Code of Good Practice

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The Comhlámh Code of Good Practice (CoGP).

The Comhlámh CoGP for Volunteer Sending Agencies is a set of standards for organisations involved in facilitating international volunteer placements in the Global South.

The focus of the Code is to ensure overseas volunteering has a positive impact for the three main stakeholders: the volunteer, the sending agency, and the local project and community.

The Code has been developed in close consultation with Irish volunteer sending agencies, returned volunteers and with a range of partners that host international volunteers. It is based on the values of sustainable development, solidarity and partnership.

Right now there are 42 organisation committed to implementing good practice through the Code. We strongly recommend that you choose one of them if you are thinking about volunteering in the Global South.

The organisations commit to 11 principles:

The organisations are either a signatory, have core indicator status or comprehensive compliance status. This shows the different levels of complying with the standards of the Code:

Signatory means that the organisation shows commitment to the 11 principles of the code and are working towards implementing these principles in their programmes.

Core Indicator means that the organisation commits to the 11 principles plus implements already 18 core indicators of an effective programme. The core indicators are the ones we deem essential to run a responsible volunteering program.

Comprehensive Compliance means that the organisation commits to the 11 principles, and has a total of 37 (including the 18 core indicators) of all 44 indicators in place.

Internationally this Code has been recognised as best practice:

‘The highest-regarded set of guidelines, though, is the Code of Good Practice for Volunteer-Sending Organisations (CoGP) developed by Comhlamh, an Irish organisation’.

The Guardian 

 Which organisations have signed up to Comhlámh's Code of Good Practice?

1. Action Lesotho Signatory

2. Agape Adventures Signatory

3. AIESEC Signatory

4. Chernobyl Children International Signatory

5. Christina Noble Children’s Foundation Signatory

6. Development Perspectives Signatory

7. Draiocht Signatory

8. EAPPI    Core

9 Edith Wilkins  Signatory

10. EIL Intercultural Learning Comprehensive

11. (Friends of Londiani) – Brighter Communities    Comprehensive

12. Friends of Africa  Signatory

13. Give Ireland  Core

14. Global Schoolroom  Comprehensive

15. Habitat For Humanity Ireland  Comprehensive

16. Habitat For Humanity Northern Ireland   Signatory

17. Haven    Signatory

18. HOPE Foundation  Comprehensive

19. Immunisation For Life  Signatory

20. Irish League of Credit Union Foundation  Signatory

21. Irish Rule of Law International Core

22. Lámha Suas Signatory

23. Mellon Educate  Signatory

24. Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Volunteer  Signatory

25. Music Harvest Core

26. NUIG VSA  Signatory

27. Nurture Africa   Core

28. Operation Smile  Signatory

29. Pemba Signatory

30. SAVIO  Signatory

31. SERVE Comprehensive

32. Suas  Comprehensive

33. Tearfund Comprehensive

33. UCDVO  Comprehensive

34. Umbrella Foundation  Comprehensive

35. Viatores Christi  Comprehensive

38. VLM   Comprehensive

39. VMM Comprehensive

40. VSI   Signatory

41. VSO   Comprehensive

42. Zamda Signatory

 

See Our Code Of Good Practice Here.


 

Code Supporters Network.

Comhlamh also partners with organisations that do not directly send volunteer but wish to promote good practice among their members, helping to protect volunteers, host communities and host organisations.

 Which organisations have signed up to Comhlámh's Code Supporter Network


 

 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTOINS

 What is Comhlámh’s history with good practice standards in volunteering abroad?

As the Irish Association of Development Workers and Volunteers, Comhlámh has a long history of working with and supporting volunteers and development workers in Ireland. Comhlámh’s Options and Issues in Volunteering for Development group undertook significant work from the mid-1990s until 2004.

It questioned the changing role of the development worker and volunteer within wider debates on aid and development. The group produced a discussion paper entitled Role of the Development Worker in Relation to the Host Community (1995/6) which culminated in a video We Still Want You But… (1997). A series of training workshops were developed to encourage members of the public to critically reflect on the role of the development worker and volunteer; these workshops have been a platform for ongoing discussion in this area.

The closure in the early 2000s of the Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO), the Irish government funded volunteer programme, signaled a shift away from sending large numbers of expatriates to work in developing countries towards placing greater emphasis on working with partners. Furthermore, with an increase in public interest in volunteering overseas on a short-term basis, the role of the volunteer began to change.

This led to the emergence of many new VSAs from 2000, while other more established organisations focused on adapting their programmes to respond to this change in demand. The result was a very diverse sector—including short and long term placement organisations, professional and non-professional, for-profit and not-for profit, lay and religious—focusing on different areas of development.

Comhlámh noted that in such a rapidly changing milieu the basic core issues of development (and the needs of the local community and volunteer) can sometimes be eclipsed by more pressing organisational needs. In what was (and still is in many countries) a largely unregulated sector, Comhlámh recognised the opportunity to focus on these issues.

It encouraged Irish volunteer VSAs to work in a collaborative environment to examine current practice and construct a coherent set of principles that would create a shared vision for good practice and accountability in volunteer programming. Through working collaboratively with Irish VSAs, volunteers and representatives of local projects, Comhlámh developed a Code of Good Practice which is now recognised internationally and has been adapted for use in other countries.

