Participation and governance

Participation and governance

We aim to support the development of the governance systems, structures, policies and practice that empower disadvantaged people – including women and people with disabilities - to participate in the decisions that affect their lives

Woman talking to a group in India

What we do

VSO works on participation and governance programmes with worked with 53 participation and governance partners in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific. We work both through partnerships with local organisations including councils, women’s groups and human rights organisations, as well as through national and international advocacy in order to:

1. Inspire and raise awareness of individuals and organisations to boost engagement with decision-making processes

VSO programmes support decentralisation of service delivery and public sector reform programmes combined with improved citizen participation and engagement in decision-making. We support social accountability projects such as citizens committees and citizens score cards to increase the accountability of service providers and government officials.

2. Strengthen civil society to become more effective, accountable, inclusive and representative

Our skilled volunteers are placed with civil society agencies and community groups, using their expertise to show them how to build their capacity and more effectively advocate for the rights of disadvantaged people. Other volunteers work directly with government agencies to help them respond better to the needs, and uphold the rights, of their citizens. Our work to support government agencies is concerned with improving their ability to respond to people's needs, and to be transparent and accountable to all their constituents. This will make the services they deliver meet the needs and fulfil the rights of all people, including the most disadvantaged.

VSO promotes national volunteering (local people and community groups volunteering for development) in line with our participation and governance aims.

3. Lobby government and other service providers for pro-poor policies and to encourage better responsivity and effectiveness 

VSO is engaged in advocacy work that applies the lessons we have learned over more than half a century of work fighting poverty to push governements and service providers to uphold their duties to the most vunerable in their care.

We also work to increase understanding of gender equality and the rights of people living with disabilities amongst those in power. Other marginalised and vulnerable groups with whom we work with and for include youth, refugees, indigenous peoples, low-caste communities, and people living with HIV and AIDS. VSO supports Right to Information projects, human rights advocacy and access to legal advice and assistance programmes.

4. Encourage peace-building

Political, social and economic marginalisation along religious or ethnic lines is often a root cause of conflict between different communities. Some of our programmes have a peace-building element. This includes activities that build a culture of peace through understanding and collaboration between different groups.  We also have programmes to support people and communities to recover from the effects of conflict and violence. 

Volunteer with VSO

Do you want to work with people living in poverty towards ensuring their voices are heard? Why not lend your skills and volunteer with VSO?