Basic Set-up of Research Design
Participants were recruited using a mixture of convenience and snowballing sampling strategies. One of the researchers was a volunteer herself, and used her social media platform to recruit participants (convenience sampling). Based on those who agreed to partake in the study, participants then recruited further subjects they knew (snowball sampling), giving a total of ten participants.
All respondents were Dutch nationals between the ages of 18-30 with experience in volunteering with disabled persons. Participants were volunteers at one of six organisations - SailWise, De Hinkelaar, OnlyFriends, Prins Willem Alexander Manege, and another which preferred to stay anonymous.
Description of coding approachCoding – based on Gioia and colleagues’ (2012) methods – enables us to capture concepts relevant to the experience of youth volunteering; based on participants’ terms (1st order coding) and existing scientific literature on the topic of volunteering motivations (2nd order coding). Codes were extracted from relevant interview quotes and placed into a broad category (e.g. “reasons for volunteering - fun”). As we realised our codes were too specific, we saw fit to transition into axial coding to produce more meaningful codes and categories. We identified similarities between open codes and merged them, producing a reorganised dataset without redundant codes. Labelling interview transcripts this way enabled remaining faithful to participants’ terminology (1st order coding based on quotes: “it was fun”) whilst simultaneously allowing us to set a foundation for future exploration of (2nd order) theoretical-level themes (“reasons for volunteering”).
As the interviews proceeded, we identified that participants presented other coding categories, such as volunteers’ experiences, learning developments they gathered from their experiences, and reasons for continuing to volunteer. Although these are unrelated to motivations, it is important to code, to remain true to qualitative research. Keeping our duty as researchers to fill a gap in research in mind, we chose to modify the initial research question to explore motivations for starting and continuing to volunteer. As such, the new research question became: “What motivates young Dutch adults to start and to continue volunteering within the disabled sector?”. Changing the research question allowed us to examine and further code for volunteers’ holistic experiences. This encouraged discovery of new, richer concepts rather than affirmation of already-existing ones.
When examining our role as researchers, we remained reflexive throughout the entirety of the project. We planned for any language barrier issues between the Dutch interviewees and two non-Dutch-speaking researchers by always having at least one Dutch researcher present during the interviews. Given the current pandemic, we also made it easier for participants to join interviews by ensuring an adequate technical set-up (internet stability, Zoom session scheduled, sent invite out to participants).
Moreover, observational memos were created immediately after each interview, to reflect upon its content whilst our memory was still fresh. For example, during the second interview, the interviewee commented on how they found out about volunteering, how it made them feel etc. After the interview, noted down observations in the moment and captured details that would have otherwise been brushed off.
This ‘note-taking’ approach fed into theoretical memos, as connections were made between the interviews’ content and the relevant theories. Throughout coding, 46 codes were produced. We observed that many codes related to: reasons to start volunteering, volunteer experiences and expectations, and any barriers or challenges. These initial insights give a sense of direction into where and why volunteers’ motivations may differ and where they may be similar.
Methodological memos were made after the first four interviews when we got together and shared insights and possible barriers. We concluded that although participants were answering questions we had prepared, they were not elaborating on them to the extent we had hoped, which made our interviews shorter than anticipated. Therefore, we came up with six more open-ended questions. Instead of explicitly asking what motivates them to volunteer, participants were given another chance to give a more genuine and personal answer. Additionally, the order in which questions were posed was modified; we became more flexible with the chronological choice of participant questions. Doing this halfway through the interviews helped fine-tune our research aim and improve our research process.