Defining Internationalisation – Unit 1 – Module 1

Complex Toolbox for Volunteers

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In this unit we will provide a definition of internationalisation, we will analyse why you should internationalise your organization, and we will also answer the question: Does everyone benefit from internationalisation?

[nextpage title=”A definition of internationalisation”]

The internationalisation of organizations, enterprises and other types of associations is a complex process, which can be explained from many different points of view depending on the context given.  Therefore, providing a simple and easy to understand definition can be quite challenging.

An initial approach to a definition of this phenomenon could be the following: The internationalisation of organizations/enterprises is the result of the implementation of several different strategies which take into account the resources and capacities of the given organisation/enterprise, as well as its own opportunities (and threats) in its international setting, with the objective of moving its activity, either totally or partially, to that international setting, generating different kinds of flows (knowledge, resources, financial…) between the countries involved.  Or, in other words, to go global.


This set of international operations leads the way to the establishment of different links between that enterprise/organisation and international markets, but this does not mean that non-profit organisations, as we will see next, are outside of this reality: Considering their goals, related  to solidarity and international cooperation, such organisations are actually really prone to growing inside their own international “markets”. This growth is explained because of the high demand of those kind of services nowadays existing in underdeveloped countries.

Therefore, if we focus on non-profit organisations such as voluntary organisations, going international is actually growing exponentially through the creation of international links and the implementation of their activity in other countries and situations, developing specific projects either alone or with other partners in those countries. This will increase the reach of its actions and provide access to more resources and funds, as well as visibility in an international setting, increasing awareness about their field of work. Onn the other hand, costs will rise as a result.. The perfect balance between those extra costs and the extra funds obtained will be the key to success when internationalising your organisation, as we will see in the following units.

[nextpage title=”Why should you internationalise?”]

Nowadays, the phenomenon of globalization is a reality that a lot of enterprises around the world are facing. Their traditional production and commercialization processes are now being questioned by this new reality, and the unstoppable search for more productive and efficient models inevitably leads them to foreign markets. But this reality, notwithstanding, does not only affect commercial enterprises and businesses: Non-profit organizations and other types of associations are currently facing the same challenges, looking for better ways to communicate and increase their effectiveness and efficiency, no matter what their target is or what specific field they work in.

In the last decade, the importance of this kind of organization has risen. However,, in most cases, this development has been based purely on social criteria. Despite that, the economic pressure nowadays suffered by these non-profit organizations has also increased, which is caused by their funders demanding a more efficient use of resources and more transparency in their finances. In other words, this kind of activities, while being non-profit, need to be conducted in the most efficient way possible, assuring a correct use of the resources provided.

An efficient approach to the funds and other resources donated to an organization can be useful, as well, to increase the reliance and attention that this organization has within society. This is a crucial factor, as it will help to increase the engagement of more donors and resources and to decrease the dependency that most of these organisations usually have with public funds and aid.

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So the question is: why should you internationalise your organisation? We can summarize the information given thus far as following:

  • To gain visibility internationally, increasing social awareness in society of the specific topic attached by your organisation.
  • To increase the number of potential donors and their engagement with the purpose of the organization.
  • To increase the impact of your organisation, reaching out to more people needing your work in other countries of your international setting.
  • To get to know other organisations and associations with similar or related purposes (creating your own network), and thus gaining access to collaborations.
  • To increase potential income of funds and other resources.
  • To obtain greater profitability of the use of those funds and resources.
  • To acquire prestige and recognition
  • To reduce costs.

As we will see later, with internationalisation come several benefits, but also some risks. This is  one of the most important issues to be aware of when thinking about going international. This topic will be discussed on the Learning Unit “Benefits and risks of internationalisation”.

[nextpage title=”Does everyone benefit from internationalisation?”]

To answer this question, we need to identify the main stakeholders involved in the process:

  • Organisations: They are the key point of internationalisation, and the success or of that process depends almost exclusively on them. As previously discussed, internationalisation brings several considerable benefits to organisations, such as gaining visibility, reaching out to more donors, gaining access to more resources, developing their activity in other countries and therefore reaching wider target groups, increasing the efficiency of their use of resources and funds, acquiring recognition and reducing costs.

However, it has to be considered that internationalisation brings extra costs and management procedures for the organisation. Non-Profit organisations usually base their funding on donors and small funders, that selflessly provide their small contributions to the organisation. This can also be noticed by the dependency of these organisations on volunteers. With this in mind, creating projects in other countries normally needs prior funding, related to the search and engagement of new donors and funders of that country. The management of those funds will also increase, both in workload and costs. We will discuss these risks in the following units.

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  • Volunteers: One of the most interesting consequences of internationalisation is the possibility of creating a network between different organisations of different countries, sharing knowledge with them and learning about thei approaches to our field of work. In this respect, volunteers play a huge role: New people from other countries have the chance to get engaged with the organisation and its social purposes, and both new and current volunteers of the organisation can share an international experience, getting to know each other.

Another important aspect of achieving an international setting with your organisation is the attractiveness that it will gain for new volunteers: An organisation that develops different projects in different countries, with the possibility of engaging in those projects internationally and working with people from different countries is incredibly attractive for new volunteers. Also, the recognition and visibility that your organisation will have when going international will also help to both increase the engagement of current volunteers and increase the chances of gainining new people for the organisation.

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  • Target group: Each organisation works with a different target group and has a unique and distinctive approach to it. With internationalisation, the possibility to reach out to more people to take benefit from your selfless work becomes a reality, increasing its number exponentially. Sharing your knowledge and collaborating with different partners of your international setting also provides the chance to share your target groups, and for them to benefit from that collaborative work.

Another important consideration is that with proper internationalisation development comes an increase in funds and resources, which is translated almost immediately into a better and more useful work with your current (and new) target groups, no matter what specific sector of the population it is or the purpose of your organisation. With those extra resources, more activities can be conducted, an improvement of your installations can be achieved, and even more dissemination and promotion activities can be arranged.

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  • Donors and other funders: Lastly, for donors and other funders, internationalisation brings them recognition and confidence with your organisation. Seeing how their small donations are converted into big projects, not only in their countries of residence but also in others’, with the collaboration of different organisations like the one they are currently supporting, that share common goals and purposes, brings donors a feeling of satisfaction and joy, as well as improving their engagement with your organisation and its purpose.

On the other hand, disseminating your activities and the purpose of your organisation in other countries helps to increase the number of donors and funders to your projects, as more people get to know your work and organisation. Furthermore, being an international organisation attracts much more selfless funders, who will contribute in acquiring the resources, installations and materials needed for your activities.

[nextpage title=”EXTERNAL RESOURCES”] – The Internationalisation Process of Enterprises (SP) – The main conceptual approaches explaining company internationalisation (SP) – Managing risk and knowledge in the internationalisation process – The Enterprise Internationalisation (SP) – A Theoretical approach to Business Internationalization (SP) – Globalisation and Business Development through internationalisation (SP) – Relation between internationalisation and efficiency in non-profit organisations (SP)