“What is our IVS?”

‘If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.’ (Aboriginal activists group, Queensland, 1970s)

What is International Voluntary Service (IVS)?
International Voluntary Service (IVS) has since 1920 sought to respond to the prevalent issues of society on a local and global level, it aims to pursue peace and promotes non violence through international understanding, mutual respect, friendship, exchange and cooperation among the people of the world. IVS is a vehicle for non-formal and informal education and acts as a catalyst for change within individuals and in communities giving people the chance to participate in meaningful, productive and socially useful work as active members of society. It promotes the participation of all regardless of gender, skin colour, religion, nationality, age, ability, sexual orientation, social status or political views and any other possible grounds for discrimination, in a spirit of true equality and the recognition of the right of others to dignity and respect. IVS promotes social and climate justice, human rights, sustainability, critical thinking, active participation, global citizenship, democracy, shared and intercultural learning and helps to break down prejudice and stereotypes. It contributes to the Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

How does the IVS Movement work?
The IVS movement works based on a spirit of reciprocal international cooperation between non governmental, not for profit, grassroots organisations sharing a common vision and working in local host communities in over 90 countries. IVS organisations are gathered in networks, where decisions and ethical working standards are built democratically and decided in assemblies with respect to cultural and organisational diversity. It is an exchange organised locally, coordinated nationally and realised globally. Volunteers apply through a sending organisation and are received by a host organisation. The IVS movement strives for a world where relations are characterised by equity, social justice, active involvement and a sense of community empowerment. It provides people with the means to understand and act in order to positively transform the social, cultural, political and economic structures that affect their lives at all levels. IVS supports resilience, acts for solidarity not charity and seeks to create a world of mutual respect and understanding.

The Volunteers
Volunteers are people acting on self-initiative for the benefit of civil society, who offer their knowledge, time and energy, within the framework of a cooperative social effort, without seeking material reward or replacing paid labour. Voluntary service is based on the idea, that working together on a concrete task is one of the most effective ways to create friendship and understanding. The projects serve as a basis for dialogue, an opportunity to work according to each person’s ability and to practice learning by doing and living together for periods of 2 days up to 1 year. In such situations national and international volunteers experience a new reality which can challenge their habits and convictions. Our impact research proves that IVS provides enhanced self-confidence and strengthened personal, interpersonal and social competences, volunteers learn that through active participation in IVS projects they are able to create change.

Core elements of IVS
1. Volunteers devote their knowledge, time and energy, to work actively for the community,
2. Activity done as an activist and without being paid nor replacing paid labour,
3. Mutual interest. Volunteers develop new friendships and intercultural learning,
4. Project based on needs from local community as the basis for sustainable socio-economic progress,
5. Vehicle for non-formal/ informal education and encourages reciprocal international co-operation,
6. Encourages global citizenship and promotes peace, justice and sustainability,
7. Working on a global partnership in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.

For full version of “What is our IVS?” paper, please click the file below