Before and after development service

A quantitative study among returnees (2011-2020)

Around 1,000 professionals are currently deployed in more than 80 countries worldwide. Their task is to make a personal contribution to social justice, the fight against poverty, and peace. The German Development Workers Act provides the legal framework for their development service.

Professionals serve for at least one year. And the average length of service is currently 33 months. AGdD’s Reintegration Programme is the central point of contact for all professionals when they are preparing for their return from service and after they have returned. Every few years, in order to continue to support and accompany returnees as best we can, AGdD commissions a study of what happens to returning professionals.

This enables us to obtain up-to-date information about the careers and personal experiences of recent returnees. The results of the most recent study, conducted in 2021, are documented in a comprehensive report. In addition to conducting a statistical survey and producing a scientific report, AGdD also conducted a more in-depth survey of 15 returnees. The participants in this survey allowed us to gain insights into their career development and experience of life after returning. They also supplied photographs. This makes the results of the study more clearly visible and tangible. The two elements complement each other, so we have combined them to present a more complete picture in this publication: "The World in their Baggage: Returnees from professional development service, 2011-2020".

The Study Of Returnees

The study, "Before and after development service: A quantitative study of returnees, 2011-2020", was commissioned by AGdD in 2021.

The key questions posed by the study were:

  • How important is the "service” dimension (work as a form of solidarity) nowadays, when people choose to undertake development service?
  • How have professionals experienced their return?
  • How does development service affect the career paths of professionals and what is their own assessment?
  • In what ways are professionals involved in tackling social issues before and after undertaking development service? And how does their involvement change as a result of undertaking service?

The study was conducted by means of an online survey in German and English. Returnees were invited to participate, if they had completed a Development Workers Act contract of at least 12 months duration between 2011 and 2020 with any one of the sending agencies, and their contact details were available to AGdD or a sending agency.

In-depth interviews about the study

As part of the AGdD study 2022 "Before and after development service: A quantitative study among returnees (2011-2020) in-depth interviews were conducted with some study participants. They talked about their experiences, motivations for a development service and its influence until today - e.g. in the form of social engagement after their return.

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Number of participants: 594

594 returnees from 16 countries took part in the survey. Eighty-five percent were from Germany and 15 percent were from other EU countries or Switzerland.

A large proportion of the returnees were between 35 and 40 years of age when they returned from development service. There were two other "peaks" in the age structure: one at 55-60 years old and another at around 65 years old. The proportion of people under 30 years of age was just under three percent. Forty-five percent were over 45 years old at the time of their return.

All figures in this publication refer to the 594 professionals who took part in the survey, not to all the professionals who undertook service.