Learning to work in certain ways: Bureaucratic literacies and community-based volunteering in the Philippines

Millora, Chris. 2024. Learning to work in certain ways: Bureaucratic literacies and community-based volunteering in the Philippines. Community Development, 59(1), pp. 108-127. ISSN 1557-5330 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Concerns have emerged of how the professionalization agenda in the development sector may water down the ‘spirit of volunteerism’ that thrives on community initiative, informality, and flexibility. This paper explores the role of literacy and learning practices in the bureaucratization of community development drawing from an ethnography of local volunteering in the Philippines. Through literacy practices such as preparing community health classes, making budget plans, and writing to government institutions, volunteers were inducted into ‘bureaucratic’ ways of working that, at times, clashed with their expectations and practices of volunteering that were founded on community building, solidarity, and agency. While volunteering could be seen as a means for community participation in development, findings in this paper signal that the formalization and bureaucratization of grassroots volunteer groups may shift the intended community dynamics and volunteers’ expectations, practices, and identities.

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Additional Information:

This research is part of my PhD project that was funded by the University of East Anglia UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation studentship. Field research was supported by a Fieldwork Support Grant from the British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE). Writing of this article was supported by my Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship.

Data Access Statement:

The data underlying this article are available in the article.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


13 April 2023Accepted
2 May 2023Published Online
January 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

28 Jul 2023 12:58

Last Modified:

26 Apr 2024 15:42

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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