GSI – giving 'service' a new meaning

By Joy Oba

The Global Service Institute (GSI) is a long-term project supported by the Ford Foundation. It studies, informs and assists in the development of service worldwide. It is being developed as a “global institution without walls” by the Center for Social Development at Washington University, St. Louis and Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP), Washington DC.

It works with organisations and individuals around the world who are interested in the study and implementation of civic service programmes. It operates a web-based information network and supports research and innovation in policy and programme development.

Research support
GSI is committed to improving the understanding of service by supporting and disseminating research and information, assisting governments and non-profit organisations globally to design and implement innovative service programmes, and in building a global information network. Civic service can be defined as “an organised period of substantial engagement and contribution to the local, national, or world community, recognised and valued by society, with minimal monetary compensation to the participant”. This is GSI’s working definition and it is this new concept and knowledge about the field of service that it seeks to build and propagate by building a knowledge network.

VOSESA a network resource partner
The GSI Information Network is comprised of organisations (known as network resource partners) around the globe that participate in collecting, maintaining, and sharing information about civic service. As a GSI network resource partner, VOSESA is committed to building the information base about service and volunteering in SADC and support the development of the GSI Information Network.

Goals of the network
The primary goals of this network are to:

  • provide a structured mechanism for accessing service information;
  • stimulate the expansion of information;
  • facilitate communication among those interested in service; and
  • promote service as a research, policy and programme agenda.

The GSI network contains a broad array of information from a variety of organisations with diversity in geographic representation, language, and age of participants (from youth to elder service). The network offers research tools such as databases, bibliographies and surveys, policy and programme documents such as policy updates, programme descriptions, and programme implementation guides.

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