Uneven geographies of youth volunteering in Uganda: Multi-scalar discourses and practices

Matt Baillie Smith*, Sarah Mills, Moses Okech, Bianca Fadel

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper develops a multi-scalar geography of youth volunteering in Uganda. A growing body of research has explored the geographies of volunteering in the global North and international volunteering and development. However, despite the mainstreaming of volunteers as development actors, less attention has been paid to the unique local and national geographies of volunteering in global South settings. This paper explores how and why different ideas and practices of volunteering take shape and prominence in Uganda and how this impacts patterns of youth inclusion, inequality and opportunity. Analysing data on volunteering by young refugees in Uganda, we develop a multi-scalar geography to situate volunteering at the interface of ‘global’ volunteering policy and knowledges, aid and development architectures, youth unemployment, community institutions and local socio-economic inequalities. Through this, we reveal how programmed and audited forms of youth volunteering oriented to youth skills and employability are privileged. We show how this articulates with local inequalities to create uneven access to volunteering opportunities and practices. Through our approach, we show how a multi-scalar geography of volunteering enables us to build richer, more nuanced conceptualisations of volunteering in the global South that address the different ways global discourses, local histories, community organisations and social inequalities come together across space and time to produce uneven geographies of volunteering in particular places.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-39
Number of pages10
Early online date17 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


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