In September 2010, the Coalition Government announced plans for the creation of a new International Citizen Service (ICS). ICS forms part of a wider strategy to encourage volunteering and civic engagement – the Big Society. Increased volunteering not only benefits the communities where the projects are based, but also acts almost as an apprenticeship for social action: developing character capabilities, employability skills and a greater sense of community responsibility.

Service International provides recommendations to maximise the value of ICS and ensure its success. It comprises the most recent research on the impacts of overseas volunteering, best practice and experiences from similar schemes in other countries and primary data on the impact of volunteering overseas for alumni of programmes in the UK.

It finds that the Government’s plans for ICS enjoy widespread support – with 64 per cent of the public in favour. But to maintain this goodwill it must ensure that the programmes both have a direct benefit to the communities abroad and recruit young people who wouldn’t otherwise consider such an experience, and who would most benefit. If these conditions are met, ICS is perfectly well-placed to address the challenges facing young people today, while helping them to develop the attitude, skills and motivation to prepare them for adulthood and employment.