Creating reciprocal, responsible and meaningful partnerships is at the core of what we do at Unearth the World. After all, we believe that it is these quality partnerships with amazing international nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that sets us apart from other volunteer placement organizations. So, to ensure that we are truly engaging and benefitting our international partners in an appropriate way, we have created guidelines and a process for forming and maintaining these important relationships.

Unearth the World was recently asked to share our philosophy about creating these reciprocal partnerships with 25 faculty at Cornell University. As our founder, I was honored to share Unearth the World’s story and outline how creating meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with international organizations is the bedrock of our mission. Speaking to such a prestigious group was a wonderful opportunity and I really loved the process of articulating this crucial part of Unearth the World’s model.

If you are interested, click here for a brief 5 minute clip of the Cornell presentation

In the past year, Unearth the World has learned a great deal about what constitutes reciprocal community partnerships (and what does the exact opposite!!). After speaking at Cornell, we realized that we should be sharing our learnings with the Unearth the World community and supporters! So below, we have summarized the five aspects of meaningful community partnerships that we have found to be absolutely crucial! This list is not all encompassing so please let us know what we may have missed! Email, Tweet at us, or post on our Facebook page to continue the conversation….


  1. Reciprocity – It is essential to co-create goals and projects with your community partners to try to ensure that the relationship is equally benefitting each organization. For Unearth the World, this starts with finding the right partners by carefully considering what we have to offer. And, it continues by ensuring that we send qualified, trained and informed volunteers.
  1. Communication – When working with international organizations, it is imperative to gain an understanding of how communication styles vary across cultures. Then, once you are on the same page, set regular times to communicate leaving ample time to share ideas and voice concerns.
  1. Transparency – This goes hand in hand with communication. It is vitally important to be transparent in all things: finances, goals, expectations, logistics, risks, roles – the list could go on!!
  1. Commitment – When partnering with community organizations, a long-term commitment is preferable so that both parties can build trust. At Unearth the World, we co-create an MOU – memorandum of understanding – with each partner and discuss future plans from the onset. This commitment allows Unearth the World to understand the needs of our partners so that we can truly work to build capacity. And, it allows for our partners to understand that we are here though future ups and downs. *It should be noted however, that Unearth the World does not want to partner with these organizations forever. Instead, we hope to support them until they are sustainable from within.
  1. Holistic Support for the Traveler – Part of Unearth the World’s mission is to create transformational international volunteering experiences that inspire our travelers to become more civically engaged and involved in global and local communities. By adequately training and supporting our travelers (both before and after their project), we set the stage for a greater and more lasting commitment to our community partners.