Growing Community Volunteering

Understanding how we might support partners to strengthen community volunteering practices.


For the past couple of years, international development sector actors globally have been exploring community and national volunteering - from conceptual and practical perspectives – to tackle systemic challenges, such as local leadership, self-determination and power balance, also referred to as decolonisation.

As a proactive measure, Growing Volunteering at the Community Level aims to understand if and how the program could support our partner organisations in their use of local volunteers, particularly in the civil society and non-government sectors.

The outcomes of this work may result in contributing to increasing the scope, quality, and inclusivity of volunteering practices globally.

What we're aiming to learn

  • How can the project contribute to a better understanding of community volunteering in our partner countries?
  • Do our partner organisations desire to grow or commence community volunteering?
  • What are the opportunities to support partner organisations in their use of community volunteers?
  • What may a global support framework for locally tailored volunteering look like?
  • What a good practice in promoting country leadership may look like?
  • How can we build staff capability in innovation?

Our approach

The workstream follows a robust co-design methodology for social innovation and prioritises in-country expertise to build equitable relationships with our key stakeholders. Our in-country teams as co-designers are stepping through different stages of the project – discovery, design, test – to build solutions that are based on research data and iterated according to our stakeholder feedback: partner organisations and the program staff.

During the initial discovery stage (what is?) 11 in-country teams conducted design research to gain insight into the key question: How might the program support our partner organisations in their use of community volunteering?

In the concept development phase (what if?) the co-designers – five in-country teams - prioritised two solutions to further develop and test as a potential support service for the community volunteering in our partner countries.

In the next phase (what works?), the teams will be live-prototyping the global support service concept in order to gain learnings, iterate and develop recommendations to the program and DFAT.

For this project, we use the terms "community" and "national" to describe a mode of volunteering. Within this project, the terms refer to a volunteer's connection to the country. More broadly, we aim to avoid using "local" as an umbrella term when referring to people and programs around the world. The question we ask to support this choice is "local to where?"

Growing Community Volunteering Process

What we learned so far

  • Trust and country-context knowledge, held by in-country staff, play an important role in success of the project.
  • Partner organisations are willing to contribute to program initiatives.
  • Partner organisations expressed a desire for support in volunteer management processes.
  • Our partner organisations have diverse needs, thus there is not one singular community volunteering support service that could meet the needs of every partner organisation’s needs.