International volunteering and development: Global citizenship and neoliberal professionalisation today

Matt Baillie Smith*, Nina Laurie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    169 Citations (Scopus)


    International volunteering occupies a popular place in contemporary UK public imaginations. It is supported by a range of stakeholders, including the state, the corporate sector and non-government organisations (NGOs), which increasingly share a narrative emphasising international volunteering's capacity to develop volunteers whose impacts on global equity or their professional identities emerge on their return as much as during their stay overseas. This paper explores discourses and practices of citizenship, professionalisation and partnership as they produce and are produced through contemporary international volunteering. We do this through interrogating the overlapping genealogies of international volunteering and development. Our analysis explores the ways in which international volunteering seems to both exemplify neoliberal ideas of individual autonomy, improvement and responsibility and at the same time allies itself to notions of collective global citizenship, solidarity, development and activism. To illustrate our argument we examine two sets of volunteering partnerships, those that support the Department for International Development's £10 million, 3-year programme focused on sending young, British disadvantaged people as international volunteers, and the corporate citizenship volunteer programmes supported by VSO and the international consulting firm, Accenture. Interrogating contemporary state, corporate and civil society promotion of international volunteering allows us to examine how notions of professionalisation and global and neoliberal citizenship are produced through development imaginaries, and are negotiated and constructed among and by new volunteering populations and sectors at a moment when, particularly due to the credit crunch, economic and career futures are fragile and uncertain.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)545-559
    Number of pages15
    JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


    • Citizenship
    • Credit crunch
    • Development
    • International volunteering
    • Partnership
    • Professionalisation


    Dive into the research topics of 'International volunteering and development: Global citizenship and neoliberal professionalisation today'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this