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The roots of Skillshare International go back to just after the First World War when Service Civil International (SCI) was set up by Pierre Ceresole, a Swiss national, to further the aims of peace, justice and understanding in the world.  The principal activity of SCI was, and still is, to run international work camps, where volunteers share skills, experience and understanding across frontiers.  Ceresole believed that the international voluntary work camp was a socially useful method of overcoming, albeit on a small scale, the ignorance and suspicions that kept nations apart and led to conflicts like World War I.


During the 1960s, the British branch of SCI, IVS, established an overseas long-term volunteer programme to assist developing countries by providing skilled personnel. IVS projects promoted positive social changes, which were directed at disadvantaged groups, and supported liberation movements. The aim was to provide channels for structuring local initiatives to encourage self-reliance, to reduce dependency and to increase employment opportunities for local people.


Volunteers contributed to almost every aspect of development from education and health to planning and construction. Their role was to act as a catalyst for change and to contribute skills which were not available locally. The presence of an IVS volunteer was an expression of practical solidarity between people on the basis of equality and cooperation. Volunteers promoted international understanding by enabling people of different cultures to work alongside one another in partnership. 


By 1985, it became clear that the long-term volunteer programme had different needs and priorities to the rest of the IVS programme. There was pressure from the overseas volunteers for a more local approach to development. IVS recognised the need for change and ultimately resolved to separate the long-term programme from its other activities.


In 1990 Skillshare Africa was established as an independent organisation.  The new organisation maintained the values and ethos of IVS and continued the policy of localisation that had begun in 1986 when the first local staff were appointed to determine and manage the programme.  This meant that the work of the organisation was taking place in areas that would have benefit to the local communities. In addition to the new projects of Skillshare Africa, the programmes of work established by IVS in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland continued.


In 2000, Skillshare Africa was joined by Action Health, a development agency with a similar philosophy that had been working in India, Tanzania and Uganda since 1984.  Action Health's principal strategy was the provision of health trainers to share skills and knowledge not available locally.  The two organisations merged to become Skillshare International.


In 2007, the Coaching for Hope programme joined Skillshare International, expanding our work in to sport and development. Find out more about Coaching for Hope.


In 2009, Skillshare International formed strategic partnerships with SOS Sahel UK and Responding to Conflict.


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