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Setting the standard: encouraging smarter volunteering for development

Lumos voices

Setting the standard: encouraging smarter volunteering for development

We’re delighted to have been involved in the drafting of the new Global Standard for Volunteering for Development – which is launching at this year’s International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations’ Conference (IVCO) conference in Kigali, Rwanda. It will provide a powerful tool to encourage responsible and impactful volunteering.

At Lumos, we know that volunteering can be an important way to help tackle inequality and a valuable learning experience. However, the wrong projects can lead to volunteers inadvertently doing more harm than good and putting themselves and others at risk.

The conference is a key opportunity to change this, bringing together 150 heads of volunteering agencies, representatives of government, the private sector, and the wider development sector to help improve quality and good practice in volunteering for development.

The new global standard supports volunteering organisations to be more impactful, responsible and focused on outcomes. Meeting the guidelines will strengthen project outcomes and provide care and protection for volunteers and for the people and communities they’re working with. Crucially, the standard prioritises community needs above volunteer development – a core principle of smart volunteering.

We’re pleased to see it also unequivocally states that organisations should not undertake any activities taking place in, or run in cooperation with, orphanages or other residential care institutions for children. This is underpinned by the understanding that orphanage tourism and volunteering negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of already vulnerable children.

Decades of research show that children placed in orphanages suffer emotionally, educationally and developmentally compared to children raised in families. Sadly, the very presence of volunteers in orphanages contributes to these factors and is driving the unnecessary separation of children from their families.

Following on from the launch of our new campaign #HelpingNotHelping, it’s encouraging news and offers a vital tool in ensuring the responsible and sustainable future of volunteering for development. Our advice to volunteering organisations is to find out how your organisation can improve the way you work and ensure you’re meeting the global standard.

And if you’re thinking of volunteering, then take time to consider the bigger picture. If you can help strengthen a family or a community instead, you’ll be making it easier for children to live at home and keeping families together.


For further information on how your organisation can meet the Global Standard please contact Forum.

Don’t just think you’re helping, know you are. Find out how to volunteer responsibly and take action at helpingnothelping/advice