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Evaluating sustainability performance in volunteer tourism.

Eckardt, Claudia (2019) Evaluating sustainability performance in volunteer tourism. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

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Volunteer tourism (VT) is defined ‘as a form of tourism, which aims to provide sustainable alternative travel that can assist in community development, scientific research or ecological restoration’ Wearing (2002, p. 240). VT is frequently described as making a difference or doing something worthwhile and its sustainability performance is based on transparency and accountability between its stakeholders manifested by joint planning and community engagement with host projects that lead to their empowerment and equality. Currently, the VT industry has been criticised for the commodification of volunteer experiences by exploiting host communities that fail to making a difference. More research is needed about how the engagement between the main VT stakeholders influence sustainability performance and how to evaluate sustainability performance. This research develops an evaluative framework to better understand how stakeholders’ relations influence sustainability performance in VT, crucially investigates how and why certain sustainability outcomes occur. The principle contribution of developing an evaluative framework is the innovative methodology that brings together collaboration theory and realistic evaluation. While collaboration theory provides an essential theoretical basis for exploring the main stakeholders’ relations in VT, realistic evaluation determines the root causes of how and why sustainability performance is achieved. By doing so, the evaluative framework takes an all-encompassing and holistic approach and determines the nature of the collaborative relations between all the main stakeholders. Two main advantages of the evaluative framework are pertinent, i.) its in-depth analytical ability in evaluating sustainability performance and ii.) the transferability of its findings. The findings address the current body of knowledge in terms of what VT’s mantra of doing something worthwhile or making a difference actually means at an operational and community level. Based on the theory developed through realistic evaluation, this study offers a definition of sustainability performance in VT: The theory outlines that the (sending and receiving) organisations under certain circumstances enable sustainability. Their practices must include the integration of stakeholders, screening and matching of volunteers to host projects in such a way as to support effective skills and expertise transfer to host project staff. The on-going facilitation of stakeholder relations should lead to positive experiences and safety for all involved. In addition, long-term planning and needs assessment support empowerment, equality and transparency for host projects and which can encourage social mobility over time. The development of the evaluative framework addresses an emerging research agenda for evaluating sustainability performance by offering a new understanding of social mobility and other long-term outcomes for the recipients at host projects and how VT is making a difference through transformative change. Further afield, the evaluative framework offers a sound foundation for future investigations in assessing the effectiveness and outcomes of other social interventions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Eckardt, Claudia
Date : 31 July 2019
Funders : self-funded
Depositing User : Claudia Eckardt
Date Deposited : 02 Aug 2019 07:51
Last Modified : 02 Aug 2019 07:51

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