As the strength of the volunteer movement continues to grow, it becomes increasingly important to understand the impact that overseas volunteers have on the communites where they are working. After a year and a half of living in Costa Rica and working with an organization called Global Volunteers, I became aware of a trend in volunteerism known as "Alternative Vacations." There are numerous volunteer organizations (like Global Volunteers) that provide individuals with opportunities to visit other countries as part of a short-term volunteer service program. The volunteer groups visit communities all over the world, while participating in a local community development project. After interviewing a number of these volunteer organizations, I discovered that very few of them had any kind of program evaluation, as it relates to the impact of volunteers on the host communities. It was for this reason that I chose to do a qualitative research study, conducting in-depth, open-ended interviews with various community members in the communities where I had worked in Costa Rica. The purpose of the research is to increase the awareness of the importance of program evaluation, as well as to provide written information through an actual case study that attempts to evaluate the impact of volunteers on their host communities, focusing on the more on intangible indicators (change in values, beliefs, family and community structure, etc.) rather than tangible indicators - such as completion of the development project. In addition to the analysis of feedback received from the interviewees and volunteer organizations, the study also takes a look at the history of the volunteer movement, and how these volunteer organizations fit into the field of development. The paper also discusses some past program evaluation studies from various volunteer and development organizations, as well as suggesting a few other evaluation methodologies and frameworks that focus more on the impact of community. Finally, the Appendices contains a list of the host interview questions for volunteer organizations to use in designing their own program evaluations for the host communities that they work with.


Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Sociology