One Step at a Time

fresh on the int'l dev scene, traversing the developmental landscape in search of a place to lay my head, find my feet and sink my teeth

The Public Shaming of Voluntourism


The debate around ‘voluntourism’ has been inescapable these past few weeks, with many fierce discussions arising as a result of the recent articles from the Condé Naste TravellerGuardian and The Independent (the latter being a particularly vitriolic account).

I’ve greeted most of the subsequent commentary on the subject with a sense of unease. Whilst all the points raised in the debate are no doubt valid, and I agree that having this discussion is entirely necessary, there seems to be a certain tone of superiority underlying much of what is being said. Despite it being a problem that persists in much of the voluntary/NGO sector, there are some who appear to place the blame solely on the volunteers. In several of the comments there is a strong air of ‘one-upmanship’- of who can seem the most reflexive and self-aware in their experience- which all seems rather pointless when you realise you are an experienced development worker choosing to belittle an idealistic, perhaps overly naïve teen.

I won’t pretend to know a great deal about the regulation of the industry as a whole, or what the best solution might be, but it seems clear that while educating and informing young people on the issue is vital, belittling and publicly shaming those who have been on such a trip serves no purpose whatsoever.


Author: Nicole Roughton

2 thoughts on “The Public Shaming of Voluntourism

  1. Nicole,

    Thanks for taking the time to offer a different perspective on the criticisms launched in the direction of voluntourism. There is a blog post you might be interested in taking a closer look at:

    It details the work of Rooke & Torbert who identified seven “Action Logics” – from lowest-scale to highest-scale these are: 1) Opportunist, 2) Diplomat, 3) Expert, 4) Achiever, 5) Individualist, 6) Strategist, and 7) Alchemist. (The blog post goes into greater detail in terms of descriptions for each of these.)

    I have come to the conclusion that those individuals who are most critical of teens and young people participating in “voluntourism” likely fall into the “Expert” category. And there are many of these “types” along the Action Logics’ Continuum in the world today, as Rooke & Torbert discovered. These individuals have not developed later stage Action Logics and, therefore, are not yet capable of seeing (nor are they inclined to see) how to integrate these young people into a newly-devised and created structure for the development of humanity as a whole.

    It would be interesting to note if five or ten years from now those weighing forth the heaviest criticisms hold the same position or whether they have evolved and transformed themselves to a higher stage of Action Logic. If the former is the case, we may discover that those individuals for whom their disdain was the greatest may very well have surpassed them by having a transformational experience – one that can easily come from participating in voluntourism – and may have leaped ahead of them on the Action Logic Continuum. If it be the latter, we can only hope that later on they will return to the blogosphere and apologize to the young people they have so shamed in order to demonstrate their own advancement to higher Action Logics.

  2. Pingback: Voluntourism: Ahh, the Joys of Being a Catalyst! « VolunTourism Institute

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s