Field researcher for VSO/IDS research project - Voluntary Service Overseas, China

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Field researcher for the VSO/IDS Valuing Volunteering research project, China, for 24 months Background

Valuing Volunteering is a global action-research project, based on a partnership between VSO, the Institute for Development Studies and other volunteering organisations, to understand the impact of volunteering on poverty. The methodological approach will be systemic action research, which combines ‘learning through doing’ with an analysis of the wider systems that inhibit and enable change. This research will be carried out by VSO International volunteers working with VSO country offices and other volunteering organisations in China, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal and the Philippines.

Valuing Volunteering will interrogate theories of change linked to volunteering at local and global levels, by using volunteers as researchers to conduct an action research process tracing the pathways of influence of a diverse range of types of volunteering on a particular issue. Both negative and positive impacts will be considered and poverty is interpreted very broadly to include inequality, as defined in VSO’s strategic plan, People First.

Valuing Volunteering will build capacity of those taking part to use systemic action research as a tool for inquiry, learning and advocacy. It will offer guidance for further strategic change within the organisations involved by producing practical lessons that could lead to new ways of working. It will contribute to international thinking on volunteering for development and provide an evidence base on which to build a clear advocacy strategy that can influence the theory and practice of organisations working with volunteers for development.

What does the role involve?
Valuing Volunteering is a three-year, intensive and comparative research project that asks the broad question: ‘How does volunteering affect poverty?’ The focus of the research narrows down this umbrella question and is: To interrogate theories of change at local and strategic levels about the relationship between volunteering and poverty.

The research will be led, in each country, by an international VSO volunteer, who will work closely with a community of practice including international and local volunteering organisations, NGOs, government institutions, corporate and community organisations interested in volunteering, but also individual international and local volunteers. This core group will choose two issues for their country context and will develop an action research process involving relevant stakeholders for each issue. This means that a total of 12 issues will be explored across the 6 countries.

Systemic action research is a process whereby participants collectively develop a research process that tests assumptions through cycles of action and reflection, while also examining the wider systemic context. Systemic action research is about ‘achieving holistic change in complex social and organisational settings.’ It is based on the assumption that complex issues such as volunteering for development cannot be considered in isolation from the wider system of which they are a part.

In this role you will:
•Work with VSO’s chosen research partner on a research design for Valuing Volunteering in China. •Lead local stakeholders in using systemic action research methodology to understand how and under what conditions volunteering reduces poverty in China. •Organise and facilitate exploratory group discussions, interviews, data collection. •Organise multi stakeholder meetings and employ other systemic action research methodology to analyse inquiry findings. •Set up pilots and action experiments to test intermediary findings of the research. •Take part in regular web-based discussion groups and work on periodic progress reports with other relevant people in the project. •Establish filing and documentation systems for all activities of the research project. •Participate in the creation of policy, strategy, new models and advocacy activities issuing from the findings of the research in China. •Compile and write relevant parts of the research report and consult with key stakeholders for endorsement.

What skills, experience and personal qualities are needed for the role
You will have a degree in development or social research. You will have excellent group facilitation skills and report writing skills. You will have experience of working at multiple levels (from government to local community) and an excellent command of participatory, qualitative research methods. You will need to be able to work in a foreign language environment, getting information through translation. You will have a thorough understanding of volunteering and have well developed written and oral communication skills. Your excellent people skills will make you a culturally and socially sensitive person, who is able to listen to different points of view and process information from a variety of stakeholder groups. Ideally you will also have experience of quantitative research methods and the ability to use and analyse statistical tools. Previous volunteer management experience would be an advantage.

And the rest…
You’ll be based in Beijing, China’s capital city. Beijing is a wonderfully modern city with an elaborate and colourful history, which makes for an exciting and diverse experience. As a former Olympic city, Beijing has well established public transport systems, including trams, light railway, subways and buses. Despite being the centre of China’s political and economic life, Beijing still manages to maintain a relaxed atmosphere and you may see locals finding time to sit out on the streets, play chess and watch the world go by.

We’ll ask you to commit to 12 - 24 months to make a sustainable contribution to our development goals. In return, we’ll give you comprehensive financial, personal and professional support. We'll provide you with extensive training before your placement, and our financial package includes a local salary, return flights, accommodation, insurance and more. When you return to your home country, we'll support you to resettle.
How to apply: 
Interested? Please apply online
Please quote job reference: CH0802/1/1 in your application form.
Closing date:  30 Apr 2012