Group Dynamics

How will the group interact?

Each group you work with on an international project will interact differently. Good internal group dynamics are ensured if there is awareness of each other and the forces in operation.

The activities necessary for effective group operation can be learned. It is usual for people to automatically assume ‘roles’ and take on ‘functions’ within the group that can help or hinder cohesion. It is important to encourage behaviours that help a group to function well. When one or several people seem to be having a negative influence on the group dynamics, Non-Violence theory encourages us to separate the ‘person’ from the ‘behaviour’. In other words don’t blame the person but address their behaviour. Sometimes having a provocative person in a group can lead to real issues being aired, leading to greater understanding and help group-building.

One of the main tools to better group dynamics is to learn and practise ‘listening skills’. This involves really listening to what the other person is saying, trying to understand where they are coming from rather than just having a conversation. We find this easy to do when we have a rapport with someone, but need to make sure we practise it with those with whom we perceive differences.

Each workcamp group will go through stages as the volunteers get to know each other better. One way of understanding these stages is to use Bruce Tuckman’s theory of group development. Tuckman described four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The descriptions which follow have been adapted from Wikipedia.


In the first stages, the team meets and learns about the volunteer project, the work, the living arrangements and will decide how to share tasks and may set up cooking and cleaning schedules. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team. Team members are usually on their best behaviour and interested in getting to know each other better. Mature team members model appropriate behaviour. Workcamp leaders will usually be directive, setting up meeting times and facilitating the development of work schedules and leisure activities.


Once the volunteers have got over their initial politeness, they will start to get to know each other on a deeper level and this is usually when differences begin to arise. The group is usually figuring out how they will interact with each other, how they will function independently and what leadership model they will accept. Team members open out to each other and confront each other’s ideas and perspectives. Individuals may become competitive or overly attached to their own ideas. In some cases, this stage can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. Tolerance of each team member and their differences needs to be emphasized. Leaders of the team during this phase still need to be directive in their guidance of decision-making and appropriate behaviour.


At some point, members adjust their behaviour to each other and develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid. Team members often work through this stage by agreeing on rules, values, professional behaviour, shared methods, working tools and even taboos. Team members begin to trust each other and motivation increases as the team gets more acquainted with the project.


High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. Team members have become interdependent. By this time they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channelled through means acceptable to the team. Workcamp leaders during this phase are almost always participative, but the team will make most of the necessary decisions.

Adjourning and Transforming

Tuckman later added a fifth phase, adjourning, that involves completing the task and breaking up the team. Others call it the phase for mourning. This can be quite a difficult phase of a workcamp. You may have developed quite strong bonds with your fellow volunteers. Goodbyes can be very upsetting and tears are quite usual. You may feel it hard to get back to ‘normal’ after such an intense two weeks, but keeping in touch with each other after a workcamp can help ease the transition.

In the next section we discuss managing conflict in groups

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Once you have finished reading through your Volunteer Guidebook and have a better idea of IVP’s goals and philosophy it’s time to consider which volunteer projects you would like to apply for.

Step one:
Check that you fulfill all necessary criteria:
• You must be a current IVP member to participate in a workcamp.
• Applicants must be 18 years or over for workcamps in Australia or Europe and 21 or over for workcamps in Africa, Latin America and some Asian countries. There is no upper age limit and older volunteers are encouraged to apply as we aim to have a diverse age range on camps. Please note that a small number of partner organisations have a maximum age limit of 28-35.
• You must be willing to contribute to the team life, including sharing the cooking and cleaning duties, and to integrate with other volunteers on the workcamp.
• Volunteers should be fit enough to carry out the work of the project and be prepared for the additional emotional challenges that arise when confronted with new people, cultures and environments.
• Some camps specifically require volunteers to have previous workcamp experience. This is usually for countries where contacts are new, where conditions are especially trying, or where there have been difficulties in the past and volunteers are needed who can use their experience to develop future work.
• Volunteers need to be flexible and adapt to their local environment. Following local customs and respecting local behaviours and beliefs is generally expected.
• At all times volunteers must comply with both local laws and minimum Australian standards in regard to the consumption of alcohol and the use of illicit substances.
• Check the official language of the workcamp and make sure you have a strong knowledge of the required language.
• Finally, please make sure you are aware of our cancellations and refunds policy found below.

There are also special conditions for volunteers applying for workcamps in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, since volunteers face extra challenges when working in less developed countries with very different cultures. For these workcamps volunteers should:
• Be at least 21 years old
• Have prior workcamp experience with IVP, SCI or a similar organisation or relevant social work experience
• Demonstrate commitment to IVP, volunteering in the office or assisting the organisation in other ways, eg, writing an article, editing the newsletter, running an IVP Infonight in your area.
• Undertake to remain active in IVP on return to Australia, and to provide a report of the workcamp.
• Demonstrate knowledge of development issues and respect for other cultures.
• Most camps in Latin America will require a good knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese, and some African camps will require French. Many of these camps may require extra documentation. This information will be on our website.
• All volunteers attending workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America are advised to read this Guidebook thoroughly to enhance understanding of IVP’s work and to assist in preparing you for living in a culture and conditions very different to your own.

