Factors behind internationalisation processes in voluntary organisations – Unit 2 – Module 1

Complex Toolbox for Volunteers

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In this lesson will see which are the main reasons why voluntary organisations all around the world keep internationalising, as well as different examples of internationalised voluntary organisations.

[nextpage title=”Which are the main reasons why voluntary organisations internationalise?”]

Globalisation has brought a lot of economies the chance to prosper, creating business networks and providing needed resources, as some kind of exchange between different countries. However, it has also created inequalities, as undeveloped countries have seen how richer countries take advantage of their resources without obtaining fair prices or developing advantages with those trading operations. This has led to an increase in poverty levels in already poor areas of the world, weakening the political institutions of those countries, which, in most cases, cannot provide cases the basic services needed by their population. This is where voluntary organisations play a part.

As researchers Betty Plewes and Rieky Stuart have stated, “Organisations send volunteers to participate in programs to reduce poverty, promote social justice and/or contribute to peace. They identify partner organisations often in civil society, but sometimes in the public and private sectors which host the volunteers. There is often considerable emphasis on skill transfer and strengthening organisational capacity”.

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In the lesson “Defining Internationalisation”, we concluded that a good definition for that term 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”.

If we try to study this topic, gathering articles and information about it, we see that it seems to be exclusively related to business: The internationalisation of enterprises. This can be explained because it has been deeply analysed by researchers and professors all around the globe, but only in regard to economy, trading and business. The lack of resources (either raw materials, customers, market…) and the willingness to grow continuously pushes a lot of enterprises into internationalisation. So, why would voluntary organisations be interested in it? What are their interests? What are they looking for?

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Voluntary organisations differ from enterprises both in terms of interests and goals, as their capability to grow is not so heavily dependent on internal resources, but rather on its capability to create and maintain links with people and other organisations, in order to get more funds and donations, improving its installations and reinforcing its activity. This causes, as we have argued in previous inits, that voluntary organisations willing to spread on other countries incur elevated costs when searching for funds and new donors, as well as managing those new funds. Notwithstanding, when an organisation achieves a significant internationalisation level, the donor’s network that has created during the process, as well as the partners met, will reduce costs and provide more powerful sources of resources, improving its capability to conduct its activity or purpose.

On the other hand, voluntary organisations seek new opportunities to bring their activity and be useful.  Therefore becoming an international organisation opens the door to a wide variety of undeveloped regions, which do not have strong institutions providing the services and the help that those organisations can provide. These organisations will look for areas that need their activity, as well as suitability for an international project to be conducted (donors, volunteers, political stability…).

The following graph shows the growth process involved in internationalisation, where each of the circles represent a reason to internationalise:

As we can see, organisations have several reasons to internationalise, which are, moreover, correlated to each other. It is a complex process that involves different actors and factors, where each step reinforces the following one. The first thing that happens when an organisation starts a project in another country is that its visibility and recognition grows exponentially, as a lot of people get to know the organisation, its purpose and its members. This will lead to the creation of a new network, based on people from that country and other organisations with similar or complementary purposes. This network will be the key to success in the internationalisation process, as it provides the help and support needed to overcome the risks that it brings to an organisation.

New potential donors and funders will appear thanks to that network and the visibility gained with the process. This is a crucial factor of the process, as it is needed to face the extra costs that internationalisation will bring to the organisation at the beginning. The immediate consequence of this is gaining access to more resources, better installations and improving, in general, the efficiency of its use.

This process will finalize with your organisation developing more capability to provide its activity and fulfil its purpose. That is the main consequence and reason for an organisation to internationalise: improving the impact on the target group and contributing a lot more with the aimed objectives.

For a more detailed approach to why your organisation should internationalise, you can check Learning Unit 1. On the other hand, for a more detailed analysis on the benefits of internationalisation, as well as its risks and other concerns, you can check Learning Unit 3.

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We have talked quite a lot about building partnerships and its importance in the internationalisation process. But the question is: how do you build a partnership from scratch?

To begin with, we have to identify and search for potential partners for our project. We can conduct a local research or use tools like LinkedIn or Google to find who we are looking for: maybe similar organisations, legal counsellors, other NGOs… it depends on our needs or interests. The most important thing, however, is making the first call: contacting potential partners and explaining them your project can be tedious and difficult, but it is actually the fastest and easiest way to start creating your network. After that, it could be a good idea to conduct a meeting and specify together the ideas and questions related with your project.

When building partnerships, it is crucial to take into account your partner’s point of view: Is it going to benefit from the partnership? Is it interested at all in participating in your project? You need to select partners that fit best with your organisation and the given project you are starting in their country, as these kinds of partnerships will lastlonger and provide better results for both organisations.

Another important thing that you have to notice is that you will start working inside a partnership, not alone any more: this implies agendas, shared working plans, deadlines and commitment. Moreover, a follow up of the state of the project and the partnership itself would be ideal. A Quality Plan being the best option for this kind of projects.

[nextpage title=”Different examples of internationalised voluntary organisations”]

In the following chart we will describe some examples of international voluntary organisations. These organisations were originally based only on a country, usually where they keep their management institutions and headquarters, but then went international, currently offering their volunteers international opportunities and different programs in several countries around the world.

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http://forum-ids.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Forum-2007-Future-Trends.pdf –  Opportunities and challenges for international volunteer co-operation.

https://www.volunteeringoptions.org/international-volunteer-organizations/ – A great portal concerning international volunteering offers and organisations.

http://personal.lse.ac.uk/lewisd/images/Volunteering%20-%20Vol%20Action%2006.pdf – Globalization and international service: a development perspective

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