We’re all about journeys at IVHQ. Journeys inspire and challenge us, they open our minds to new ways of thinking, and they push us to question the status quo.
As an organization, we’ve been on a journey since the day we accepted our first volunteer in 2007.
Back then, unless you could commit to volunteering for an extended period of time, volunteering abroad was expensive and there was little transparency about where the high fees were going. Before IVHQ founder Dan Radcliffe set up the organization, he had a volunteering experience that made him realize a better model was needed - the costs were astronomical and everything he paid appeared to be absorbed by the company, instead of being directed into the community that he wanted to support.
He established IVHQ on the founding values of affordability and transparency because he wanted volunteers to be able to easily tell what a program would cost, and what potion of this cost would be spent in the local community.
Our journey since 2007 has been equal parts rewarding, inspiring and challenging and we’re proud to say that we’ve now supported more than 40,000 people to volunteer abroad.
That’s rewarding because it confirms Dan’s founding belief that volunteer travel should be accessible and affordable to everyone, it’s inspiring because I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that our volunteers have had in communities across 27 countries, and it’s challenging because with size and influence comes great opportunity and also an ever-increasing responsibility to our volunteers and to the communities they work in.
As we celebrate this milestone our team are focused on looking ahead and ensuring that IVHQ has a strong plan for cementing our leadership, not only as an affordable volunteering organization, but also one that’s responsible and focused on supporting sustainable development. Dan commissioned a review of IVHQ’s practices in this area about this time last year and I’ve joined the team on a permanent basis to ensure this is prioritized.
Firstly, the numbers. To put this ‘40,000 volunteers’ milestone in context, we’ve developed the following infographic. It highlights some of our achievements to date:
Secondly, the journey ahead. We’ve provided five key metrics in this infographic and they are primarily focused around the broad economic impact that our IVHQ volunteering programs have had over time, and a simple assessment of the opportunity for positive social impact that we’ve enabled.
It’s a basic report but we see it as a starting point to bringing greater clarity to the impact that our volunteer programs are having. We know that volunteers want to learn more about the long-term impact that their contribution to a community or a conservation project has had, and we’re on a journey to delivering clearer, more detailed information about this. Here’s our plan:
Defining Need and Purpose
We’re not a development organization, but I believe we can provide better information about why our volunteering programs exist, and what social or environmental needs they aim to support. To establish this, we’re working closely with our local partners and a range of other stakeholders and we’re going to define the purpose of each program clearly and openly on our website.
Measuring and Reporting Impact
Building on the economic metrics that we’ve already established, we’re going to define the social and environmental impact that our programs are having locally. There are very few volunteer travel companies that are able to report on the impact that their volunteers have had in terms of supporting local needs, and this is a key target for our journey ahead.
It’s an ambitious plan, and I don’t presume that any of it will be easy, but I think it’s an important next step for us and I’m confident that’ll this transparency will provide volunteers with yet another reason to choose IVHQ.
Focusing on Training
I think volunteers need to have the right mind-set and need to do the right preparation in order to have a valuable and responsible impact. That’s why I’m excited about launching our new online training tools, available exclusively to IVHQ volunteers.
We’ll provide regular updates as our plans develop, and as our journey continues. For some background on our approach to responsible volunteering, have a look at these pages.