Government Support for International Volunteering

The other day I came across the Platform2 initiative. Platform2 is a UK program financially supported by UKaid from the Department for International Development. The program gives young adults (18-25), who would otherwise not have the opportunity, the chance to volunteer abroad for 10 weeks. The purpose of the program is to raise awareness in the UK of global issues and as the UKaid site states:

“It’s important that young adults understand the issues that shape the world they live in – it’s an investment for their future. We want to give young adults the chance to get involved at first hand.”

Platform2 is funded for three years (ending in 2010) and estimates sending 2,500 volunteers. Though this project is limited in scope it will be interesting to see how UKaid and the volunteers feel about the initiative and if there is a renewal of funding.  Despite the short term aspect of the scheme it is impressive that the government development agency is investing in international volunteering.

Currently, here in the US, supporters for volunteering abroad are gearing up for new legislation to support the scaling up of international volunteering. ServiceWorld, a policy planning process that focuses on scaling up international volunteering, has been taking policy agenda suggestions.

So what is the role of international volunteering in the policy sphere? Should it be used to raise awareness of global issues or as a way to build bridges and “smart power” diplomacy? Or are there other reasons for government support of international volunteering?

It will be exciting to see what comes of the new legislation proposals and to see what space international volunteering will take in US government initiatives.

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