Altruistic Individualists: Motivations for International Volunteering Among Young Adults in Switzerland

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Modernization theory posits a change from traditional or “collective” forms to modern or “reflective” forms of volunteering. In a research project using a combined qualitative–quantitative approach, the motivation of 118 young Swiss adults who showed an interest in international volunteering was investigated. Qualitative analysis revealed 12 different motives which could be categorized into three different groups: A first group called “Achieving something positive for others,” a second group named “Quest for the new,” and a third group of motives labeled “Quest for oneself.” Motivations of young Swiss adults for international volunteering clearly show the characteristics of “reflexive” volunteers. Most respondents displayed a combination of motives while for only 11% of them altruism (“Achieving something positive for others”) was the one and only driving force behind their interest in international volunteering. The inductively constructed typology of motives can be a useful planning device for organizations that run or intend to set up an international volunteering program for young adults.

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