Community Engagement in Global Learning

Ethics Abroad

Ensuring mutual benefit and safety in global learning experiences

The Issue:

Global community engagement experiences, if not well designed, may have unintended negative consequences and fail to improve the well-being of host communities. There is an urgent international need to address this issue as pre-professional and professional students seek out or are actively recruited to participate in global volunteer experiences.

In poorly designed programs, host communities are exposed to untrained volunteers that frequently do not speak the local language, lack requisite cultural knowledge necessary for offering culturally appropriate care and provide casual labor that fail to offer sustainable care that host communities need to see substantial gains in community well-being.

Our Principles: 

  • Shared Authority between Community and University Collaborators

    An appropriate cross cultural and ethical collaboration always respects the right of the host partner(s) to define the program, including the needs to be addressed and the role of the host. 
  • Respect for Diverse Sources of Knowledge, including Expertise of Local Professionals

    All programs should value a mutuality of learning and demonstrate a respect for the knowledge and expertise of local professionals, allowing them to lead whenever possible. 
  • Respect for Governance and Ethical Standards (at home and abroad)

    All programs should demonstrate a respect for local governance and abide by the legal and ethical standards of the host partner(s) and host country(ies). 
  • Adequate Preparation and Attending to Power Differences

    In the recruitment, preparation, and supervision of program participants, every opportunity should be taken to educate and remind participants of the ethical and cross cultural pitfalls of volunteering when there are disparities in power and affluence. 
  • Emphasis on Sustainability and Continuity

    Every effort should be taken to insure the sustainability and continuity of programs [or services, projects] with the host partner(s) in order to avoid the exploitation of the partner’s needs for the volunteer’s/learner’s benefit. The absence of due diligence to insure continuity of care, sustainability of programs or maintenance of projects is unethical as well as unproductive.

  • Ongoing Assessment and Evaluation

    All programs should be periodically and systemically evaluated for impact - positive and negative - on the host partner(s) as well as the participants. 


The toolkit is a collection of resources that support the development and implementation of and participation in ethical community engagement in global learning.

LEADER - Generally, refers to individuals who have responsibility for designing, facilitating, or implementing an IUI sponsored program. This could include faculty, staff, students, or partners.
LEARNER - Generally, refers to individuals who are participants in an IUI sponsored international, community-based program. This could include faculty, staff, students, community partners, or alumni.