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VSO’s Diaspora Volunteering Initiative

Brian Rockliffe, Director of

International Volunteering, VSO
Who/What is Diaspora?

• Self definition – people who see themselves as

part of a Diaspora - not synonymous with BME
• De-territoriality – must have current or distant
origins in a country other than the ier country of
• Homogeneity – relating to a group/organisation,
not individuals. Not synonymous with ethnicity
e.g. can have Asian Diaspora from East Africa.
• Hybridity – emotional, family or financial links
with country of origin
Context – Diaspora in UK

• Alienated from both government and

mainstream NGOs (seen as pursuing their own
agendas and not inclusive of Diaspora voices)
• Particular alienation in context of UK as former
colonial power – and strong sense that Diaspora
communities have distinctive understanding and
contribution to make
• Diaspora communities often generous in
financial support to countries of heritage – both
through remittances and through small local
• Intra Diaspora conflict over scarce resources
Why invest in Diaspora volunteering?

• Diaspora people and communities also

motivated to fight poverty through
• Motivated to mobilise skills for
international development
• Also wish to build real connections for
young people with their heritage
• VSO wish to increase the overall impact
of volunteering and make it more
VSO’s Approach in UK

• Work in creative partnerships with

Diaspora organisations to build capacity
to run their own volunteering programmes
• Technical support and training in
volunteer management skills
• Limited direct financial support (£1/4m)
but programme funding support and
lobbying government for funding
• Facilitates learning and collaboration
between Diaspora organisations
Criteria for Work

• Diaspora organisations (not individuals)

• Volunteer Focus – challenges of
• Poverty focus and Synergy with VSO
• Driven by UK Diaspora but based on
needs overseas
• Operates in countries where VSO can
provide support
• Can be groups of skilled people or
separate placements
Diaspora Case Study - AFFORD

AFFORD supports Entrepreneurs and

Enterprise Development in Africa with a
focus on job creation as a route out of
• Volunteers provide business training and
mentoring services
• Business development centres
• Targets disadvantaged communities
• increase access to financial services
• Diaspora investment club planned
Different Approach in Canada

• Very different context - large Guyanese

community in Toronto happy to work in support
of VSO’s own programme in Guyana
• Pilot project matches the skills and experience in
the Diaspora to the under-resourced social
development sector in Guyana
• Includes both government and civil society
organizations (CSOs) working on social
development objectives related to improving
public education, and strengthening health and
human rights support for people with disabilities
UK – Progress to Date

• Initial research with Diaspora community to

shape VSO’s engagement - > 50 organisations
interested in participation
• Five organisations short listed for initial phase,
over 100 Diaspora volunteers have completed
placements (in Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone
and India) since 2005
• Now working with 9 additional organisations to
research or pilot programmes including Nepal,
Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tanzania,
Malawi, Nigeria and Rwanda
• Awareness raising events in UK communities
UK - Challenges

• Negotiating Diaspora sensitivities around

working with large development
organisations (fear VSO will ‘take over’)
• Tensions between DVI programmes and VSO
country programmes where both are
working in same sector and sometimes with
same partners
• Funding - though there is now DfID
commitment to funding
• Encouraging partnership working between
Diaspora organisations

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