Challenges Worldwide ICS works to ensure that  people can earn a decent living

Welcome to Challenges Worldwide ICS

Challenges Worldwide ICS (International Citizen Service) is a development programme led by VSO and funded by the UK Government. It brings together young people to fight poverty in developing countries. 

Challenges Worldwide ICS is a once in a life-time volunteering opportunity open to all 18-25 year olds. It’s your chance to spend 12 weeks living overseas. You will be part of a team UK and local volunteers empowering small-medium sized enterprises to seize their future and create lasting sustainable change within their communities. 

You don’t need cash or qualifications to take part, just the ambition to make a difference.

What will I achieve?

As a Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer you will work with businesses and enterprises to help them grow so they can provide a fair income and one day employ others and improve the local economy.

We believe that everyone should be able to earn a decent living and become self – sufficient, because no one wants to rely on charity or aid. A secure income is the first step to ending the cycle of poverty and building the local economy.

A key aim of the Challenges Worldwide ICS programme is to help build people’s skills so they can get a job after their placement – we are committed to the personal and professional growth of our volunteers. Because of this we have developed our programme around a level 5 in Professional Consulting accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).


What is involved in the volunteer placement?

Week 1: Orientation Training

  • The first week of your placement is dedicated to orientation training.
  • You will cover topics such as cultural realities and business training. This allows you time to settle into your new surroundings, get to know your team, and learn more about the rest of the project.
  • During orientation volunteers are matched up with an in-country counterpart who will be their partner for the duration of the project. We will find out about your skills, experience and business knowledge in order to match you with your partner and business placement

Week 2 – 5: Analysis

  • You and your counterpart will spend 4 days per week working with a small to medium enterprise. You will follow a structured approach to gather information, conduct analysis and implement recommendations to help improve the efficiency of the businesses and move them towards investment readiness.
  • You do not require prior knowledge in these areas: As a Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer you will have access to online learning content, tools and resources. You will receives continuous support from team leaders, remote mentors and staff.
  • For 1 day a week your whole team will meet together to hold team meetings, receive business training sessions, and work together on community action projects. Team meetings are an opportunity to update each other on business placements, share advice and support each other. The team also plan and hold Community Action Days throughout the cycle – this will allow you to use your skills and interests to work together on a shared project
  • Challenges Worldwide placements use the structure of a widely recognised Chartered Management Institute (CMI) qualification. These resources and activities are delivered through weekly sessions and are designed to support the work volunteers carry out in their businesses. At the end of the project all volunteers are invited to complete an assignment and gain the CMI qualification at a discounted rate exclusively for Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers. 
Previous volunteers have worked with everything from businesses producing natural fruit juices, coffee liqueur, healthy fast food, bio-mass for clean energy, fashionable clothing and many more!

Week 6: Mid Programme Review

  • After spending 5 weeks observing and performing analysis on your business, you will begin to make OARSs (Options, Analysis and Reccomendations) for your business.
  • MPR – (Mid Programme Review) is your teams opportunity to get away from the city and reflect upon your experience so far. You will take part in reflective group exercises and take this opportunity to present you OARs to the rest of your team to gather their feedback before taking these to your business owner in week 7. 

Week 6 – 11: Implementation

  • You will spend the remaining 5 weeks working with your business to implement the changes you have recommended. 
  • It may be difficult for you to measure your impact within the business during this final part of the programme so we encourage you to stay in contact with your business by following them on Challenges Marketplace as we continue to work with them to reach their goals. Your role here is to get the business on to the runway, ready for trade or investment.

Week 12: Debrief

  • Debrief will be your chance to review the whole programme as a team whilst cementing the friendships you have made.
  • It is a great opportunity to get all of your businesses together to showcase their products or services and highlight the recommendations that you and your team have made. 

You will have the weekends free to spend time with your host families and team mates. We suggest you relax, and catch up on laundry! You may request approval from Team Leaders and In-Country Staff to organise group trips to experience and enjoy the culture of the city you are living in. 

Where will I stay?

RS272_15 ICS Ghana 47911 e1447109474190
  • All volunteers live with their counterparts in a local host family home. Host homes have been carefully selected and thoroughly risk assessed to ensure they are safe and comfortable for volunteers to live in.
  • Host home accommodation may vary, but is likely to be basic. It is likely volunteers will share a room with another volunteer of the same sex.
  • Volunteers live and work in an urban environment in the capital cities of each placement country. We strive to place volunteers in host homes located as close to their business placement as possible.
  • Host families invite volunteers into their homes for 12 weeks, which this is an amazing opportunity to spend time with locals and learn about the culture and traditions of the placement country. Volunteers are asked to respect host homes and follow all rules agreed with the host family

Challenges Worldwide Ghana Host Home Cribs - Episode 1

Meet Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers as they let us in to their Ghanaian host homes for this very special edition of Cribs

What happens when I get home? 

Your Challenges Worldwide ICS journey doesn’t stop at the end of your overseas placement. We support all ICS volunteers to complete an “Action at Home” project. This is your chance to carry on making a difference, inspiring and engaging people in your own community and bringing about positive social and economic change.

After your placement, our Challenges Group Portfolio Managers will continue to support the enterprises to maintain the improvements you have made, help them to make further developments towards the trade or investment deal that they seek. We encourage you to stay in contact with your business owners, you can follow them on Challenges Marketplace, and of course stay in contact with your team mates. 

A life changing experience

when I moderated the Zambian Youth Summit with Tilvas, a Zambian counterpart

“ICS was an unforgettable experience that has personally developed me and my enterprise for the long term. I have made lifelong Zambian and UK friends. I am never going to forget this life changing experience.”

Christina, Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer in Zambia


“Before I did the programme, I was unsure of which career path I should take.  I have gained some clarity on this issue through the placement activities and interacting with people. I was also not as confident in public speaking and networking as I am now.”

Sangha, Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteer in Uganda 

A significant investment is made to allow all volunteers the opportunity to take part in the ICS programme, and Challenges Worldwide have a duty of care for the safety and wellbeing of each volunteer. The ICS programme goes through rigorous risk assessment and emergency planning to ensure the safety and security of every volunteer. Volunteers are required to agree to and sign a Code of Conduct during Pre-Departure Training, and are required to follow these rules during their placement. The code of conduct and the safety of all volunteers is taken very seriously: a disciplinary process is in place, and any breaches of rules or safety measures may result in the dismissal of volunteers

Before, during and after your placement you will benefit from Challenges Worldwide’s 3 tier support system which includes: 


UK Delivery Staff

All of our delivery team have completed ICS placements across the globe.

Feel free to ask us      Contact details can be found here

In – Country Staff

Each country has a dedicated Manager.

There is at least one Programme Coodinator in each of the communities that we work in

ICS Team Leaders

ICS Team Leaders are also a volunteer looking to build their leadership skills.

On your placement there will be one Team Leader to seven volunteers

If you are interested in joining Challenges Worldwide ICS please follow the link below!



Our programme is funded by the UK Government, so you don’t need cash to take part!