Innovation to end global poverty: VSO pioneers technology for development

Innovation to end global poverty: VSO pioneers technology for development

Lesson plans delivered to teachers in India via SMS, tablets introduced to classrooms in Malawi to improve numeracy and specialist units created to bring down newborn mortality rates by 40% in five hospitals in Ethiopia, are among VSO’s most successful recent initiatives according to its Annual Report 2014/15 published today.

The international development charity which last year worked in 28 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, increased its impact on eradicating poverty, grew its income, expanded its programming and launched new research on the impact volunteers have in sustainable development.  VSO’s range of volunteers has evolved to include more people from the corporate sector, parliamentarians and young people. VSO continues to send skilled volunteers from Europe, North America, Africa and Asia on international placements in addition to working with local volunteers, who already live in the developing countries where we work.

Philip Goodwin, CEO of VSO says:  

“This latest review reflects our vision of empowering local people to overcome poverty, achieve long-term sustainable change and to build resilience against future challenges. We do this largely through volunteers who share their skills and experience. It is a people-centred approach to development that is at the heart of VSO’s mission and is fundamental to achieving sustainable change.

VSO challenges the status quo by increasing our reach and influence, improving our cost effectiveness and evolving to ensure we have the greatest impact where it matters most – within the world’s poorest communities.”

Key achievements from VSO’s 2014/15 annual report - see impact visual here

  • Last year VSO improved the lives of 1.95 million people through over 2651 volunteers and 542 partners
  • Total number of international volunteers: 987 international volunteers from all over the world, and 294 national volunteers from the countries in which we work
  • Total number of VSO short term youth volunteers (International Citizen Service): 1,370 up from 940 on the previous year, and includes the local ICS volunteers who volunteer alongside the UK youth. In September 2014, the ICS consortium celebrated having worked with 10,000 volunteers since the programme started in 2012
  • VSO strengthened the knowledge and skills of over 136,000 key workers including teachers, nurses and farmers across programmes focusing on education, health, sustainable livelihoods, gender and disability
  • Total income: £77 million, up by 12 % on the previous year. Income in the UK from individuals grew by 22% which brought in approximately £1 million in new resources
  • The VSO neonatal healthcare project in Ethiopia resulted in a 40% decrease in child mortality in 5 hospitals.  Volunteers, working with new specialist equipment and training local staff in advanced neonatal care, have helped to transform the way that mothers and babies at risk receive treatment
  • The ‘SMS Story Project’ which was so successful in Papua New Guinea previously, was rolled out in 50 schools across Rajasthan in India last year. These text message stories and lesson plans have been helping children in India to improve their English by 20%
  • VSO’s Ebola Fundraising Appeal for Sierra Leone helped fund new materials to boost awareness of Ebola, including Braille tablets for the visually impaired.  Community volunteers were also mobilised quickly to respond to the outbreak and share vital life-saving information with 250,000 people
  • VSO piloted a numeracy project in Malawi which saw 100 primary schools using tablet technology for the first time. Numeracy skills were radically increased over 8 weeks compared to 18 months of conventional classroom teaching
  • In India’s Kalahandi District, volunteers raised awareness of a new online platform to allow rural communities to file grievances relating to government services by sending a text message
  • VSO and the Institute of Development Studies published the groundbreaking ‘Valuing Volunteering’ research which explores the impact volunteers have on sustainable development
  • Ahead of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being signed off at the UN in September 2015, VSO supported volunteers and partners to attend negotiations at the UN in New York every month since January where they could influence the goals & targets which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) until 2030
  • VSO won the Employee Engagement Charity Project Award in January 2015 for its innovative use of technology to engage staff worldwide

For further information or to book an interview, contact; Ciara O’Sullivan, VSO Media Manager

Tel: +44 (0)7753 10 34 60, Out of hours + 44 7500 918 478 E-mail:   

Editor's notes

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all.

Explore the VSO digital Annual Review here

Watch the VSO Annual Review short film here

Download the VSO Annual review PDF

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