Flinders University, in partnership with Scope Global, has officially launched the summary of findings from its three-year research project on Cosmopolitan development: the impacts of international volunteering.
The project sought to capture the contributions of international development volunteerism to development assistance and people-to-people links. It focused on the more intangible aspects of international development volunteering, specifically relational impacts that are increasingly recognised as being important to achieving transformational change.
Funded by the Australian Research Council and in collaboration with Scope Global as the industry partner, the project had a significant focus on the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an Australian Government initiative of which Scope Global is a delivery partner.
“We’ve been very proud of our partnership with Flinders University,” says Simona Achitei, Senior Manager, Volunteer Program at Scope Global. “This is one of the largest and most recent university-led studies on international volunteering, delivered in partnership with Manchester University and the National University of Singapore.”
The research outlined three key areas in which international volunteering positively contributes to cosmopolitan development:
- Building partnerships through international development volunteerism – the research shows that good relationships are integral to volunteerism, and volunteers and host organisations spend a significant amount of time and effort building equitable and mutually accountable relationships. The qualities of these relationships characterise a true partnership and make a strong contribution to Sustainable Development Goal 17: a global partnership.
- Capacity development and reciprocal learning – the research found that capacity development through international development volunteerism is mutual rather than one-sided, equipping the volunteer and the host organisation with valuable skills, ideas and experience. This should be acknowledged as a positive impact of international development volunteerism.
- Developing cosmopolitan orientations – the research confirms previous findings that international development volunteerism assists in promoting a positive image of Australia overseas. It also found more far-reaching impacts, such as views and experiences of volunteers and host organisations toward development, volunteerism and engaging with other cultures.
There are four key recommendations aimed at improving the positive impacts of the AVID program and further strengthening approaches to its evaluation:
- Increasing host organisations’ sense of ownership of volunteer placements
- Creating more flexibility in the program
- Recruiting volunteers with appropriate skills and attitudes
- Finding better ways to evaluate the impacts of volunteering.
The results of this comprehensive research project and its focus on the relational aspects of international development volunteering are invaluable at a time when Australia is seeking deeper engagement with our region.
“I’m delighted to say that we are well on our way to implementing a number of the recommendations,” says Simona.
“Increasing host organisations’ sense of ownership of volunteer placements is one of the recommendations coming out of the research. We have already piloted a host organisation toolkit and workshop that aims to give host organisations more ownership and help them get the most out of volunteer placements. Feedback from host organisations and volunteers has been incredibly positive so far.”
“We are always looking for innovative ways to maximise the impact of the AVID program. This project has given us solid recommendations to work toward to ensure the benefits between volunteers and host organisations are mutual and result in positive development outcomes.”
Read the full summary of the research at Cosmopolitan Development Project website.