Marching with the Volunteers: Their Role and Impact on Beneficiary Accountability in an Indonesian NGO

Miranti Dewi, Melina M Manochin, Ataur R Belal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of volunteers and its impact on related accountability practices towards beneficiaries by a large humanitarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Indonesia. Design/methodology/approach: The authors adopted a qualitative case study design. The empirical evidence comes from rich fieldwork carried out in an Indonesian NGO. The authors collected the evidence mainly via 46 interviews and five focus groups. Findings: The authors found that the case NGO drew heavily on the social and cultural capitals of volunteers in the process of serving its beneficiaries, which, in turn, facilitated the enhancement of its accountability to the beneficiaries. The authors also found that volunteers play a bridging role to reduce the distance between NGOs and beneficiaries. Research limitations/implications: For NGO managers, this study provides necessary empirical evidence on the positive role played by the volunteers in the development and operationalisation of accountability to the beneficiaries. In the authors’ case, beneficiary accountability is enhanced by the social conduct and practices performed by the NGO’s numerous volunteers. Beneficiary accountability is of significant concern to the policy makers too. This study shows that volunteers and NGO can work in a reciprocal relationship where social and cultural capital can be mobilised to each other’s advantage. To facilitate beneficiary accountability, NGOs can draw on the socio-cultural capitals held by the volunteers who appear to share the same norms and expectations with the beneficiaries. This process can also lead to the building of social and cultural capital by the volunteers themselves as they achieve great satisfaction and gain valuable experience in this process that could lead to greater satisfaction in their spiritual and material lives. Originality/value: The authors extend the previous literature on beneficiary accountability by highlighting the under-researched role of volunteers in such accountability practices. In this paper, the authors first discuss the facilitating role of volunteers in enhancing NGOs’ accountability towards beneficiaries. Then, this is illustrated empirically. In addition, the authors argue that although Bourdieusian concepts like field and capital have been widely used in the analysis of various organisational practices the concept of habitus received limited attention particularly from the context of developing countries. The authors undertake an examination of the habitus of volunteers in the Indonesian case organisation and explore their linkages with the field and associated capitals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1145
Number of pages29
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number4
Early online date25 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© Emerald Publishing Limited 2019
Published by Emerald Publishing Limited
Licensed re-use rights only


  • Indonesia
  • Social capital
  • Volunteers


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