Volunteering for development

Volunteering for development

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead

Volunteering for development | VSO

We promote volunteering as a powerful and practical way to tackle poverty and inequality. By enabling people and, in turn, their organisations and communities to play a more active role in development, volunteering provides the means through which the essential pre-conditions for systemic, sustainable change – ownership, participation, empowerment and inclusion – can be realised.

Increasingly our focus is on recognising the vast number of national as well as international volunteers who contribute to poverty alleviation and positive change in their own countries. As a result our programmes in education, health, livelihoods and governance engage a broad spectrum of volunteers including individuals volunteering in their community through to formal national volunteering schemes and national volunteers recruited and placed by VSO.

Read more about VSO’s approach to volunteering for development in VSO's theory of change.


VSO continues to build an evidence base on the value and impact of volunteering in development. We achieve this through a programme of research and evaluations which provide us with a growing body of case studies about how, where and when volunteering acts as a route to sustainable development.

Read VSO's research into volunteering for development:


VSO works with local partners, our volunteers and decision makers at national and global level to create an enabling environment for volunteering to thrive. We do this by opening spaces for volunteer voices to be heard and by influencing local and national policy and legislation which recognise the value of volunteering in development. At a global level, VSO seeks to influence the Post 2015 agenda, recognising the centrality of people-centred approaches. Read more about VSO’s Post 2015 advocacy work.


An important part of VSO’s work is building relationships with other global volunteer involving organisations. These partnerships help us to build an evidence base to better understand how, where and why volunteers can be effective changemakers, to share best practice, to promote innovation and to advocate for the centrality of people in development processes.

We have formal partnerships with UNV and Peace Corps, are members of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development and we collaborate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Volunteer with VSO

Volunteers can make a huge difference in the world's most disadvantaged communities. Why not lend your skills, energy and commitment, and volunteer with VSO?