1. What is Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland?
Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland is a religiously and politically non-affiliated organisation that sends young adults abroad to do volunteer work for extended periods of time (6 to 12 months) and receives volunteers from abroad to Finland. The volunteers work in common-good organisations. The long-lasting volunteering builds intercultural understanding, offering the participants the opportunity for challenging learning experiences and personal growth.
Established in 1958, Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland is a part of the International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE) federation, which is an international cooperation network of 39 organisations. The values of ICYE highlight the building of peace and understanding between cultures. In addition to the ICYE volunteer programme, ICYE Finland receives and sends volunteers through the EU-funded European Solidarity Corps (ESC) programme. A few volunteers also arrive yearly from Germany through the Internationaler Jugendfreiwilligendienst (IJFD) programme.
Three permanent employees manage the daily operations of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland. These members of staff are assisted by a changing number of trainees and office volunteers. The board is in charge of the decision making within the organisation. Furthermore, volunteers take part in the execution of events, in communication tasks, in the interviewing of the volunteering candidates, and in school visits and camp activities.
2. The operational environment of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland*
The operation of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland is based on internationality, and hence all global trends affect indirectly and directly also the operational environment of ICYE Finland. In recent years, especially the acceleration of climate change, pandemics, the increase in inequality, and political instability have all had an impact also on the field of volunteer work. Unstable conditions affect both organisational and individual financial resources: the increasing inequality in the financial opportunities of the young people who are interested in volunteer work is even more palpable than before, and organisations need to consider sustainable solutions for the continuation of their operations themselves.
Likewise, working life is globally marked by insecurity and instability: alongside the diversification of work and learning, education is marked by the pressure to generate workforce at a fast speed. This results in pupils and students having to make future-defining decisions earlier and earlier. On the other hand, in the development of one’s learning, for example meta-skills are highlighted (especially the ability to learn). Related to this, the international volunteering programmes of ICYE Finland can be presented as a way of developing diverse know-how and skills required in working life. The long-term experiences provided by ICYE Finland can stand out in today’s fragmented society.
The rapid development of communications and telecommunications technology has affected especially the growing media transmission of individuals and the society. This is also an environment, to which ICYE Finland should pay particular attention to when developing its operations. The use of technology allows not only more close knit international cooperation, but also the reaching of a wider domestic audience with a receptive value base. While utilising the digital tools available, attention should also be paid to the quality and reach of local activities, so that the organisational operations on the one hand reach an increasingly diverse range of participants, and on the other, engage the coworkers to long-term activity within the organisation. Value based transnational cooperation between organisations and individuals is an opportunity for ICYE Finland to expand its sphere of influence and perhaps even a prerequisite for the continuation of its own operation in the fields of organisational and civil activism.
3. The vision of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland
“For a more equal world through intercultural learning”
4. The mission statement and values of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland
“Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland organises intercultural learning experiences for young adults and promotes their social growth and personal development. Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland promotes intercultural understanding, equality and peace in the world.”
The activities of ICYE Finland are based on the following values:
- Global responsibility. Participating in an international volunteer programme, international youth work and the activities of a youth organisation promotes the awareness and agency of young adults in development, equality, and environmental matters as well as their active role in the society.
- Intercultural learning. A long-term volunteer programme offers young adults an intercultural learning experience which contributes to their individual growth and provides them with new perspectives. Intercultural learning promotes equality and cooperation across cultural borders as well as supports questioning and deconstructing prejudices and stereotypes.
- Equality. Equality is promoted in all activities of ICYE Finland. Our activities advance cooperation between people with different backgrounds and deconstructs discriminatory thinking and structures. Our activities are inclusive and as accessible as possible for different groups regardless of any reasons related to their person.
In addition to these basic values, the work of ICYE Finland is defined by a set of operational values which are principles permeating the activities of the organisation:
- Caring and inclusivity. We acknowledge the individual needs of the participants in our work and offer them individual support. We enable people from different backgrounds and life situations to participate in the activities of ICYE Finland.
- Reliability and responsibility. The quality of ICYE Finland’s operations and the expertise of the organisation as the organiser of international volunteering are based on long experience and long-term cooperation networks. Monitoring the quality and ethicality of the activities is an ongoing process at the organisation. The quality and ethicality are monitored, for example, through the feedback collected regularly from the stakeholders.
- Transparence. Transparence in communications and decision-making increase the reliability and quality of our operations.
5. Strategic objectives of Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland
During the last strategic period (2016–2021), ICYE Finland focused in particular on improving the quality of volunteering programmes both within the organization and within the ICYE network, developing the recognition of volunteers’ competencies, and increasing the number of participants in the European Solidarity Corps volunteering programme. During the previous strategy period, an advocacy strategy was also drawn up and the organisation’s operations were evaluated for how well equality is achieved in them.
The objectives set in the strategy were largely achieved and all the objectives set in the strategy were taken forward. For example, the development of communications, the preparation of quality descriptions and describing quality processes for our different programmes, and the quality development work of the ICYE federation succeeded remarkably. However, some of the objectives were left partially unmet and/or left in progress. The new strategy continues to develop many of the objectives of the previous strategic period, but also includes a number of new priorities.
In the new strategic period (2022–2027), ICYE Finland aims to increase the inclusivity of its activities, in particular, and work on ways to facilitate the participation of people of various backgrounds and life situations in the organisation’s activities and volunteering programmes. In addition to strengthening the organisation’s inclusivity, ICYE Finland will continue to strengthen skills related to the themes of the previous years’ Standing Together Against Racism in Europe (STAR E) project and expertise in anti-racism activity.
