tourism. The fact that the person is in the destination sourcing local products and services is just as much or more of a benefit to them being there, and it also enhances their experience, so I feel strongly that voluntourism should incorporate enough travel time that the person can experience all aspects of a destination and have a chance to purchase tours, accommodation, etc. in the area.” “Impossible to say! Depends entirely on the needs of both the voluntourists AND the projects they may be visiting. The ‘art’ is in matching the two for mutual benefit.”
8. Should there be a clearly stated amount or percentage of the voluntourism project fee that goes directly to the community project?
“There should be some indication of how the organisation supports the community projects. This need not be an exact figure, but should be able to quantify in some way the achievements/results of their support.” “This is a problem for layered organization, for example travel agencies that sell trips that have one or two intermediaries between them and the local project. But, this is important information from the perspective of volunteers and it should be clear to them what they are paying for. If there is a marketing overhead and travel agent commission, it's not necessarily a reason to hide... an explanation goes far.. and if it means in the end some people end up going direct, and foregoing the service and assurance of purchasing from a travel agency (the reason they've gone to them in the first place) then that should be something the agency is willing to risk, in order to be ethical.” “Costs vary dramatically with the destination so percentage of total fees dedicated to the project can vary dramatically. In addition, people hearing these numbers without being in the industry have no way to judge the reasonableness or value of any given percentage other than what they 'think' should be the right number.” “I do not think it is necessary.” “Transparency of the entire finances of volunteering is essential and is a key criterion of responsible tourism.” “Companies should not be obligated to show their cost structure.”
9. How effective are the following strategies to implement mechanisms for sustainability so that local communities are not dependent on fees and donations from voluntourists? The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) 30 PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
“I think that fees and donations from voluntourists DO represent a sustainable revenue stream and a diversification of the tourism industry in the community. Even though the revenue is not derived from local markets, it is more economically sustainable than revenues from charitable trusts, NGO, and government funding.” “Communities should not have the idea that tourism is their way out of poverty. It often takes a long time to develop tourism in a certain area and wrong expectations are created.”
10. What types of organizations should voluntourism providers partner with?
“The latter Government partners depends on the size/area of the project and how effective and easily engaged the particular Government is. There should be attempts to engage with them, and to operate within their 'boundaries' and policies.” “This aspect can only be visited on a case by case basis depends on the country, project, intended outcomes, etc. There are too many variables.”
11. Local partner organization(s) should:
“Voluntourism should be all about capacity building.”
12. Local partner organization(s) should receive:
“Local partners should receive information about the volunteers that is relevant to them for working in their projects. it should highlight the volunteer’s skills that may be useful to them.” “Again the above entirely depends on what the volunteers are doing. If they are working with vulnerable groups e.g. children, people with disabilities, marginalized communities then all info should be provided.” “Transparency fosters trust. Trust fosters alliances.” “Partner organizations should ‘judge’ the value of volunteers by their work. However, some initial information about the skills and abilities of the volunteers would help the partners have realistic expectations of what the volunteers can achieve.”
13. Voluntourism providers should receive the following from partner organizations:
“Transparency and information is essential to the nonprofit/NGO community.” “The voluntourism industry should provide the reports as the standard. Advice from partner organizations is always a good idea as they will mostly be local and the project logistics should be a function of the voluntourism organization. Feedback is useful in a system providing best practices.” “Minimizing bureaucracy is critical for small, missionoriented local organizations.”
14. Which stakeholder groups should be involved to ensure effective voluntourism project planning? The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) 31 PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. firstname.lastname@example.org
“I put volunteers as desirable as in the end of the day, they are the ones coming and almost dictate market trends.” “Stakeholder involvement is entirely dependent on the nature of the programme under development. Thus different stakeholders are needed for different projects.”
15. What are the appropriate procedures for voluntourism providers to effectively select local project partners?
“The most critical need is conducting needs assessment with community residents to see what they need rather than what other people think they need.”
17. What is the importance of the following in relation to volunteer flow at local projects?
“It is important that the volunteers are seen as a stepping stone within a bigger process. As time goes on outsiders help (volunteers) should be decreasing and local support should be mobilized.” “All very dependent on the nature of the project.” “I don't think it's important to phase out volunteer contribution over time. If it can be demonstrated that there is a consistent flow of volunteer help, then that can be incorporated into the longrun sustainability of a project.” “This is the name of the game to put yourself out of work which in turn creates opportunities for others who need the volunteer time.”
