Father and son in the Philippines
VSO/Lisa Marie David

The ACTIVE Programme

Active Citizenship Through Inclusive Volunteering and Empowerment

April 2022-2025

uk aid logo

The ACTIVE programme is supporting the development of active citizenship across the Global South so the world’s most marginalised people can lead their own development, claim their rights to better public services, and hold people in power to account.

Building on the success of the Volunteering for Development programme, the three year UK government funded programme works towards four goals.

Programme aims

Volunteer speaks with a primary actor

ACTIVE aims to reach 2.5 million people across 19 countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, eSwatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia - by mobilising marginalised groups, such as women, young people and those with disabilities, to act on the issues that are most important to them and their communities.

This funding will help strengthen locally led organisations and create a culture of active citizenship – where marginalised people actively engage with their own development - whilst building the capacity of the UK’s partner countries to respond to the needs of their citizens across healthcare, education and livelihoods.

Creating long-lasting change

The ACTIVE grant will contribute to creating more inclusive, open, resilient, and equal societies. It supports marginalised and vulnerable people to take action on development issues that are important to them. 

The programme will strengthen civil society and build a culture of volunteerism and civic engagement, whilst also building the capacity of governments and service providers to respond to the demands of their citizens.  

By enabling people, and in turn, their organisations and communities, to play a more active role in development, ACTIVE will continue to provide the means to achieve more sustainable change. 

How ACTIVE works

Community volunteer
Lisa Marie David

The ACTIVE programme works to support both the ability of people to have a voice with decision makers, and with service providers and those in positions of power (eg local authorities) to deliver better services in a way that is inclusive and accountable to marginalised people.  

The programme will provide leadership and influence to ensure that governments, private sector and civil society organisations, can use volunteering policies and practices to support marginalised people to participate in development processes in their countries through advocacy, sensitisation, and uptake of the Global Volunteering Standard - a global set of standards that supports responsible and impactful volunteering.

The programme will also strengthen the evidence and knowledge base on the volunteering for development approach in building the agency of local people, and in the ability of service providers to respond to their needs.

Advocacy and activism

The ACTIVE programme supports marginalised people to take action in their own communities on issues that are identified by them and important to them.

Youth volunteer platforms have played a critical part in strengthening local and national climate resilience programming and advocacy capacities in Kenya.
Fridah Okoma
Youth climate champion

In Zimbabwe, Kenya and the Philippines, VSO is helping communities to adapt to the impact of the climate crisis through cultivating locally led solutions. We're supporting farming collectives to grow alternative sources of food which are more climate resilient.

In Kenya, climate youth champions have raised awareness and trained youth on agroecology via webinars. They have also conducted research on the state of food systems and organised dialogues and stakeholder forums to discuss their findings and generate action plans for the priorities that emerged.

In Zimbabwe, VSO is working with partners to hold those in power to account through citizen-led monitoring and dialogues, to improve delivery of public services. VSO is working with several local and international organisations as well as the agriculture ministry, to elevate the practice of agroecology and contribute to the formulation of a national agroecology policy, bringing in the voices of small holder farmers. 

In Mozambique and Malawi, VSO uses youth platforms to equip communities with assessment tools, with youth volunteers leading climate-related loss and damage assessments. VSO’s climate champions are also taking leadership roles in international spaces to engage governments in implementing their climate commitments.

In the Philippines, VSO has been supporting local policy and climate resilience forums, bringing together local communities with decision makers to ensure that local eco-tourism sites can bring mutual benefits to local people and the environment.

Watch the impact ACTIVE is having in the Philippines

Engaging governments and the people in charge

Community Volunteers on the way to the clinic
Chosa Mweemba
Zambian community volunteers Regina, Charity and Catherine on the way to youth friendly sexual health clinic.

Across six countries, ACTIVE is supporting volunteers to monitor disruptions in the provision and uptake of local health services.

Community volunteers are trained and supported to monitor the provision of family planning, essential medicines and other key services. The volunteers are supported to consult with local communities using scorecards, and then share their findings in dialogues with health providers.

In Kenya, Zambia and Malawi, VSO has been working to prevent the spread of cholera following an outbreak which has affected over 4,000 people. Volunteers have been sensitising communities on infection prevention and control, and have been promoting safe water and hygiene practices and uptake of the vaccine.

Watch how this work is being carried out in Zambia

Following devastating floods in Pakistan, communities came together to build temporary learning shelters for local children to ensure that they did not miss out on their education. Built with climate resilience in mind, these shelters also offered protection for the local community after the floods.

Helping children get back to school in Pakistan

In Sierra Leone, youth volunteers were trained to conduct research with community members and people with disabilities on the implementation of the government’s national policy on inclusion in schools. They presented their findings about the lack of training and understanding of teachers to government officials.

Setting the standard for volunteers globally

VSO is supporting governments, INGOs and institutions around the world to help ensure that people volunteer responsibly and safely, doing no harm to the communities where they work, through the adoption of the Global Volunteering Standard.

So far over 60 organisations around the world have adopted the Global Standard, including the African Union.   

VSO is also working with governments to support them to develop national policies and guidelines to enable and promote volunteering in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Providing the evidence and showing what works

VSO is working to increase evidence and understanding on the effectiveness of the volunteering for development approach in citizens' empowerment and system's accountability.

Long-term volunteer Rea Torres, ICS team leader Torom Justus and SAP corporate volunteer Nadja Attianeze Barreto
VSO/Georgie Scott

Volunteering Together: Blending knowledge and skills for development

This research project by VSO and the University of Northumbria, examines the value that different kinds of volunteers can bring to development projects by working together.

Regina and her sister Charity laughing

TALK II project evaluation of adolescent sexual health rights

In Zambia, many adolescents and youth have unmet needs for access to contraception, and inadequate knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). VSO's TALK II project enhanced the SRHR services and practices using a unique technology, Talking Books.

Volunteer Raj in the Kathmandu VSO office with staff members.
Suraj Shakya

Research and evaluations

Transforming evidence into knowledge for impact.