Recent years have shown the important role that coworkers of our NGO and volunteers play in ICYE Finland. Committed and motivated volunteers are one of the most important resources of the organisation, which is why efforts will be made to develop the activities of ICYE Finland’s actives during the next strategic period. Recruiting new coworkers, developing the board’s self-directedness and group dynamics, and highlighting volunteers’ competencies are key ways to ensure that ICYE Finland remains a vibrant and engaging organisation for all.
The strategic objectives and special objectives (A, B, C, D) for the next strategy period are as follows:
(A) Increasing inclusivity: During the next strategic period, ICYE Finland will promote the inclusivity of its activities so that young people with special needs and/or disadvantaged backgrounds have better opportunities to participate in the activities of our organisation. The number of volunteer work placements that cater to special needs and the requirements of inclusivity will be increased within the youth exchange programmes (ICYE and the European Solidarity Corps). Employees and board members of the organisation will be offered opportunities to participate in training on inclusivity.
- We will increase understanding within the organisation about inclusivity in volunteer programmes through training and networking. In addition, we will map out our practices in relation to inclusivity, and scan for opportunities to collaborate around the theme within our ICYE and ESC networks.
- We will create opportunities to participate in ICYE and ESC networks with the aim to better facilitate the participation of young people with special needs – such as those with sensory and physical disabilities – and other disadvantaged people, in international volunteering.
- We will develop the inclusivity of the European Solidarity Corps volunteer selection process so that we can select more young people with special needs and other people with disadvantaged backgrounds as ESC volunteers. We will increase the number of inclusive volunteer placements in Finland that meet the needs of special support, and we will develop support practices in cooperation with experts.
- We will scope out the possibilities of organizing European Solidarity Corps volunteer programme co-operation within Finland (in-country) in order to involve volunteers in Finland with refugee and immigrant backgrounds. We will participate in training on the topic, and discuss with other organisations their experiences, exchange information and organize an ideation session around the topic.
- Using surveys and studies, we will map out how well ICYE Finland reaches and provides opportunities for people with special needs, such as those with sensory and physical disabilities, and how well we offer them opportunities to participate in our activities. Based on this investigation, we will develop our communication channels and methods.
- We will map out what kind of personal backgrounds are represented in our communications’ channels and how we portray them. We will diversify the portrayals of our volunteers and other ICYE Finland actors. We will develop practices to measure and evaluate our success.
- We will develop the accessibility of our communication channels, especially keeping in mind the visually and hearing impaired. We will use clear and easily understandable language. In addition to Finnish, we will communicate extensively in English as well, so that those with fewer Finnish skills can participate in our activities.
(B) Developing the antiracist competence of the organisation: We will continue developing the themes of the STAR-E project of the previous years as well as the antiracist competence in the activities of the organisation. On the organisational level, the established practices of ICYE Finland will be evaluated and the antiracist competence of the organisation improved through trainings (e.g. Peace Education Institute).
(C) Developing the activities of ICYE Finland’s board and actives: We will develop the group bonding of the ICYE Finland board and invest in the recruiting of new board members for example by organising introductory events. We will allocate funds in the budget to the group activities of the board.
- We will promote the ownership and self-management of the board and consider how its resources could be increased to develop its activities.
- We will create the role of the person responsible for group bonding who is in charge of developing the sense of community in the board, planning freetime activities for board members and improving the board’s well-being.
- We will invite a representative of the incoming volunteers to the board meetings regularly.
- We will consider ways to diversify the group of coworkers of ICYE Finland.
In addition, we will continue advancing the following goals in the present strategic period:
(D) Recognising the skills of the volunteers: We will continue the work started in the previous strategic period in advancing the recognition of the skills acquired through international volunteering and launch tools of identifying the skills acquired through volunteering activities. We will increasingly highlight the experiences of previous volunteers of the development of their skills in recruiting, communications and training activities.
- We will continue using the map of know-how (recognising the skills form) especially in the trainings and the return camp.
- We will highlight ICYE Finland as a facilitator of non-formal learning in communications and other activities.
- The goal is to increase the appreciation and visibility of non-formal learning and long-term volunteering activities.
(E) Developing the quality work of volunteering programmes: We will continue to develop the quality indicators and processes launched in the last strategic period.
- We will establish quality process descriptions for the programme of incoming volunteers, host family and volunteer placement activities and management processes.
- We will develop consistency in evaluation activities and in the use of evaluations. Evaluation and the use of evaluations has worked well for individual training, but evaluation of wider activities is inconsistent. In the coming strategic period, we will focus on broader evaluation of activities.
(F) Reaching a diverse group in Finland and developing remote and regional accessibility: a survey of the previous years’ outgoing volunteers will be carried out, and ideas will be developed on how ICYE Finland can better reach people from different backgrounds and life situations in the future. We will continue to organise the well-functioning remote activities (info evenings, language café) that were introduced during the corona epidemic. We will work to improve regional accessibility, in particular through diversified remote activities.
(G) Participation in the cooperation of the ICYE network: We will continue developing the quality of the programmes at ICYE federation level, as well as the promotion of ethicality. We will actively participate in the discussion of the expansion of programmes and activities offered for volunteers in the Global South. We will disclose in the ICYE network good practices that have emerged from the development of ICYE Finland’s quality work and promote their adoption at the Federation level.