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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108–127
Number of pages20
JournalCommunity Development Journal
Issue number1
Early online date2 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Philippines
  • bureaucracies
  • literacies
  • professionalization
  • volunteering

Cite this