18. Do you think there is a gap between the local communities' expected benefits from voluntourism projects and the actual benefits that the local community members receive?
“Communication and transparency is key.” “Ensure there is thorough stakeholder engagement and education all round.” “By engaging community members in the planning process and keeping them informed/involved in program evaluation, assessments and other activities.” “There needs to be honest and clear communication in advance to set expectations.”
20. What methods do you recommend as effective ways to assess the needs and readiness of the local community to host voluntourism projects?
“Questionnaires: often not well received in communities I've worked with. Basically to run an effective project, planners must conduct detailed participatory rural appraisal techniques and methods. Whilst all the above are useful, a full understanding of the complexities of a local community will not be understood until after detailed and appropriate consultations with a full range of community stakeholders.” The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) PO Box 96503 #34145, Washington, DC 20090, USA | www.ecotourism.org t. +1 202.506.5033 | f. +1 202.789.7279 | e. email@example.com
“A lot of people have low literacy rates in some places where we work. Questionnaires are also impersonal and a waste of paper.” “Surveys, questionnaires, and data are less useful than talking with folks in the community and really getting to know the context, rather than through impersonal datagathering sources.” “Meeting community members and understanding their needs and readiness to accommodate the ‘intrusion’ of volunteers is essential. Time spent in gathering a clear picture of the community, its expectations, and careful assessment of the ability of a volunteer programme to address those expectations is essential. Volunteers are not a panacea!”
21. In what ways should voluntourism programs benefit local communities?
“We should be focused on long term goals and sustainability not short term 'fixes'.” “I personally prefer to support projects that will empower local communities through economic opportunities than those projects that address short term critical needs.”
22. What are some of the ways in which voluntourism projects should benefit local communities financially? “Need sustainable sources of revenue.”
23. Please indicate the importance of voluntourism programs to focus on the following types of capacitybuilding with local community members:
“It is important to share skills and NOT impose skills. We cannot always assume that things need to change. But that there is opportunity for a two way learning process.”
28. What financial information should project reports issued by voluntourism providers include? “Should be total transparency on this.”
Specialist Comments 16. FOR SPECIALISTS: Is it important to establish contact and cooperate with a local NGO or community group in order to reach local community members?
“It is essential to have the community's buy in and one of the best platforms is through community groups.” “It is essential to have local community contact in order to be introduced to local people. Outsiders should not assume they can enter a community for any type of work without having a trusted contact that can provide that introduction and facilitation of local relationships.” “Involvement by local community members is essential to developing programs that benefit all stakeholders and often local NGOs or Community Groups represent the interests of individual community members.” “Useful, but not essential, because local NGO or community groups, sometimes have different interests than local community members have (the real ones). The best way: be open to news and recommendations, and to spend time at local projects.”
19. FOR SPECIALISTS: Have you been involved with a voluntourism program where the expectations of the local community were not met?
“Mistakes happen as we learn the best practices and evolve.” “In Kenya where we are based there is a long history of westerners merely bringing in money and material resource. This has set the expectations that westerners (white people) are coming to bring stuff and pay for things. We have worked long and hard not to feed into this dependency culture and promote income generating projects and skills training so that the local community can help themselves long after the donations have been depleted.” “In Costa Rica I witnessed a group of young volunteers and was closely working with the community that was running their twoweek program. The community group was overwhelmed by the planning work and disappointed when the young people were not enthusiastic about certain duties, and felt that they weren't always interested in working so were unsure that the benefits were really worth it. But they keep doing it year after year for the money... and they do like to host them for the inter cultural experience.” “In Vietnam and Cambodia a lot of projects have focused around building something, such as a school or community centre. In many places local communities are happy to have something built in their community (often as status symbols). However many buildings aren't subsequently used as the organisation has decided the community should have a building without indepth consultations. One example in Vietnam was a duplication of a local government planned project, and another was building a community centre where people in the village traditionally met in the pagoda.” “The local community members expected to receive handouts of medicine, rice and noodles like the government had provided in the past during election campaigns.”
“Many residents felt that the local organization did not share the success of the project with enough people and weren't open about how much income was generated and who benefitted.”
24. FOR SPECIALISTS: What methods do you employ to inspire volunteers during the trip to change their attitudes and actions upon their return home? “Postvolunteering debriefing and contact through media.”
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Published on Aug 8, 2011
Published on Aug 8, 2011
In May-June 2011, TIES, with the support of voluntourism project partner Planeterra, and in collaboration with an International Advisory Com...