Matt Baillie Smith


Research interests

Matt’s interests are broadly focused on the intersections of civil society, citizenship and development in the global South, with a particular focus on volunteering, and on young people as development actors.

Volunteering in humanitarian and development settings:

Matt’s current research focuses on the diverse forms of voluntary labour mobilised by and for development and crises in the global South. This includes research on international volunteering and development, and on the ‘gap year’, with a particular focus on the kinds of citizenship that these activities produce. More recently, he has challenged the focus on international volunteers from the global North, researching volunteering between global South countries as well as turning attention to the roles of local and national volunteers. This has included co-authoring the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Global Review on Volunteering, and acting as research director of the Volunteers in Conflicts in Emergencies Initiative. His current project, the ESRC/GCRF funded Refugee Youth Volunteering Uganda (RYVU), is being undertaken in partnership with Uganda Martyrs University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology, and uses quantitative and particularly qualitative methods to understand volunteering activity by displaced youth in 4 settings in Uganda, and how it impacts on their skills and employability.

Young people as development actors:

Overlapping with his interests in volunteering, Matt is particularly interested in the ways in which young people are engaged in development activity and how they seek to shape it. As part of the UKRI/GCRF Living Deltas Hub, he is exploring young people’s experiences of change and ideas and action for more sustainable futures in the Red River, Mekong and Ganges-Brahmaputa-Meghna deltas. In Palestine, he is leading a BA/GCRF project working with academics from design, law and education to explore youth agency for sustainable development using cultural probe methodologies.

 Ways of working:

Matt is particularly interested in participatory and visual methodologies, interdisciplinary and challenge led research, and in co-designing and development research with diverse development actors. This includes an interest in development and humanitarian practitioners as researchers, and building organisational capacities to gather and analyse data.



Research Student Supervision Interests

I welcome PhD students with interests relating to my own research including: Volunteering in humanitarian and development contexts; Civil society and development; Citizenship and activism; NGOS and development; Education, learning and skills

Organisational affiliations

Education/Academic qualification

  • PhD, Sociology

    1 Sep 1994 - 31 Dec 2099
  • MPhil, Sociology

    Sociology and Politics of Development

    1 Sep 1993 - 31 Dec 2099
  • BA (Hons), Politics

    1 Sep 1990 - 31 Dec 2099