Five-country study on civic service underway in SADC

By Philanie Jooste

The knowledge and information base about civic service and volunteering in the SADC region is about to get a boost from a five-country study that was launched in April 2005.

The study is taking place in Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe and will be co-ordinated by VOSESA in partnership with the Centre for Social Development, University of Johannesburg.

VOSESA is a Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation set up specifically to add to the growing knowledge base about service and volunteering in southern Africa.

Helene Perold, Executive Director of VOSESA, said the study offers a great opportunity for southern African countries to generate their own information about service and volunteering and to share this knowledge within the region and beyond.

Analysis of service and volunteering
The research is made possible by a grant from the Center for Social Development, Washington University in St Louis, with funding from the Ford Foundation for the Global Service Institute Research Initiative. VOSESA is embarking on research into the form and extent of civic service programmes in the five countries. The aim of the study is to document and analyse civic service and volunteering and to examine the implications for social development policy and practice in a regional context.

University of Johannesburg leads study
The Centre for Social Development at the University of Johannesburg, led by Prof. Leila Patel, will lead the research – both in terms of research design and data analysis. Prof. Patel said: “This study will provide valuable knowledge about the nature, scope and character of service and volunteering in the SADC region. We hope to build up research networks and knowledge and experience of service activities regionally which could inform social development policies and programmes in the African context.”

Research teams have been set up in each of the five countries. The core research team consists of Prof. Leila Patel, Helene Perold, Dr Morena Rankopo, Catherine Moleni, Dr Ndangwa Noyoo and Prof. Edwin Kaseke (see the box below for more information on the research team).

Research questions
The research questions will include the following:

  • What is the meaning of service in the southern African context?
  • Who receives service and who serves?
  • How many people are serving?
  • How is service understood? How is it perceived?
  • What forms of programmes exist?
  • What is the geographic distribution of the forms and types of programmes within the countries (e.g. urban/rural spread)?
  • What are the goals and activities of these programmes?
  • How many service hours are performed?
  • What is the nature of the service experience?
  • What access, incentives, information and facilitation are provided to servers?
  • How are service programmes implemented and supported?
  • What social policies and incentives exist to promote civic service?
  • What are factors promoting/hindering the development of service regionally?
  • How can countries in the region collaborate to strengthen service initiatives?

The research will take place in 2005 and 2006 and the final report will be disseminated in November and December 2006.

Updates and preliminary findings of this study as well as the final report will be published in VOSESA Focus.

Research team

  • Principal researcher: Prof. Leila Patel is Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Social Work at Johannesburg University and Director of its Centre for Social Development in Africa. She is the author of Civic Service, Globalisation and Social Development: Perspectives from Sub-Saharan Africa and is a member of the Board of VOSESA.
  • Co-principal researcher and in-country research leader (South Africa): Helene Perold is the Director of VOSESA and is co-editor of Service Enquiry (2003). She has written a number of research reports on community service in South Africa, is co-author of the Green Paper on National Youth Service in South Africa (1997), and author of Youth Service in South Africa: Country Profile.
  • In-country research leader (Botswana): Dr Morena Rankopo is a lecturer and co-ordinator of the masters programme in the Department of Social Work at the University of Botswana. He has been actively involved in research on community participation, community intervention methods, poverty alleviation, and HIV and AIDS.
  • In-country research leader (Malawi): Catherine Moleni is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Educational Research and Training at the University of Malawi, where she acts as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief for the Malawi Journal for Education and Development. She has also worked as the Co-ordinator for the World Exchange Volunteer Programme.
  • In-country research leader (Zambia): Dr Ndangwa Noyoo is a senior researcher at the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the Johannesburg University. His interests are in social development policy and research. He has published widely on socio-economic and political issues. He is also author of a book entitled Social Welfare in Zambia.
  • In-country research leader (Zimbabwe): Prof. Edwin Kaseke is the Head of the School of Social Work at the University of Zimbabwe. Prof. Kaseke co-ordinated a four-country study on formal and informal social security in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The findings was published in a special issue of the Journal of Social Development in Africa in 2002.