Starting with a study published in 2004 (Semantics Aside: The Role of the African Diaspora in Africa’s Capacity Building Efforts), AHEAD has been actively involved in conducting and promoting research on the development role of diaspora communities in their countries of origin. Semantics Aside, the first study of its nature to be conducted by an African diaspora group, sought to examine the potential role – if any – of the African diaspora in the capacity building efforts of the continent. Results of the inquiry not only highlighted the alarming statistics on brain drain and its cost to both Africa and Ethiopia, but also revealed a growing momentum among diaspora communities to beactively involved in the development of their country of origin as well as genuine interest in the major sectors of the latter to engage the diaspora. However, it also revealed weaknesses in this engagement, notably due to lack of capacity and coordinated mechanisms.

A follow-up research explored in great detail existing policies, programs and mechanisms that support African diaspora engagement. We examined their effectiveness and put forward concrete suggestions to address those issues that were identified as obstacles to a more sustainable diaspora engagement. One of this study’s chief recommendations called for a fuller integration of African diaspora groups in the structures of mainstream Canadian development organizations, including exploring howdiaspora and volunteer sending organizations could work together to promote diaspora.

This in turn resulted in an action-research collaboration between AHEAD, CUSO-VSO (now Cuso International), VSO Ethiopia and ABIDE on diaspora volunteerism. The main purpose of this pilot project was to test the feasibility of short-term diaspora volunteer assignments in Ethiopia and to determine the effectiveness of this type of volunteering. While the project involved a small number of volunteers and was met with various challenges, results were on the whole positive and showed that diaspora volunteerism merited further study.

Building on the results of the pilot project, AHEAD’s latest foray into diaspora-related research (newly released report can be found here) is an autoethnographyresearch to document some of the personal stories experienced in the process with thepurpose of sustaining the project’s momentum and inspiring others. Its author, Solomon B. Faris, was one of the first diaspora volunteers who participated in the joint pilot project and, after his return to Canada, continued his efforts to engage the public in the importance of international and diasporavolunteering. This well-researched autoethnographical reporton the development role and impact of diaspora volunteers in Ethiopia and Guyana as the home countries and Canada and the US as host countries gives unique insights into the issue from a story-telling perspective, identifies gaps and offers recommendations regarding future diaspora volunteer-sendingprograms.

For more information, please contact us at:

Association for Higher Education and Development (AHEAD)

P.O.Box 864 Station “B”
Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P9

Tel: (613) 727-2735, (613) 282-4594, (613) 829-7445 Ext. 360
Fax: (613) 727-0745

President and Executive Director: Temesghen Hailu
Project Coordinator and Liaison Officer:  Solomon B. Faris