'Inclusive Volunteering for Global Equality' IVCO conference' Report

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Last October’s 'Inclusive Volunteering for Global Equality' IVCO conference was an important moment for our sector. We came together, virtually, to confront and unpack critical questions of equality, diversity, inclusion, decolonisation, directionality and digitalisation.

Conversations that were sparked at IVCO have continued within the organisations that took part in the conference, and in Forum’s Community of Practice on Diversity and Inclusion. We believe they will emerge again as part of a wider conversation on the future of volunteering in development at IVCO 2022 in Senegal.

Today we are proud to launch the report of IVCO 2021 conference, compiled by Benjamin Haas of the University of Cologne. The report draws out key points, arguments and good practice from IVCO 2021, and plots a way forward for our sector. Benjamin has also produced a slide show which summarises the content of the report. Additionally, we have compiled the research and think pieces from IVCO 2021 into one digital volume.


The IVCO conference Inclusive Volunteering for Global Equality IVCO 2021 was hosted online by ActionAid Hellas from the 16th-20th October 2021, in Thessaloniki, Greece. This fully digital conference brought together heads of agencies and other key stakeholders from volunteering for development organisations from around the globe. IVCO is the annual conference of the International Forum for Volunteering for Development (Forum) and stands for “International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations’ Conference”. The theme of IVCO 2021 was Inclusive Volunteering for Global Equality and was framed by three sub-topics: Decolonisation, Digitalisation and Directionality.

The questions of how volunteering for development (V4D) can embrace all forms of diversity and how it can ensure that “no one is left behind” were the main focus of IVCO 2021. Therefore, the different thematic sessions connected broader debates around diversity and inclusion with discussions on the decolonisation of V4D programmes and organisations. While diversity and inclusion have to be analysed in the context of local or national efforts around including a diverse group of people in volunteering programmes, decolonisation draws attention to historical legacies, post-colonial power relations and structural racism on a local and global scale. Both debates are ultimately centred around questions of power, privilege, structural discrimination and mechanisms of exclusion and were therefore addressed jointly at the conference.

IVCO 2021 aimed to link both debates by inviting researchers, practitioners, and volunteers to exchange best practices, discuss the barriers preventing inclusive volunteering on the part of institutions, societies, organisations, and volunteers, and recommend solutions. Over the course of these sessions, not only opportunities and challenges of the sectors’ digital transformation were discussed, but also the possibilities of new models and directionalities to no longer restrict V4D to sending volunteers from traditional donor countries in an effort to connect international, national and local volunteers for more sustainable impacts – in the spirit of decoloniality.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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