AN EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE – often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. These countries have limited resources and the extra payment is a contribution towards the development and continuation of workcamps. This fee is payable to the host organisation on arrival at the workcamp. Generally, this fee is payable in Euros or $US currency and ranges between $US75-200. For workcamps in Mexico, the fee is between $US200-450.

Other things to be aware of:
On the workcamp
• Volunteers must cover their own costs to and from the workcamp and are responsible for passports and visas.
• Accommodation and food will be provided for you during the workcamp.
• There is usually at least one workcamp leader, who helps co-ordinate the day-to-day activities of the volunteers and liases with the project sponsors and local people.
• Conditions vary from camp to camp and country to country, but volunteers usually stay together (in a village hall, community centre or similar) and prepare their own meals.
• Accommodation is usually simple, a sleeping bag is often required and volunteers should be prepared for less privacy than they may be used to.
• Volunteers are generally required to work a 30-35 hour week. However, it is the right and the responsibility of the volunteer to refuse dangerous work while on a workcamp.
• Mostly, evenings and weekends are free and can be used to develop the study part or organise leisure activities. Leisure programmes and cultural activities may be organised by the host, workcamp leader, or the volunteers. Some projects require the work to be done during the weekend and in such cases volunteers will get time off during the week.
• Don’t overdo it! We recommend that you don’t do a number of workcamps in a row. Apart from possibly being physically tiring, your contribution to group life will be weakened through over exposure to intensive group work. Rest periods of at least two weeks are recommended between camps. Also, it is recommended that you don’t do more than 3 workcamps in a season.
• It is a good idea to learn about the country/situation you are applying for. If requested, we will try to assist by putting you in touch with an experienced volunteer who has been to the country or done the same type of workcamp you are interested in.
• Experienced volunteers are always needed as workcamp leaders. If you are interested please let us know. IVP holds a Workcamp Leader Training most years. For details please contact the IVP office.

When planning your overseas trip, make sure you check the visa requirements of all the countries you plan to visit. If the country you are visiting requires a visa, apply for a tourist visa. If necessary, use the term “cultural exchange” instead of “volunteer work”. Leave plenty of time for the processing of visas, as this can sometimes take weeks or even months. Conditions of entry into some countries may change suddenly, so keep in contact with embassies for the latest information.
Some countries require a ‘letter of invitation’ before visas will be granted. This will be supplied by our contact organisations in these countries.
It is advisable to apply for the visas while in Australia. To avoid long queues and hours of frustration, ring the embassy first and find out:Do I need a visa? Do I need a special invitation? How long can I stay in your country? What documents do I require? (e.g. photos, medical certificate etc)? How much does it cost? How long does it take to process? Opening hours of embassy?

A small number of workcamps require extra documentation. These could include a reference, medical certificate or a more detailed motivation letter. If you are volunteering for a workcamp involving children, or if children will be involved in activities relating to the project, you may also need to complete appropriate background checks.

IVP strongly recommends that volunteers obtain their own comprehensive insurance coverage before leaving Australia.

The SCI/IVP insurance scheme provides cover for volunteers in cases of illness, accidents or death for the duration of the camp for all our workcamps. Conditions NOT covered by the insurance policy include: Volunteers with pre-existing physical or mental conditions. Travel to and from the workcamp. Exhaustion or nervous and psychiatric disorders. Volunteers over 70 years of age. Cancellation of workcamp/project. Personal belongings.
The SCI/IVP insurance scheme is limited and should only be viewed as additional cover.

IVP encourages volunteers with disabilities to participate in workcamps and we try to make this possible wherever we can. Conditions vary from camp to camp, but generally workcamps are considered wheelchair accessible unless stated otherwise. In Part 5 of the Application Form, please give details of your disability, so that we can confirm that the workcamp is suitable.

We welcome applications from volunteers wishing to bring their children. In general, many workcamps can accept children, but please specify this clearly on your Application Form so that we can confirm that this is the case. (NB: Under 16-years-old are not automatically insured by SCI’s insurance scheme).

The idea of these workcamps is that half the participants will be over 30. This is to encourage older volunteers who may be wary of attending a workcamp where all the other participants are 18-20yo.

