In September 2010, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of an international citizen service (ICS) to 'give thousands of our young people, those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, the chance to see the world and serve others'. This project will seek to generate new research and analysis into the design and cost of ICS, and with the aim of sparking a public debate about the Government’s plans.
Demos has looked at the role of a national civic service in Service Nation (2009), and specifically at the benefits of international volunteering in projects such as Human Traffic (2001) and the Edge of Violence (2010). This research will look at the potential benefits of a British ICS, how it can be integrated into Big Society initiatives, public attitudes toward overseas volunteering, best practice options of different schemes, and the cost implications.
There are three primary policy agendas that could be achieved through an ICS: creating the Big Society and increasing civic engagement; tackling youth unemployment; and contributing to international development goals. Research shows that international volunteering can have an impact in each of these areas, by increasing participants' motivation to volunteer in their local communities, helping to build self-confidence and key 'soft skills', and contributing to projects that benefit communities abroad. However, there is a question as to whether these three objectives can be achieved in equal measure, or if one ought to be prioritised. This has implications for how the programme is designed and delivered, and who it targets for recruitment.
If the objective is to develop employability skills, should the ICS target young people NEET? If so, what kind of pastoral care and learning support are required? Alternatively, if the main objective is international development, does this limit recruitment to young people who already have certain skills? The design of the ICS will vary according to the priority placed on each or all of these possible aims.
Moreover, there is already a healthy market of overseas volunteering opportunities for young people. What will be the role of a Government-run ICS? Research shows that international volunteers tend to be educated, affluent and white. Is the Government's role to widen access to young people who would not normally have this opportunity? What will be the effect of the ICS on the current market of overseas volunteering organisations?
This project will address these questions and more, through a wide range of stakeholder interviews, analysis of previous research into overseas volunteering and international case studies. The project will culminate in a report and policy recommendations released in June 2011. It is being generously funded by Raleigh International.