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Sample on the role of values, culture and voluntary organizations in development

South Africa is a country located in the tip of the African Continent that has a rich history. It has endured years of political turmoil and strife in order to become the country that it is now. It was the setting for the one of the world’s worst forms of racial inequality and segregation that was the apartheid or racial segregation between the minority but power wielding whites and the majority but poor blacks. This period in the history of South Africa is one that garnered international infamy because many countries openly disapproved of this practice. But that is all in the past now and many South Africans now look to a brighter future and economy. South Africa has rich deposits of gold and diamonds that seem to be the norm in the continent of Africa. As of 2011 it has been categorized as newly industrialized country in a report recently published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF 2011). This means that it is well on the road to development and prosperity. But this begs the question, what is development and what are the role of values and the culture that a country’s people keep and also the effect of voluntary organizations in the process for development. In this paper we will be using data culled from the world values survey in particular the result from South Africa. The WVS as it is called is a survey that is done periodically on global scale that measures the values and belief systems of a certain country. It is the largest survey of its kind undertaken. We will be using data taken from the latest cyclical survey from South Africa.

Development is concept that is usually seen in economic terms. Before any country can claim development it has to be able to show a strong economy that can support its growth. It must be noted that economic growth in itself is not the be all and end all of development (Sen 1983). There are many aspects for reaching economic development. One particular aspect that we would like to put into perspective is values. In the latest survey taken from South Africa in 2007, the results in particular those referring to the importance of the family was rather high at 95.6 percent of the survey (WVS 2007). This result is virtually the same for question pertaining to friends, leisure, religion, happiness and work. This clearly shows what the South Africans value in life, in the last years their economy has been booming, this was about the same time that the survey was taken. This clearly shows that a country that places great emphasis in old school family and traditional values in high regard is one that can sustain development. One very important factor that was asked in the survey, that is happiness as high as 42.7 percent of the people in the survey said that they were very happy in life and only 6.1% of them were not happy at all. This result thus shows that majority of the South Africans because of the values they hold are happy with their life. Happiness is one index that can really show how a country is developing, and happiness is a very important factor in development (Nishikawa 2004). An unhappy populace cannot sustain development for that matter. There is one particular aspect that South Africans do not feel to important in their life and that is politics, which garnered mixed results with 77 percent replying that it was not at all important. Moving forward the survey then tackles voluntary associations. One author defined associations or voluntary associations as a group that works together towards a common goal, and as such it is an amplifier or strengths and talents (Kerzman and McKnight 1998).

Voluntary associations are seen as a very important factor in development. Furthermore, aside from the government these groups can also be utilized to reach small development goals. They mainly rely on the principle of reciprocity in order to reach their goals (Enjolras 2001). The principle of reciprocity basically states that one must respond to positive action with another positive action. This principle that is developed in voluntary associations is one of the keys to attaining development. In the survey on voluntary associations as a whole the results are spread throughout the range, with 48 percent seeing voluntary associations as rather important and 22 percent as very important, although the bulk of the answer at 77 percent is not very important. This data then can be interpreted as the South Africans seeing voluntary associations in a different light because in the past the results were much lower and skewed towards not important at all. This was at a time when South Africa was not so well economically.

South Africa has come a long way since the time of the Apartheid and economic unrest. We see that the development that the country is seeing is most likely caused in part by the values and beliefs that its people hold. The positive turn in the values coincided with the boom in development. The role of voluntary associations cannot be discounted as well, in the last years of development; there was an increase in the perception of importance and membership in voluntary associations.


Enjolras, Bernard.2001.A GOVERNANCE-STRUCTURE APPROACH TO VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS.Institute for Social Research, Oslo

Kretzmann,John P.  and McKnight,John L.1998.Voluntary Associations in Low-Income Neighborhoods:An Unexplored Community Resource.the Woodstock Institute, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, 60605.

IMF.2011.Advanced Economies List. World Economic Outlook.International Monetary Fund

Nishikawa, J(2004). Development and Happiness. Waseda University

Sen, A. (1983). Development: Which Way Now? Economic Journal, Vol. 93 Issue 372. Pp.745-762.


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