Develop or self-develop

Who is the volunteer in relation to colonial history?

Background of the seminar

Colonialism created the political and economic context, in which we live today: Some countries have accumulated resources and wealth over centuries, while other countries have been colonised, their resources exploited, their cultures destroyed and their people murdered, marginalised and structurally discriminated against. Countries of the Global South are still today disadvantaged in their participation in the global economy and in international organisations – and people of colour still face discrimination based on the concept of “race”, which was made up by the colonisers. In order to change the heritage of colonialism, we need to create global justice.

International volunteering takes place in this context: White Europeans go as international volunteers to the Global South, often with neo-colonial motivations of imposing Western values and mindsets onto local realities. In this seminar, international volunteering and youth organisations will gather to discuss, learn and exchange about this issue. Some questions that we ask ourselves and that we would like to discuss in this seminar are:

  • How can we as international volunteering organisations respond to colonial mindsets and motivations of volunteers and make them aware in an appropriate way about the power structures at hand?
  • (How) Can we work with ideas of “development” and “self-development” in a constructive way?
  • How do we make volunteers active citizens around global justice rather than passive believers of colonial narratives of developing, helping and saving?
  • How do we as critical volunteering NGOs relate to commercial organisations around us that do not critically prepare volunteers (“volontourism”) – should we compete with, ignore, collaborate with or train them?

As an outcome, we will create a new 4th version of the toolkit “Picturing the Global South: The Power Behind Good Intentions”, which SCI Austria has been creating with a series of post-colonial seminars in the past few years.

The online seminar

The seminar “Develop or self-develop – Who is the volunteer in relation to colonial history?” will take place on 12-14 March and 18-21 March 2021 from 13:30-17:00 Central European Time (CET) (find out what this is in your time zone here) on the video platform Zoom with an optional evening hangout as well as with individual tasks to do in the morning.

You need a good internet connection that works with video calls, a camera and microphone. If your internet connection is too slow for video calls, please let us know in the application form and we might be able to cover the costs for a better connection for you for the time of the project.
It is crucial for us that you are motivated to participate throughout the whole project, that you are not missing on any day of the project.

Participant’s profile

The participants will be staff, activists and volunteers from volunteering and youth organisations. All participants will be expected and stimulated to contribute to the activities and discussions. They are very welcome and invited to come up with their own ideas and present some methods or workshops they are experienced in and they want to share. Please contact us in advance to tell us about it and we will see how it can fit best in the seminar agenda. 🙂

All participants selected for this project must meet the following criteria

  • be 18 years old or older
  • work with volunteer management or sending volunteers as well as voluntary leaders
  • be able to work in English
  • be interested in the seminar topics (volunteering in a North-South context, colonialism, global justice) and have a strong motivation to act as a multiplier
  • commit to implement the learned knowledge and skills in practice back home
  • commit to be present in (almost) all sessions of the seminar
    We explicitly encourage participants of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, races and ethnic backgrounds to apply.

How to apply?

Applications should be sent to your sending organisation (find it here), which will each select their own participants and then forward the applications to SCI Austria. All those accepted will later receive a detailed infosheet (incl. info on how to access the seminar, more info about the agenda of the project).

Deadline for applying is 14 February 2021.


If you have any questions regarding the project and your application, don’t hesitate to contact Sara :

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