The value of international volunteer-driven development is a question of debate and occasional scepticism. Proponents claim that international volunteer service is a practical way to promote global understanding, while making tangible contributions to the development of individuals, organisations and communities [1, 2]. Early studies suggest that international service enhances the education, employment and participation of citizens in host countries [3, 4]. Subsequent studies have sought to verify these outcomes, while uncovering additional positive benefits . On the other hand, critics contend that many international volunteer programs are imperialistic, volunteer-centered and ineffective at tackling the real challenges of development [6, 7]. These contrasting views both have merit. In truth, the impacts of international volunteer service as a development strategy ultimately depend on whether programs recognise and implement effective institutional practices based on the outcomes they desire to achieve . Unfortunately, research has not kept pace with practice, and effective institutional practices are not often associated with specific outcomes.