The Immersive Possibility of ‘Digital Space’

Gabriel Reed, Director of Education and Volunteerism at Via International

Via International’s focus on the intersection of Community Development and Voluntourism is founded on 40 years of listening to communities, experimenting, learning, and developing human capacity for social impact. We believe that when people thrive, communities thrive. Inspiring youth through community engagement is one of the cornerstones of our program. Supporting and promoting local individual engagement to thereby build individual and community capacity for change is another. We’ve learned that our ability to accomplish this meaningful impact is due in large part to the strategic partnerships that arise from our social field. This is precisely why we are so thrilled to partner with Know My World, whose digital platforms for exchange and growth provide a new horizon for integrating ‘digital space’ with the immersive possibilities of our transformative learning program (Voluntourism).

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We live in a society focused on individualism, consumerism, and technological progress that has led to a state of environmental degradation, rampant inequality, lack of personal responsibility and loss of connectedness to community, nature and one’s self. Concurrently, a great need exists for individuals to volunteer in their community in order to fill the gaps created by such inequality. However, many people who wish to create change in their lives or communities do not have access to systems that can facilitate their voice being heard and many creative solutions and participatory processes that exist at the grassroots level need to be recognized and nurtured to have a greater positive effect in the community. At Via, we are consistently focused on leveraging impact through multicultural experience and as we look to the future, we ask, What’s beyond voluntourism? The answer, lies at the crossroad of realizing the potential of digital space, education, and travel, all while focusing on community needs met through participatory development practices.

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By partnering with Know My World, Via International hopes to pioneer a way forward that awakens a global capacity to transform our collective response to this important moment in our shared history. Both of our organizations share a pivotal, mission-­based focus on promoting enriching opportunities within and beyond standard curriculum and/or travel. We imagine transforming educative experience and community development as parallel and reciprocal achievements—each needing the other to bring change into the social field.

Over the coming year, we are excited to begin the initial phases of testing our model of participatory community development, complemented with cross­-cultural learning and digital exchanges. We hope that together we can expand upon creative community processes and share them with a broader audience.