PhD Student Leads Initiative for Erasmus+ Program

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awarded a $15,000 grant for its research and advisor role in the framework of the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union.

Francesco Volpini, PhD student at the School of Social Work and former Director at the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS), will be serving as principal investigator in the new “STEP” capacity building initiative, under the supervision of Associate Professor Benjamin Lough.

The project, coordinated by CCIVS and approved by the European Commission with an award of $160,000, will involve non-governmental and volunteer-involving organizations in 21 different countries and territories in all regions of the world.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the only higher education partner of the initiative, will coordinate the research elements of the project. The methodology for this research uses innovative participative approaches for both data collection and analysis, focusing on the development, adoption and adaptation of common impact measurement tools by international volunteering practitioners in diverse socio-economic and cultural contexts.

Mr. Volpini will be part of an international team that will conduct experts workshops, fields visits, trainings and dissemination events throughout 2017-2018 in 21 countries: Argentina, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Republic of Korea, Spain, Thailand, Togo, Uganda.

The researchers will use quantitative and qualitative methods to assess volunteers’ learning and competencies developed during their service abroad, as well as complementary outcomes such as community empowerment and resilience. The research will pay particular attention to the processes and mechanisms needed by local practitioners to use new knowledge about international volunteering to integrate and implement evidence-based and culturally-relevant interventions in their programs.

The “STEP” project builds upon a prior initiative funded in 2011 as part of the European Year of Volunteering and the United Nations’ International Year of Volunteers +10, in which Dr. Lough and Mr. Volpini participated as expert researchers. It also follows from previous regional initiatives implemented in Europe and Asia by international NGOs: CCIVS, Solidarités Jeunesses (France) and Better World (Korea)

This new global partnership, established in the framework of the Erasmus+ Program and in cooperation with the European Union Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, further advances the School of Social Work’s emerging reputation as one of the global research leaders on international social work and volunteering.