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Planning for inclusive participation in international volunteer-sending organizations : the case of Canadian Crossroads International Etmanski, Catherine

Abstract

This study investigates what implications the shift to programming based on the emerging capacity development paradigm has on participant diversity in international volunteer-sending organizations (VSOs). It examines the case of one such organization, Canadian Crossroads International (CCI), through primary document analysis, key informant interviews, a focus group discussion, a questionnaire, and the author's personal involvement in the organization. While it is recognized that the term "diversity" is surrounded by complexity, this thesis assumes that by recruiting diverse participants, a VSO can enhance its: capacity to fulfil its mission; contribution to sustainable and equitable development; maintenance of historical ties to peace and anti-racist movements; and its potential to benefit a broader range of individuals. VSOs are currently re-assessing their programming in order to better meet the demands of both their donors and their Southern partner countries. Some VSOs, including CCI, are coordinating South-South and South-North exchanges based on specific skill sets, and are facilitating partnerships between similarly focused non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the North and South. These changes pose both opportunities (e.g. increased First Nations participation) and constraints (e.g. continued exclusion of low-income individuals and people with disabilities) on diverse participation in CCI. Four key lessons for other VSOs can be derived from the case study of CCI. First, increased diversity is the result of structural changes, not simply rhetoric that encourages diversity. Second, while participation by volunteers from Southern partner countries increases the overall ethno-cultural diversity, participation at the volunteer level alone is not enough to shift power dynamics between North and South. Third, partnerships with, and recruitment from NGOs that are organized by or work with minority communities can potentially increase the participation of members of those communities in that VSO's programs. Finally, increased diversity is not necessarily a goal in and of itself; replacing racist or otherwise oppressive culture with respect for difference is the underlying goal of promoting diversity. As VSOs play a role in a larger social movement, ensuring that their programs are accessible increases the overall push for global social justice.

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