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04.03 Volunteering for helping refugees in the Netherlands: Building a common identity

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Aim of the project

This project will examine why people volunteer for refugees (compared to other target groups) and whether these volunteers incite other citizens to contribute to development of caring local communities. We combine sociological factors (the composition of local neighbourhoods) with psychological explanations (values and goals of individual volunteers), to predict which types of activities volunteers engage in, how their volunteer activities help them build a common identity with refugees, and how this relates to the position of these volunteers as well as the refugees they support in the local community.

Theoretical background

Newcomers such as refugees face various challenges to find their way into the host society. News accounts predominantly pay attention to citizens showing resistance to refugees rather than paying attention to numerous volunteers aiming to include them. These volunteers who aim to help refugees adjust and integrate into the host society may be challenged by citizens aiming to exclude refugees from society. Volunteers offer a bridging function to deal with the external shock represented by the arrival of refugees. They play a key role in helping  refugees connect to local societies, including them into community activities and contributing to the development of a common identity. Given the crucial function of these volunteers, it is relevant to get an understanding of what motivates them to reach out to refugees in particular, how this relates to their own position in the local community, and how this benefits the integration of refugees in local communities.

Research design

The PhD in this project studies which volunteers are mobilized or motivated specifically to volunteer for refugees. This allows us to examine how community characteristics of local environments (e.g., the presence or closing down of a local asylum centre or the level of ethnic diversity) contribute to the willingness to volunteer for refugees rather than other target groups. The project will use existing data from the LISS panel (2008-2017) containing information on the levels of volunteers for refugees (appr. 2-3% of the Dutch population) and other volunteers (> 50% of the Dutch population), as well as contextual data on the composition of neighbourhoods and municipalities. Additionally, to examine the psychological processes involved, the PhD will collect survey and experimental vignette data among current volunteers (i.e., at Vluchtelingenwerk), to identify relevant values and identities relating to their motivation to volunteer for refugees. These data will focus on the role of specific values and identities that different groups of volunteers use to define themselves, how this relates to the experience of being respected by refugees and local citizens and their ability to take pride in their connection with both these communities. These sociological and psychological explanations will be combined to understand how integration of refugees in local communities can be optimized.

  • Discipline
    Sociology and Social Psychology
  • Location
    Radboud University