No degree? You can still volunteer for DfID under new scheme

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening meets with returned volunteers of International Citizen Service during the launch of ICS Entrepreneur. Photo by: ICS

The U.K. Department for International Development has launched a new volunteering program — but this time the agency is specifically looking for young Britons to provide basic business training to small and medium enterprises in developing countries.

Under the International Citizen Service Entrepreneur program, people aged 18-25 can gather global perspective in running businesses, while at the same time sharing management and entrepreneurial skills learned from home to businesses in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

Youths in the same age bracket in these countries are also eligible to apply, but DfID will prioritize recruiting applicants with relevant skills and experience in marketing, finance and human resources to ensure that businesses in developing countries will benefit from the volunteering program.

Interested individuals will first undergo an assessment to see how they can adapt to working in a new culture and meet the challenges.

Those selected will then have a pretraining in the United Kingdom and one in-country following placement, which could last for a week and will include health and safety measures, working cross-culturally and team building.

DfID has not specified how the assessment will be done, although it is understood this will be spearheaded by the program's partners — VSO, Raleigh, Challenges Worldwide and Balloon Ventures — which will also be responsible for assigning the volunteers to each microenterprises or SME.

No degree required

Each volunteering placement is expected to last for 10-12 weeks, which from the onset may appear too short.

A well-placed source at DfID told Devex that volunteers will be required to complete a project at the end of their placement. In addition, it's likely that succeeding volunteers will be placed with the same partner organizations and could then carry on what the previous volunteers have started. So for instance, if the first batch of volunteers did a needs analysis, the second batch could move to the planning phase and start project implementation, and the third batch could then be expected to do monitoring and evaluation.

The program, which has a budget of 3.5 million pounds ($5.8 million) and aims to mobilize 400 young people until September 2015, is expected to be beneficial to volunteers and those small and medium enterprises where they will be placed. Our source tells us the program has three important goals: poverty alleviation, personal development of both British and in-country volunteers, and getting some 14,000 people worldwide to engage in active citizenship.

It’s an offshoot of a similar VSO-led program launched in 2011, which has a larger scope and covers 24 countries in all, but DfID has decided to introduce ICS Entrepreneur to specifically tackle unemployment, a rising key challenge in many of the countries where it operates. This is however a pilot scheme, and any decisions to extend it beyond 2015 will depend on independent evaluations of the program.

Many have hailed the thinking behind the new scheme — although how beneficial it will be to the businesses it aims to help remains to be seen. DfID only expects volunteers to have the relevant business aptitude, and it would be a plus if they have valuable work experience, but they don't necessarily need to have a degree. It is however notable that such program fits into the donor's increasing focus on using its aid for private sector development and economic growth.

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See more:

7 ways volunteering can advance your development career
Volunteering: It's not just for college students and recent grads
Volunteering: Gain experience while doing good
How to turn that volunteer gig into a paying job
A twist of fate: From volunteer to country director in Kenya

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.