Expanding national youth volunteering in Laos

Partnering with volunteering organisations to support their existing structures, volunteer management, and activities.

Mar 2021 - June 2023
A diverse group of individuals seated at a lengthy table, engaged in conversation


The Australian Volunteers Program is looking to support volunteerism in Laos by enhancing national volunteering opportunities and strengthening volunteering institutions. We are working with Huam Jai Assasamak (HJA), one of the largest volunteer-focused organisations in the country.

The project will test a new volunteering model in Laos, whereby HJA recruit volunteers from the Laos Australia National Scholarships (LANS) program to support program partner organisations.

In doing so, the Hub will also be testing how well the program can share our resources with other organisations responsible for mobilising volunteers.

Our objectives

  • Learn how the Australian Volunteers Program can be more collaborative in the way resources and processes are shared.
  • Ensure that HJA benefits from improved systems, processes and structure so they are able to take a lead role in national volunteering in Laos.
  • Prepare LANS graduates for real-world professional experience.
  • Establish a better understanding of the volunteering landscape in Laos while also ensuring that partner organisations benefit from engagement with both local youth and remote Australian volunteers.

Our approach

The Innovation Hub recognises the value of collaboration and is now testing new approaches to partnerships with this in mind. These learnings will be used to develop a new model of volunteering.

In undertaking this project, we are taking a two-pronged approach.

Innovation Partnership

The first part of this project is focused on the Australian Volunteer Program and HJA learning about each other, with a goal of discovering how to work together in a collaborative way. It also asks what is required for a truly collaborative innovation partnership., Throughout this part of the project, the Hub hopes to learn more about national volunteering activities and overall interest in Laos as well.

We are working with HJA to deliver specific pieces of work. This work includes information-gathering activities that research the current volunteering landscape in Laos.

The snapshot report developed from these activities will provide insight on volunteer-sending-organisations and volunteer-related activities in Laos, and will inform furture projects. It will also strengthen our overall awareness and understanding of volunteering within Laos at local, provincial, and national levels.

Sharing Resources

The second part of this project focuses on the sharing of resources. This will be through the co-development of a new volunteering model with HJA. This process will help us find opportunities to share resources that the Australian Volunteer Program has already created, rather than HJA having to develop everything themselves.

We have identified an opportunity to support HJA in placing youth volunteers on assignments with Australian Volunteer Program partner organisations. This idea centres on HJA recruiting youth volunteers from the Laos Australian National Scholarships (LANS) program, which is a DFAT Scholarship program. They will then place those students on assignments with Australian Volunteers Program partner organisations.

In developing this volunteer model, we are taking a human-centred design approach and actively involving all stakeholders in the design process. During each phase, we will develop activities to test ideas with partners and potential volunteers, and feedback our learnings into the design of the volunteer model, changing things as needed.

We have undertaken co-design activities with returned and remote volunteers who have experience in Laos This includes getting their input on further design choices for our proposed volunteer model.

In the next steps of the project, the Innovation Hub will support HJA to carry out activities with LANS students and partners. This will further test our assumptions as we continue to co-develop the volunteer model.

What we learned

  • Testing a new volunteering model while also testing how to share resources may have added unnecessary complications. It may have been simpler to test how to share resources as its own project.
  • A collaborative approach to partnerships is required within an innovation partnership.
  • It's important to challenge assumptions and ensure great work practice is being shared across more parts of the organisations. This means encouraging collaboration when making decisions.
  • When designing a project it's important to strategically move from concept to design, rather than focusing on implementation. This includes valuing the prototyping stage, as well as being open to pivoting in a new direction.

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