 

 Who can use the Code of Good Practice?

The CoGP can be used as a tool by any organisation or group sending volunteers overseas in a development context, whether small or large, for-profit or not-for-profit, faith-based or secular. The CoGP principles and indicators have been designed to accommodate a broad range of programme types including organisations targeting volunteers participating in short-term non-professional placements, or long-term highly-skilled placements. Signing up to the CoGP and participating in the formal monitoring and validation processes is only open to organisations that:

  • Have an international volunteer programme in place;
  • Are legally registered as either a company or charity in Ireland or Northern Ireland for over a year;
  • Have had a volunteer programme operating for a minimum of a year;
  • Include a development impact / awareness focus to its programme;
  • Commit to working towards the principles outlined in the CoGP;
  • Complete and submit the self-audit tool to Comhlámh annually;
  • Attend at least one of two peer support meetings annually in the spirit of shared learning;
  • Complete and submit the CoGP self-audit prior to being reviewed for consideration as full CoGP signatory member;
  • Complete and submit a Code of Good Practice self-audit prior to being reviewed for consideration as full CoGP signatory member;
  • Actively work towards implementing the core standards outlined within the self-audit;
  • Participate in an external audit in the first year of becoming a signatory and participate in other auditing processes periodically thereafter;
  • Inform all persons within the organisation—including new members of staff—of its status as a signatory and ensure that all individuals understand and support the decision to be a signatory to the CoGP;
  • Inform all members of staff about the responsibilities and obligations of being a signatory to the CoGP.

 How was the Code of Good Practice developed?

The CoGP has been developed in close consultation with Irish VSAs, returned volunteers and through engagement with partners that host international volunteers. The process of jointly developing the principles began in 2005, indicators were formulated through a series of consultative workshops in 2006, and a self-audit tool was developed in 2007.

In 2008, external auditing of the CoGP implementation was introduced to enable VSAs to have an independent view of the strengths and weaknesses of their programmes. Additional supports were established to improve work practices and exchange of information between signatories of the CoGP. This includes a peer support mechanism which was developed to encourage VSAs to share good practice with one another and a Volunteering Options Working Group (VOWG) which convenes twice annually to guide the development of the CoGP. In 2012 core standards were introduced to ensure that all signatories of the CoGP are able to demonstrate a minimum duty of care to volunteers and the communities with which they work. In 2015 Comprehensive standard was introduced to acknowledge even deeper good practice by sending agencies.

 What are the benefits of implementing the Code of Good Practice?

  • Better experience and quality of programme for volunteers;
  • Local partners are actively involved at each stage of the volunteer cycle. This enables volunteer programmes to remain well-informed about local development and improves the overall impact of the programmes on local partners and their communities;
  • Greater credibility and legitimacy with funders, potential volunteers and the public;
  • Sharing of experiences and accessing support from other sending agencies through the peer support system and other Comhlámh supports;
  • Sending agencies refine their work practices, develop effective management styles, learn how to use resources meaningfully and improve their programmes through continuous analysis; this ensures that all participants’ needs are appropriately addressed.

 

 What responsibilities do signatories to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice have?

The ‘Code’ is a quality standard that promotes excellence in international volunteering. Volunteer sending agencies choose to become signatories to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice to demonstrate to volunteers, overseas partners, funders and members of the public that they are seriously committed to implementing good practice in international volunteering.

As a signatory to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice (CoGP) volunteer sending agencies have certain responsibilities. The volunteer sending agencies:

  • Make a commitment to put the 11 principles of the CoGP in place;
  • Submit a self-auditdocument to Comhlámh on an annual basis which gauges the extent to which they have implemented the principles above;
  • Undertake an external review of their programme with an expert consultant identified by Comhlámh approximately every three years;
  • Attend Peer Support Meetings where they have the opportunity to a) network with other volunteer sending agencies b) share tools and resources with others c) and learn about good international good practice in volunteering as it emerges;
  • Attend Issues-Based Meetings where they explore specific topics with peers and identify ways in which they can incorporate this learning into their volunteer programme;
  • Inform ensure all persons within their organisation understand and support the decision to be a signatory to the CoGP.

If you have any questions about the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice, please get in touch with Nina at Nina@comhlamh.org.

 What does signatory, Core Indicators and Comprehensive Compliance mean?

Comhlámh has started to measure how much of the CoGP is actively being implemented. The organisations are either a signatory, have core indicator status or comprehensive compliance status. This shows the different levels of complying with the standards of the Code:

Signatory means that the organisation shows commitment to the 11 principles of the code and are working towards implementing these principles in their programmes.

Core Indicator means that the organisation commits to the 11 principles plus implements already 18 core indicators of an effective programme. The core indicators are the ones we deem essential to run a responsible volunteering program.

Comprehensive Compliance means that the organisation commits to the 11 principles, and has a total of 37 (including the 18 core indicators) of all 44 indicators in place.

 

How we measure implementation

The self-audit outlines forty-four indicators—or precise forms of action—a volunteer sending agency should take to ensure that the needs of the organisation, international partner(s), and international volunteer are being met. Of the forty-four indicators, eighteen have been identified as ‘core indicators’ which are considered essential to every volunteer programme.

 

 

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