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Project 4.3. Volunteering for Helping Refugees in the Netherlands: Building a Common Identity

CHALLENGE 4: ACCOMODATING NEWCOMERS 

Aim of the project

This project will examine why people volunteer to help refugees (compared to other target groups) and whether these volunteers motivate other citizens to contribute to development of sustainable 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.

Literature

Ellemers, N., & Boezeman, E. (2009). Empowering the volunteer organization: What volunteer organizations can do to attract, motivate and retain volunteer workers. In: Stürmer, S., & Snyder, M. (Eds.). Psychology of helping: New directions in intergroup prosocial behavior (pp. 245-266). Oxford: Blackwell.

Lubbers, M., Coenders, M., Scheepers, P. (2006). Objections to asylum seeker centers: individual and contextual determinants of resistance to small and large centres in the Netherlands, European Sociological Review, 22, 3, 243-257.

Savelkoul, M., Gesthuizen, M., Scheepers, P. (2014). Ethnic diversity and formal social capital in European countries and regions: tests of constrict, conflict and contact theory, Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43, 6, 1070-1094. 

Van Der Meer, T. W., Te Grotenhuis, M., & Scheepers, P. L. (2009). Three types of voluntary associations in comparative perspective: The importance of studying associational involvement through a typology of associations in 21 European countries. Journal of Civil Society5(3), 227-241.

Project initiators

Peer Scheepers, Marcel Lubbers, Naomi Ellemers

Location:Nijmegen University

Expertise

Sociology, Psychology

How to Apply

For background information on this vacancy and further instructions, click here (portal opens June 1).

 

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