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Social return on investment

Commissioned by VSO, and delivered by NEF Consulting, the ICS Social Return on Investment Evaluation explores the long term return on investment of youth volunteering, and the socio-economic value that volunteers generate for themselves as a result of the skills and experiences gained from ICS.

We believe in the value of volunteering, recognising that the experiences of volunteering, and the skills developed, are crucial for a young person’s personal and professional development. The ICS Social Return on Investment Evaluation (PDF) demonstrates that ICS volunteers develop important skills in confidence and networking, while engaging more than other young people in their local communities as active citizens.

For every £1 spent on the programme, an estimated £4.64 in social value is created.

Key findings

Social return on investment

Female volunteers crouch down and pose for a photo
© ICS / Nicholas Seun Adatsi
Female volunteers experienced a higher impact than male volunteers as a result of taking part in ICS.

The ICS programme is estimated to have created benefits equivalent to £176,962,812 for UK volunteers at a total cost of £38,166,808. The SROI ratio is 4.64:1, meaning that for every £1 spent on the programme an estimated £4.64 in social value is created. 

Female UK volunteers and UK volunteers from lower income households experienced higher levels of impact from the ICS programme. Female volunteers derived a higher estimated impact from ICS than male volunteers and this was mainly due to a high proportion of female volunteers stating that ICS had improved their confidence. 

UK volunteers from lower income households who had received free school meals also saw a much greater impact on their confidence and active citizenship relative to those who had never received free school meals.

Deaf volunteers from the UK and Kenya raising awareness of deaf rights, as part of a project tackling disability stigma in the Nandi County region
Nearly half of all volunteers said ICS had increased their confidence 'a lot'.

Increasing confidence

Increase in confidence was one of the most widely reported changes experienced by UK volunteers.

When asked about the effects of their ICS placement, nearly half of all volunteers stated that ICS had influenced their confidence ‘a lot’, while only 18.1% of volunteers responded ‘not at all’.

Developing networks

UK volunteers reported that they had kept in touch with other ICS volunteers.

82% of UK volunteers reported that they had kept in touch with both UK and national volunteers, with only 3.5% of volunteers having no contact at all with their team following their placement.

Volunteer Miriam stands holding a poster in the middle of a shopping street
© ICS / Jack Howson
Miriam Foreman, 20, took part in training on how to talk to the public about UK Aid.

Becoming active citizens

UK volunteers were involved in higher levels of active citizenship post-placement than is found generally amongst 16-24 year olds in England.

Of the volunteers who did voluntary work during the 12 months after returning, 93% did at least as much before their placement began, and 38% reported that they did ‘a lot’ more. The number of volunteers who engaged regularly with at least one organisation rose by 7.5% post-placement, and volunteers who reported at least one form of regular civic engagement increased by 7.2%.

Improving cross-cultural communication

UK volunteers improved their ability to work in a multicultural environment.

The rate of volunteers indicating that they felt confident in communicating with people of different backgrounds rose by 4%, by the end of the ICS placement. Understanding that their communication style should be adjusted when working cross-culturally rose by 18.9%, 12 months post-placement. 

Read the full report

Download the full report, VSO International Citizen Service: Social Return on Investment Evaluation (PDF)

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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