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Instruments and structures of development cooperationGermanyconcluded

The Volunteer Service “weltwärts"

The development volunteer service "weltwärts" aims to enable young adults to act with global solidarity and responsibility. DEval examined how assignments abroad affect the attitudes of young people and how they pass on the experiences they have gained to other people in German society. The evaluation was completed in 2017.

The development volunteer service "weltwärts" was founded in 2007. It is the largest international youth volunteer service in Germany and one of the largest development youth volunteer services worldwide. At the time of the evaluation, more than 30,000 young people had already been assigned to German development cooperation partner organisations. weltwärts provides young adults the opportunity to work and learn in development projects for a period of six months to two years.

Their weltwärts assignment enables volunteers to learn and align their actions with aspects of global solidarity and social responsibility. Beyond that, they should also motivate other people in Germany - for example through their civic engagement - to think about global sustainable development and development policy after their return home. Thus, returned volunteers are said to contribute to development education in German society by passing on their experiences.

Results and Recommendations

Through their assignment abroad, weltwärts volunteers acquire country-specific knowledge and language skills.

After their service they also have a more positive attitude towards people from their country of assignment, are able to adopt their perspective and gain empathy towards them. However, their competences and positive attitudes towards people from other cultures in general do not change. Attitudes towards a multicultural German society also remain unchanged.

Compared to the average of the population, volunteers are on average already more civically engaged before they leave the country.

After their return, however, they focus their engagement more strongly on development issues. They also pass on their knowledge and their changed attitudes and competencies towards people from the country of assignment to their social circles.

DEval recommends to continue the program. However, all participating organisations should jointly formulate realistic goals and design the programme accordingly.

Contact opportunities with people from partner countries should be extended and the structure of the return phase should be improved through systematic offers. In addition, the effects of the programme should be reviewed regularly.


The evaluation was completed in 2017. This is a summary of the results and recommendations; you can find the complete results and recommendations in the report.

Objectives of the Evaluation

The aim of the evaluation was to examine the effectiveness of weltwärts on volunteers, and in Germany. The focus was on volunteers and their role after their return. Among other things, their individual learning experiences and personal changes, as well as how their experiences are passed into German society and affect it were to be examined.


The Gemeinschaftswerk [collective venture] "weltwärts" is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by more than 150 civil society sending organisations and their partner organisations. It is jointly steered by BMZ and interest groups representing the sending organisations and volunteers and is coordinated with the support of Engagement Global.

weltwärts aims to give young adults the opportunity not only to get involved in development projects in partner countries during their stay abroad, but also to develop on an individual level. Due to their civic engagement in Germany after their return, weltwärts volunteers also contribute to development education in German society.


A mixed-method design was used. Quantitative and qualitative methods are combined to triangulate results from different methods and data sources.

At the core of the methodology is a quasi-experimental design based on cross-sectional surveys. For this purpose, all volunteers who have returned at the time of the evaluation as well as those who were leaving the country, plus a representative comparison group of similar persons from the general population were interviewed in online surveys. Group discussions with returning volunteers also helped to identify factors that were affecting and influencing individual changes that occurred. The discussions also provided information on how volunteers perceive the opportunities and limitations of their commitment.

In order to examine the impact on the environment, among other things, a survey of the friends and families of the volunteers was conducted. In addition, the participating civil society sending organisations were asked about their role in the implementation of the programme and their assessment of weltwärts.

The evaluation was completed at the end of 2017.


Portrait von Dr. Jan Tobias Polak
© Deval

Dr Jan Tobias Polak

Senior Evaluator, Team Leader, Anti-Corruption Officer

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-967

E-mail: tobias.polak@DEval.org

[Translate to Englisch:] Portrait Martin Bruder
© DEval

Dr Martin Bruder

Head of Department: Civil Society, Human Rights

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-970

E-mail: martin.bruder@DEval.org

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