Select your Workcamp options
If you satisfy all the required criteria and feel able to fulfil what is expected of you as a volunteer then it’s time to decide which workcamp/s you would like to apply for.
Understanding the Workcamp Listings
Most workcamps can be found through a link on our website. Workcamps in countries that are not part of the SCI network can by found in a separate document on the IVP website. This can be downloaded and printed off for easy reference.
• The workcamps are first divided by continent and then arranged alphabetically according to the country in which they take place.
• Each workcamp is given a code which begins with abbreviations denoting the country and the organisation.
• Subsequently, camps are divided into themes which are denoted by code numbers, which are listed below. These codes are only a guide and sometimes categories overlap. Finally if there is more than one camp on a particular theme, they will then be numbered sequentially. So for example the second environmental camp in Finland would be numbered FI-SCI 6.2.
NB: While SCI is moving towards having a consistent code system between all partner organisations, some partner organisations may use a different numbering system or none at all.
• After the workcamp code, there will be the location of the camp or the actual name of the project, and then the dates and number of volunteers required.

1. Anti-racism, anti-fascism, refugees and ethnic minorities
2. North-South solidarity
3. Peace and disarmament
4. People with disabilities
5. Children, teenagers, elderly
6. Environment
7. Sexuality and gender
8. Socially disadvantaged (homelessness, poverty ) 9. Arts, culture and local history
10. Ideological and spirituality
11. Other

Please note that new camps will be organised throughout the year. Check our website for updates.

Fill out your application form
The Application Form is available on our website or by contacting the IVP office. If you wish to attend more than one workcamp, you will need a new form for each camp. On each form you should indicate your workcamp choice, giving at least three and up to six choices in order of preference. This will help your application to succeed.

Fill in the Application Form on both sides, with a black pen. Nominate the camps you wish to attend in order of preference. Attach extra sheets for the motivation section (Part 8) as well as a photo, and don’t forget to sign the form.

Return completed forms and application fee
Applications must be received at least 6 weeks before you travel for applications to workcamps in Europe, North America or Thailand, or 8 weeks for workcamps in other overseas countries. Applications for workcamps in Australia must be received at least 3 weeks before the camp start date.

$350 full price, $300 concession
$250 early-bird application for Australian workcamps (at least 6 weeks prior to start of camp)
$200 for each additional workcamp application processed concurrently
In order to receive a concession rate you must send a copy of your concession card.
In the event of genuine hardship, there is one scholarship available to subsidise an Australian workcamp application. Ask about it by emailing
Volunteers who have contributed to IVP for at least 3 months or 40 hours are eligible for a special rate of $120 per workcamp.
Workcamp leaders on Australian workcamps who have completed a Leader Training Course with IVP or SCI will be exempt from paying the Application Fee.
IVP is run predominantly by volunteers and relies on contributions from members to keep the organisation running. Your Application Fees go towards administration of exchanges, communication charges, managing the information database, volunteer insurance, and developing and organising Australian workcamps.

An EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. See information on previous page under Special Conditions.

You may pay you application by cheque or postal order (payable to IVP) or by electronic transfer (EFT).
If you choose to pay by EFT, the details are:

Account Name: International Volunteers for Peace Inc
Bank: Bendigo Bank
BSB: 633000
Acct No: 156815888

Please use your surname as the reference code so that we can track your EFT. Please add any extra information that might be necessary for us to understand what your deposit is for. Eg, if you are a concession and wish to pay for a workcamp AND membership, please put this information in the reference field with your surname.

The following describes IVP’s processing time-line. Feel free to contact the IVP office if you have any queries regarding the application procedure or wish to know how your application is progressing. Please bear in mind that the IVP office is staffed entirely by volunteers.
• Once your complete application form is received (including signature, any extra documents and applicable fees) you will be sent a receipt and an email of acknowledgment.
• We will then begin processing your first choice by sending your application to the appropriate partner organisation.
• They should reply within two weeks of receiving the application. If you are not accepted on your first choice, your application will be immediately forwarded to your second choice, followed by your third choice if necessary.
• You should receive notice of which camp you have been placed in within three weeks.
• With your acceptance will be a confirmation form, which needs to be completed and returned as soon as possible. Please note that your place is not secure until this confirmation form has been received.
• When you have confirmed your participation, you will receive the workcamp information sheet which will contain more details on what to bring, travel directions and meeting place.

IVP is a small, not-for-profit organisation. It cannot accept any liability for inconvenience caused or costs incurred, other than the application fee, in the event of cancellation, either by you or of the workcamp itself. (Please see the section on Insurance).

The following Cancellation and Refund Policy applies to all workcamp applications. Please note that these are the policies for 2008, but could change in subsequent years.

Workcamp preferences unavailable:
If IVP cannot place you on any of your workcamp preferences, you are entitled to a full refund of your application fee, minus an administration fee of $15.

If the volunteer cancels after being accepted into a work camp:
• giving notice more than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – 50% of the Application Fee will be refunded
• giving notice less than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – no refund of Application Fee

Situations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, if extraordinary circumstances can be established.
Workcamp cancellation:
In very few instances, workcamps may be cancelled after volunteers have been accepted. If this does happen, we will make every effort to find a suitable alternative workcamp for you. However, if the workcamp is cancelled close to its scheduled commencement, we may not be able to offer you another camp. If we cannot offer you another camp, we will fully refund your Application Fee minus an adminstration fee of $15.