Skip to main content

Leading change

VSO influences policy at national, regional and international levels. We bring the experience of volunteers, partners and marginalised people to decision makers.

We achieved salary reform for Cambodian teachers. In Zambia we are working towards legislation that will give marginalised people, including women, improved rights over their land. Around the world, our work amplifying the voices of the poorest is making change happen.

Children at Ngwino Nawe school in Rwanda | VSO

Children at Ngwino Nawe in Rwanda, a VSO-supported school that caters to children with disabilities. We've changed national policy on accessible education with partners like the National Union of Disability Organisations of Rwanda.

Find out about:

Making the case for UK Aid

DFID logo

Since 2015, the UK has committed to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on international aid, less than a penny in every pound of national income. For this tiny percentage of GNI, UK aid has an enormous impact - it saves a life every 2 minutes, and has a positive impact on millions of lives around the world. UK Aid in 2016 has:

  • Saved thousands of lives by helping to eradicate the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and preventing it spreading to other countries
  • Vaccinated over 67 million children to stop them dying of preventable diseases
  • Allowed 11.3 million children across the world go to school
  • Helped create over one million jobs across 70 developing countries
  • Enabled 162 million people to vote in freer, fairer and more democratic elections

This is an immense achievement that everyone should be aware of - yet it is rarely talked about in mainstream media. Parts of the UK media are stepping up their attacks on UK aid and calling for the budget to be refocused or be radically reduced.

VSO’s volunteers, partners and the communities see the impact of UK aid every day in the communities where we are working. We believe that our returned volunteers, who have first-hand experience of the impact of aid are in a uniquely powerful position to advocate and raise awareness about the progress they have seen to the UK public.

Stories directly from our volunteers who have seen aid in action:

Meet your MP 

If you live in the UK, VSO can help you contact and meet your political representatives. You can help increase political will to tackle poverty by sharing your experiences and concerns with them.

Hundreds of VSO volunteers and supporters contact their representatives about international development issues. For example, in the build-up to Parliamentary debates on the 0.7% foreign aid expenditure target. They also strengthened VSO’s Women in Power campaign, fighting for women's empowerment.

Remember: your local MP exists to represent you. Make sure they hear your story.

Find your MP and their contact details.

For more information and guidance, please email

VSO and the Sustainable Development Goals

We used our networks to influence the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is an ambitious set of goals and targets that will guide global development until 2030.

We worked hard to make sure that the SDGs recognised:

  • that achieving gender equality and women's rights is central to reducing poverty
  • that people must be engaged in their own development
  • the unique role that volunteers can play in achieving the SDGs

VSO's programmes are aligned to many of the SDGs. We are supporting volunteers, partners and communities to hold leaders accountable to their commitments.

Find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals.

Parliamentary volunteering

We support Parliamentarians to volunteer through short-term, high-impact placements. VSO matches them to programmes where they can make the best use of their skills and expertise. 

Since 2005, almost 50 Parliamentarians from the UK have taken part in the programme. They include: 

Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Disability

Volunteered with the National Union of Disability Organisations Rwanda (NUDOR), and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), helping them raise disability issues with the Government.

Kate Green on parliamentary volunteer placement with VSO in Rwanda

Kate Green MP (second from left), with group including members of disabled women's co-operative in Rwanda

I learnt as much from my visit as the knowledge I was able to share with my hosts about the UK. Indeed, many of the issues we face are the same in both countries – the stigma and social isolation faced by disabled people, the poor health, educational and employment outcomes they experience, and worries about assessments for benefits and support.

Alastair Carmichael, former Secretary of State for Scotland

Part of a VSO project in Cameroon working for Aide Legale Liberale, an organisation which aims to provide free legal representation for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

Alistair Carmichael on placement in Cameroon

Alistair Carmichael on placement in Cameroon

In the course of Thursday alone we saw orphans driven from their homes by relatives; widows deprived of their property rights on inheritance; a victim of assault in police custody; a human rights activist who had got on the wrong side of a powerful local man beaten and shot for his pains; representatives of minority ethnic communities suffering discrimination and persecution and much more besides.

Baroness Barker presents an award from VSO to First Lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma

Baroness Barker presents an award to South Africa's First Lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma for her commitment to improving health

Baroness Barker

Worked with Parliamentarians across Southern Africa to help them argue for evidence-based policies on issues of sexual and reproductive health and child marriage.

Hon. Beatriz Chaguala MP, from Mozambique, was so inspired by Baroness Barker’s training on child marriage that she replicated the training in her own community, working with over 600 communty leaders to raise awareness about the harmful impact of early and forced marriage.

All across the developing world, there are thousands of people with great ideas trying to do good work. But it's only when the voluntary sector, those who are in elected positions, civil servants and professional agencies all work together [that] you get lasting change. Politicians very rarely get the chance to talk to people and share experiences and learn from one another. It is immensely valuable.


Lord McConnell 

Completed two placements as a Parliamentary Volunteer with VSO in the Philippines.  Lord McConnell helped Beyond 2015 (a coalition of Filipino campaign groups) influence the build-up towards the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Lord Jack McConnell with VSO partners in the Philippines

Lord Jack McConnell with VSO partners in the Philippines

During my time in the Philippines I have seen the importance of organisations such as VSO and Beyond 2015. They work with Filipino volunteers and civil society to make sure this is a locally led effort. I want the negotiations about future development goals to include these local voices.