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Volunteer participation and learning through peace building in Northern Ireland.

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  • Linguistics


The focus of this study is with the experiences of volunteers engaged in peace building activities in the contested society of Northern Ireland. It takes a qualitative approach utilising semi-structured in-depth interviews to consider their participation and learning. Fourteen volunteers were individually interviewed. As such, the approach adopted in this thesis is one in which the volunteer is placed at the centre of the analysis utilising grounded theory methods which stress discovery and emerging theory development (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1997). Narratives about volunteering arise largely from the accounts filed by researchers, practitioners and journalists. They depict a rosy tinted picture of volunteering. This study contends that a fuller account needs the voices of volunteers to be front of stage. Volunteer accounts provide a rich repository of knowledge, experience and understanding concerning areas such as peace building, volunteer participation and learning. These three areas are seen as emblematic to the study. In order to illustrate participation a framework is promoted to explore the complexities of contextual or relational influence and modes of participation. Collectively they point to different experiences and outcomes that stress belonging, radical learning and collectivity. Unlike formal learning about peace building which is framed systematically volunteering highlights a more informal and organic curriculum. A significant absence is due to the dominant discourse that volunteer learning is a by-product. Emerging themes, volunteer descriptions and current research are synthesised to define the importance of informal learning, a greater understanding of peace building and clearer modes of participation.

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