Cosmopolitan development : The impacts of international volunteering.

Project Details


The Cosmopolitan Development Project provides new ways of thinking about the impact of international development volunteering. It examined how volunteering contributes to more equal partnerships between Australia and its neighbouring countries and how it transforms the ways volunteers and host organisations perceive and respond to global challenges. The program will run between 2012-2015.

Key findings

Building partnerships through IDV
Volunteerism works through relationships. AVID volunteers spend significant amounts of time and effort to establish good and productive relationships with host organisation staff. Most host organisations value relationship building highly. Relationships are the conduit for capacity development and the ‘stuff’ of the people-to-people links that are IDV’s principal objectives. Both volunteers and host organisations describe the relationships they build as equal and mutually beneficial – qualities that characterise a true partnership. IDV programs such as AVID are therefore part of the global push for a shift from donor-recipient relationships to equitable and mutually accountable partnerships. They contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 17: ‘a global partnership’.
Capacity development and reciprocal learning
Capacity development through IDV is mutual rather than one-sided. Host organisations gain specific skill and ideas that help them innovate and work effectively in a global environment, and these capacities are more sustainable if they are acquired through collaborative work rather than formal training. The research found that volunteers also develop their capabilities by gaining valuable soft skills, international professional experience and specific country knowledge that are useful for living and working in a global world. This outcome, and the contribution of host organisations to it, should be acknowledged as a positive impact of IDV.
Developing cosmopolitan orientations
The research confirms previous findings that IDV assists in promoting a positive image of Australia overseas. But it also found more far-reaching impacts on the orientations of volunteers and host organisation staff towards development, volunteerism, and engaging with other cultures. IDV offers volunteers opportunities to practice and gain a reality check on their openness towards other cultures, as well as developing their intercultural competencies. Host organisations enhance their ability to engage effectively with foreign development actors by developing and practising different cultural repertoires and opening up to new ideas and knowledge. 
Short titleR:HDD Cosmopolitan
Effective start/end date1/07/1230/06/15

Collaborative partners


  • volunteering
  • development

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global inequalities
  • Global Development Institute


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