'Giving back' through mobility trajectories: motivations for engaging in development encounters in Ghana among transnational youth

Gladys Akom Ankobrey*, Valentina Mazzucato, Lauren B. Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Web of Science)


Literature on diaspora engagement in development activities has centred on the contributions of migrating adults to the 'homeland', which range from private transfers to single households, to community development projects. While such studies often focus on the impact of such activities on the country of origin, relatively few have focused on what transpires during development encounters and how this affects migrants', and especially young people's, motivation to engage transnationally over time. This paper combines migration and development, transnational migration studies and second generation 'returns' literature, to address these gaps. It studies the motivations of transnational youth to engage in development encounters, which they referred to as 'giving back', in the context of their mobility trajectories. Drawing on 17 months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the Netherlands and accompanying young people during trips to Ghana, we show that giving back contributes to a sense of purpose that connects them transnationally. Young people's expectations of giving back were embedded in community narratives, which framed this as a means to 'become successful' in culturally valued ways. While young people sometimes encountered unexpected surprises, emotions experienced during development encounters led to learning that ultimately resulted in enhanced intentions of transnational engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2018-2036
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number9
Early online dateAug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022


  • Transnational youth
  • migrant youth
  • diaspora engagement
  • development encounters
  • Ghana

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