The Center for Social Development (CSD) was a key sponsor of the Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development (ACVAPD) that was hosted at the United Nations Complex in Nairobi, Kenya on July 2-4, 2012. The goal of the ACVAPD was to strengthen the contributions of youth volunteer service to environmental sustainability, health, peace, and regional integration across the African continent.
CSD researchers Benjamin Lough and Margaret Sherraden produced research papers that were widely distributed and discussed at the conference: “Volunteerism for Peace in East Africa” and “Civic Service and Asset Building in Generating Livelihoods among Youth in Africa.” These papers represent an ongoing partnership between CSD, Volunteer Service and Enquiry South Africa (VOSESA), and the Brookings Institution that aims to advance empirical research on service and volunteerism in Africa.
“Examples throughout the Eastern African region illustrate how volunteerism is being used to prevent conflict, to mediate and transform active conflict, and to reduce the consequences of violent conflict,” said Benjamin Lough, Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Faculty Associate at CSD.
“Peace Cops, for example, is a voluntary community policing initiative established by the Kenyan Government that seeks to prevent or mediate conflicts between tribes. In Burundi, a post-conflict initiative names Youth in Reconstruction of the World engages youth to help rebuild infrastructure and contribute to wider goals of peace and reconciliation.”
The ACVAPD drew attention from major policy actors, researchers, and private sector representatives from Africa and internationally. Kenyan Prime Minister, Dr. Raila Odinga, attended the conference and expressed a deep commitment to the launch of the first East Africa Peace Service Corps and the power of volunteerism to promote change.
“Given high rates of unemployment among African youth, civic service offers a promising strategy for preparing young people for the labor market,” said Margaret Sherraden, Professor of Social Work at University of Missouri-St Louis and Research Professor at CSD. “Our research at CSD describes innovative ‘hybrid’ ways to incentivize and support young volunteers in these efforts.”
“One promising approach is to provide small financial incentives aimed at developing future livelihoods. Volunteering would build work experience at the same time as it would generate assets and financial capability for future development.”
In addition to research on volunteer impacts taking place in Kenya this summer, CSD continues to work in Uganda in partnership with OmniMed and the Brookings Institution to understand the impact of international volunteers on community health.