Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Strategic Interactions by International Volunteer Cooperation Organizations in the Global Development Ecosystem

Tue, July 13, 8:30 to 9:30am, Virtual 2021, 3

Session Submission Type: Panel


This set of papers each focus on the strategic positioning of international volunteer cooperation organizations (IVCOs), which facilitate international development volunteering (IDV). IDV has received heightened scholarly and academic attention since the adoption of a 2015 UN General Assembly resolution (UNGA, 2015), which makes explicit connections between volunteering and Agenda 2030, including the role of volunteering in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (See Lough et al, 2019).

The first paper, by Cliff Allum, sets the stage for this panel by introducing the historical positioning of IVCOs within the development ecosystem, and considering strategic decisions made by these organizations to remain relevant and legitimate in this often rapidly changing ecosystem. The paper draws on hybridity theory to analyze and demonstrate how leaders of IVCOs innovate and reposition their organizations, which have historically been hybridized in function between the public and the private sectors. Along with hybridity theory, this paper uses a pluralism framework to better understand why IVCOs have taken different pathways to negotiate their multiple and sometimes contradictory identities, and to maintain integrity as civil society organizations.

As one manifestation of contradictory identities and priorities, the second paper, by Benjamin Hass, examines IVCOs’ strategies and practices designed to achieve reciprocity and mutual benefit for more equal “global partnerships for development” as articulated under SDG17. This paper lays out a set of necessary conditions for successful power sharing arrangements between partners in the Global North and South and suggests practical recommendations for maintaining more horizontal and reciprocal relationships.

The final paper, by Ben Lough & Tony Fee, also touches on IVCOs’ strategic positioning around reciprocity and mutuality – but from a more normative lens. It argues that, as hybrid organizations, IVCOs must meet multiple and sometimes conflicting agendas to satisfy the demands of both the state (their primary donor), and civil society. Drawing on institutional legitimacy and social exchange theories, it argues that IVCOs often overreach to demonstrate development effectiveness while discounting reciprocal benefit to their home-country governments.

Taken together, this set of papers identifies several challenging strategic decisions that IVCOs contend with as they work to navigate their external environment by balancing global power dynamics with their internal organizational needs and national political priorities. They each challenge current practices and make practical recommendations for enhancing the viability and efficacy of IVCOs operating within an ever-changing development ecosystem.

Lough, B. J., Allum, C., Devereux, P., & Tiessen, R. (2019). The Global Research Agenda on Volunteering for Peace and Development. Voluntaris, 7(1), 113–123.

UNGA. Integrating volunteering into peace and development: The plan of action for the next decade and beyond. Resolution A/RES/70/129 adopted by the General Assembly on 17 December 2015. , Pub. L. No. United Nations General Assembly A/RES/70/129 (2015).

Sub Unit


Individual Presentations

Session Organizer