Youth Service Program Participants in Canada: Perceptions on Motivations for Volunteering, Level of Engagement, and Level of Impact
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Encouraging young people to be active in their communities and understanding of and responsive to the issues around them, especially through volunteer and service programs, allows these young people to be healthy and empowered citizens, while also generates positive social change for their community and the causes they advocate for. Given that youth volunteerism and youth service have such benefits, the sector has experienced a boost in activities that seek to meaningfully engage youth and create impact. Likewise, research has also adapted to provide a stream of current, science-based strategies, opportunities, and reflections to the program designers, funders, policymakers, etc., who guide the sector. However, young people and their experiences are still comparably excluded from the discourse. This thesis seeks to amplify the youth perspective by focusing on their motivations, interactions with program design qualities, and self-perceived impact. These objectives are explored through the following research questions: (1) why are young people in Canada participating in youth service programs; (2) what characteristics of the youth service programs are reflective of the young people’s personal motivations to apply; (3) how is the affinity between reasons for service and chosen programs significant for the young participants’ self-assessment of impact across different levels; and, (4) are there any patterns between personal motivations and program qualities? Youth perspectives were explored via responses to a survey and interview obtained from participants of current youth service programs in Canada after they had completed their respective program. The research methodology and partners, namely Canadian Wildlife Federation, Ocean Wise, and YMCA Canada, who administered the six youth service programs that were studied in this thesis, were adopted from the University of Waterloo’s Youth and Innovation Project. A total of 11 motivations to volunteer are discussed, with ‘advance personally and/or professionally’ and ‘engage in social connections’ identified as the top two motivations within this dataset. Out of the 10 literature-based program design components, ‘high degree of youth involvement’ is found to be the prominent across the six service programs. Using a four-pronged scale to measure impact across four levels, i.e., on the volunteer, on the organization, on the community, and on the issue, ‘extremely positive’ and ‘somewhat positive’ are the most applicable ratings on the community level and individual and issue level, respectively. This thesis reimagines several existing concepts within the literature of youth volunteerism by bringing together motivations, program design, and impact in one study, synthesizing primary, secondary, and inductive motivations, and using a simplistic rating system to examine impact. While the main objective of this thesis is to highlight youth experience in the discussion, this study also aims to meet several literary and practical gaps by generating ideas for future areas of studies and a set of recommendations for providers of service programs.
Cite this version of the work
Divya Arora (2022). Youth Service Program Participants in Canada: Perceptions on Motivations for Volunteering, Level of Engagement, and Level of Impact. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18390