Volunteer in Economic Development Abroad

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A Guide to Volunteering Abroad in Economic Development

Volunteering abroad is a great way to make a difference in the world, and when it comes to economic development that difference only increases. Those who volunteer abroad in economic development should be devoted to helping communities and increasing the standard of living and economic health of local people. Economic development volunteers can expect to interact with locals on a daily basis as they help increase access to various valuable resources for community members. Although volunteers will be sharing their own talents, they will also be learning from locals every minute!

Why Volunteer Abroad

Volunteering abroad in general is a rewarding journey that not everyone takes the time to complete. By volunteering abroad in economic development specifically, you will gain a new perspective on the issues facing our world today. Being exposed to economic concerns and society issues that exist outside your own country will allow you to become a more culturally sensitive and globally aware individual.

Economic development projects and programs are becoming increasingly crucial for low-income communities around the globe. While some countries have benefited greatly from globalization in recent years, others have lagged behind and are in immense need of international aid to build up their economies. In this way, volunteering in economic development abroad will allow you to share valuable skills you have learned through your personal experiences, education, and profession, which means you’ll be leaving a long-term impact on the communities you work with. Skills that may be beneficial to communities in need include financial management, project development, marketing and communications, and much more.

Volunteering abroad in economic development is a great way to show future employers that you are committed to helping others, willing to tackle any challenge that comes your way, and that you are able to interact with people from different backgrounds. These are all essential characteristics employers look for in future employees across fields.


Although there are countless options when it comes to where to volunteer abroad in economic development. Typically developing countries are in the greatest need for economic development programs and projects, due to the obvious fact that they lag behind in terms of societal growth and development.

Countries in Africa are some of the most common places for volunteering in economic development abroad, which is most likely due to  the region’s history of inequality. Those who choose to volunteer in Africa can expect to work toward initiatives related to HIV/AIDS, food security, water distribution, education, program development, and agriculture. By volunteering in economic development in Africa, volunteers will support and empower local communities to begin to help themselves and overcome obstacles to their success.

South America is also home to many impoverished communities, both urban and rural, in need of economic development programs. If volunteers already know Spanish and wish to go to a Spanish-speaking country, volunteering in South America may be one of the best regions to searching for programs in. Volunteers in South America can expect to focus on areas such as micro-financing, leadership training, artisanal and construction projects, eco-tourism, and teaching English to local leaders.

Surprisingly, various countries in Europe, though already well established, offer opportunities to volunteer in economic development. Volunteers in Europe will likely be working with specific underprivileged populations or low-income communities through placement with NGO organizations. On the other hand, by volunteering abroad in countries with stable economies, volunteers will be able to learn more about the components required for successful economic development. Volunteers will also have the chance to learn more about historical trends in development and how to apply these in other countries. Projects in Europe usually focus on business and financial development.

Volunteering in Economic Development

Economic development placements span a range of project types and programs, from working in local villages to develop entrepreneurial skills to developing a marketing plan for a local NGO or working on accounting procedures for new small business. Regardless of the placement, volunteering in economic development will place volunteers in a supportive, nurturing role in communities abroad.

Placements can last anywhere from one week up to multiple years, depending on how much time volunteers have available or if they can afford to do an extended stay. Each placement may require varied amounts of previous experience, but for the most part experience in not required to volunteer abroad in economic development. In some countries, there many be a minimum language proficiency requirement (but not all!).

When it comes to placement types, individuals who volunteer in economic development most often work with local or national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which focus on a wide range of areas, that may include social services, health services, teaching and education, or financial projects. Within this realm, volunteers may choose to work with an organization or community that focuses on a certain type of economic development. An example of this may be a placement related to information technology (IT), where volunteers may help educate local communities and provide technical training.

The second most popular type of placement for volunteering in economic development abroad is in business development, where volunteers may work in chambers of commerce, embassies, or tourism centers to build up local sources of economic growth. Volunteer work in business development may range from administrative tasks to translating official documents.

GoAbroad Insider Tips

Helping Local Communities. Volunteering abroad in economic development is important in the lives of volunteers, but it is even more impactful for beneficiary communities. By donating your skills, you will be providing locals with a background to further continue their growth and success in the future. Passing on your skills will also allow them to teach others, and the learning will continue for generations. Many volunteers will find they take out much more than they expected on a personal level, because of the lasting impact they realize they are providing.

Creating Connections. Volunteers will be interacting with local people on a day-to-day basis and creating lifelong personal relationships. However, they will also be interacting with and working for local organizations, that may prove to be helpful additions to their professional networks later in life.

Tangible difference. After volunteering in economic development abroad, you will be able to show concrete evidence of the improvements the community has made (ex. if you worked on a financial project, you can show how you helped improve their budgeting).

You never know where your next step in life might take you, but volunteering in economic development abroad is sure to prepare you for many career paths and life experiences down the road!

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A Guide To
Volunteering Abroad in Economic Development


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