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At VSO, we know that people in developing countries have the power, courage and desire to help themselves. That’s why we use a volunteering for development approach that puts the most marginalised people first.

People First

International volunteer Ana Paula Pinto, community volunteer Mi Hsu Myat Win Hlaing and national volunteer Kaung Khant, conducting student participation workshop at Mu Done Township, Myo Ma Ward, Myanmar

We drive lasting systemic change by focusing on those who are traditionally left out in society – including women, youth, LGBT+ people, refugees, prison populations, and those living with disabilities.

We support these people by creating spaces and opportunities for them to influence change in their own lives, including design and measurement of the programmes designed to help them. They tell us what their needs are. They begin to interact with the organisations, systems and structures around them to create change. And because the change is led by the poorest and most marginalised, the results benefit the people who need it most. Communities direct and take ownership of changes that take place, and, in doing so, take charge of their futures.

This approach builds more resilient households, institutions and societies. It changes policy and practice at local, national and global levels. And all of this brings us a step closer to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our unique approach

Leveraging our experience and extensive network, we:

1. Involve the most marginalised at all stages of programme design

From initial design through to final evaluation, our programmes are designed with individuals and communities, empowering them to lead their own change to ensure long-term impact. These people are not passive recipients of aid. We do not see them as 'beneficiaries.' They are the 'primary actors' and they are at the heart of our work.

2. Work with volunteers 

Unlike other other development interventions, the trusting relationships that volunteers and communities build together ensure skills and knowledge are shared effectively and people take ownership of their own development. And the act of volunteering also often inspires the primary actors we work with to become volunteers themselves. 

Our programmes leverage an integrated volunteering approach; volunteers from local communities work alongside youth volunteers as well as local and international experts. Meaning the right skills and understanding are available at all levels of programming. 

3. Drive lasting change

Across all our programmes we build communities that are resilient, inclusive and accountable. These three ‘core approaches’ are fundamental to our work and how we design our interventions.