Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: Compion: Volunteering and Democratization in Africa: How individual traits and national contexts inform non-political volunteering

  • Janoski, Thomas (PI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Overview: Page A In sub-Saharan Africa, the degree to which corporate philanthropic foundations, faith-based communities, and nonprofits are involved in various aspects of socioeconomic development depends heavily on volunteers. These individuals play crucial roles in helping the organizations achieve their missions and fulfill their goals. This thriving ?development industry? has generated a space for these volunteers ? foreign and local ? that is unique to the region. Unfortunately, little scholarly research has been conducted on this type of non-political volunteering as a form of domestic civic engagement in the democratization process of these countries. To address this significant gap in knowledge concerning volunteering in emerging democracies, the overall goal of this study is to determine how Africans? individual characteristics and identities inform their volunteering choices, given the varying political and economic contexts of the countries in which they live. This project proposes a cross-national comparative study of domestic volunteering in 20 democratizing African countries. Multi-level statistical analyses of the 2008/2009 Afrobarometer survey data will be conducted to model the interacting effects between individual and national characteristics with volunteering. Complimentary ethnographic case studies in South Africa and Zambia (two similar countries that have different volunteer rates) will determine the use of cultural repertoires in framing how and why people volunteer. In addition, these case studies will qualitatively capture the impact of values, context, and identity as mechanisms driving the process of volunteering. Intellectual Merit : The intellectual merit of this research lies in its aim to contribute an African-centered, sociological perspective to theories of civil society by addressing two major existing limitations. First, little is known about how individuals? capital (social, material, and relational), subjective disposition, and religiosity are related to the broader political and economic contexts of the country in which they live and how these personal attributes combine to inform their volunteering choices. Important relationships such as the direct impact of the non-profit sector on individual volunteering and the impact of national need for foreign aid on domestic volunteering have not yet been studied in any African country. Second, most literature on civil society does not include the distinctive democratizing context of African countries, which ultimately weakens the corresponding theoretical arguments that are made. This research aims to address these limitations by: 1) Adding comparative, quantitative evidence from 20 African countries that will increase the generalizability of existing theories on civil society to countries beyond the West, 2) Accounting for volunteering as a function of the combined person and country characteristics, 3) Offering qualitative substantiation from two case countries about how values, context, and identity shape notions of democratic citizenship and inform volunteering behavior. Broader Impacts : This project will have broader impacts by providing scholars and development planners with empirical information regarding the types and characteristics of volunteers in these countries, and by offering a theoretical argument as to how and why their engagement is related to (or not related to) democratization. The quantitative models will show the predictors of volunteering and the relationships between how and why volunteering can/cannot contribute to greater democratization of society. State planners can use this evidence to direct foreign aid toward those volunteer activities that do increase the civic participation necessary for democratic nation building. The qualitative case studies will offer explanations about why people volunteer and how they go about deciding when and for what cause to volunteer. These explanations can direct future efforts toward maximizing the civic action of volunteering populations and can help build targeted strategies for encouraging and recruiting those who are not yet civically engaged. Finally, non-profit organizations can benefit from the best-case scenarios on how to make their organizations more democratic, participatory, and civically oriented.
Effective start/end date7/1/146/30/15


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.