The roles of, and relationships between, expatriates, volunteers, and local development workers

This article reports on exploratory research based on interviews with expatriate and local aid workers employed by local and international NGOs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Thematic analysis of the interviews found that personnel were placed in groups based on their job category – consultant, volunteer, or permanent staff – regardless of experience. These categories logically reflect each worker’s pay level, purpose, and role, but they may also have an implicit power meaning which reinforces group differences and inhibits inter-group relationships. Relationship building was reported to be the most important factor contributing to the success of capacity-development initiatives. Four sub-themes were identified: communication, friendship, reciprocal learning/teaching, and confidence.