There appears to be little robust evidence on the impact of international volunteering on development, poverty alleviation or awareness-raising. Nevertheless, from the literature identified in this report, the following direct and indirect impacts were most commonly noted:
- Direct services related to capacity building and technical transfers
- Positive effects on host community recipients, particularly in the areas of health and education, environmental management and protection, construction and physical resources, and various social supports
- Increased knowledge of cultural differences, global perspectives, and respect for diversity
- Enhanced ability of the volunteer to solve conflicts
- Widespread and democratic participation in global affairs
- Growth of international social networks
- Improved international cooperation across borders
- Increased human capital, particularly higher interpersonal and employment skills
- Increased civic engagement
- Increased humanitarian and communitarian values and viewpoints
Some of the potential negative impacts include:
- Reproduction or reinforcement of existing inequalities
- Dependency and neo-colonialism
- Elitism or the advancement of state interests over host community goals.
Quantifying the economic value of international volunteering is a challenge because it ignores other intangibles that volunteers may provide beyond time. An alternative approach is assess its contribution in terms of social capital which focuses attention on some of the less tangible elements of the development process.