Exploring Volunteering for Development

Exploring ways to create and support alternative forms of volunteering in the countries where we work.


Volunteering can take diverse forms and contribute to social, economic and cultural development in many ways. We wanted to support and explore alternative models of volunteering that our teams across program countries identified as being relevant to their context. This work has taken on an even greater importance as the program pivoted in response to the global pandemic, pausing our traditional volunteering model.

What we're aiming to learn?

  • What might be future approaches for the program to support or deliver volunteering models?
  • How might we support others to build and grow volunteerism?
  • How can the program support locally-led innovation and design in volunteering?

Our approach

The project began with a desktop review of international examples of local volunteering projects, followed by interviews with DFAT representatives to consider their perspectives on Volunteering for Development, localisation, and other DFAT people-to-people models from the past and present.

We worked with in-country teams to listen and learn what may be desirable, feasible, and possible. Teams were then given the opportunity to present their ideas to the Innovation Pathways Group, who used a prioritisation process to select the projects to go forward.

A portfolio of projects were selected to prototype:

  • Gotong-Royong - Mutual collaboration: Supporting government partner volunteer policy Indonesia
  • Youth Peer Health Volunteers: Supporting peer-based youth health volunteering Kiribati
  • National Youth Volunteer: Volunteer Model Laos
  • Local & Australia Co-volunteering: National and Australia remote volunteer model Myanmar
  • Civilian Health & Conservation Corps: Youth volunteer model Tonga
  • Tongan Retired Volunteer Chapter: Retiree volunteer model Tonga
  • Province Pathways: Youth volunteer model (graduates) PNG
  • Australia Award Internships: Australia Award graduate ‘internship’ program Timor-Leste
    National Youth Volunteer Scheme: Supporting Government partner volunteer infrastructure Timor-Leste
  • Volunteer your way into the marketplace: Youth volunteer model (university students) South Africa
  • Malamuelele Parent Facilitators: Supporting an existing partner organisation in volunteer management South Africa
  • Hlokomela – Access to health for Rural Farmers Supporting an existing partner organisation to extend the reach of their volunteer program South Africa
  • Let’s Volunteer Online platform: Supporting development of a national volunteer engagement online platform Mongolia
  • Energy + Safe Air Quality: Trial of local university-based volunteer model Mongolia

The portfolio includes projects that focus on a mix of approaches to supporting volunteering, including volunteering infrastructure, new models of volunteering, and supporting our partners' volunteers.

The projects take the 'try, test, learn' approach which includes the following stages:

Team formation: Program staff identify who will lead and participate.

  1. STAGE 1 - Frame ideas: Planning the experiment
  2. STAGE 2 - Getting Ready: Early discovery work and getting the experiment ready
  3. STAGE 3 - Doing it!: Running the experiment, program clinics and follow-ups

What we learned

While the projects' learnings are not yet documented, this work has already positively impacted our attitudes and ways of working.

  • Improved collaboration with conversations taking place across the program.
  • A greater sense of team and purpose was created by those involved in preparing submissions, and there has been a greater confidence with staff pursuing new opportunities.

Captivated by innovative volunteering possibilities?

Discover our approach