Stage 2

Learning objective 2

The main aim of this section is to begin looking critically at the causes of many of the world issues, as well as looking at the current development frame works in place to try and deal with them. During this session you will be encouraged to think in a critically reflective way while looking at the sustainable development framework. Leaving this session you will be more familiar with the SDG’s and hopefully develop your own views on them.

First we would like you to take sometime and consider your values.

Exploring our Values and Frames

What informs and motivates us when deciding to engage with an international voluntary experience both during and after the placement? What are the values that direct us as well as the wider societal values that have informed these motivations?

This section will explore values and frames in the context of our international volunteering and in particular, leave a space for us to consider which values are motivating us.

We will look at how certain assumptions and frames within society, if left unchallenged, can impact negatively on the work and on relationships with communities in the global south.

Darnton and Kirk (2011) argue that values are one of the most neglected and yet important factors in bringing about positive change. They define values as the guiding principles that individuals use to judge situations and determine their course of action: by examining these values more closely, we have a much better chance of bringing about meaningful positive change.

According to Darnton and Kirk, as well as influencing our behaviours and attitudes, values are connected to the way we understand and interpret the world: ‘Values are seen to be at the root of our motivational system: they are the guiding principles by which we act, and by which we evaluate both our own actions and those of others’ (2011).

Values, in turn, create what Darnton and Kirk call ‘frames’, defined as the chunks of factual and procedural knowledge in the mind with which we understand situations, ideas and discourses in everyday life, and which can result in potential blind spots.

An example of this is what has been called the ‘Live Aid’ legacy. Effectively, this fundraising initiative created a picture of the public in the global north as powerful givers, with the public in African countries being cast as grateful receivers. It reinforced an idea of mass poverty as ‘inevitable’ and ‘unchanging’ for people in countries in the global south, inferring that this is their own fault. It did not take into account the complex nature of development and underlying structural factors such as exploitation and colonialism, that we are looking at in this section. The term ‘charity’ itself can tend to reinforce, normalise and legitimise this unequal power relationship.

Darnton and Kirk further explore the implications of how values are activated and reinforced in their work around ‘surface’ and ‘deep’ frames. Surface frames are the words, phrases and stories that NGOs use to talk about development aid and charity. These are intended to activate deep frames, which they define as world views. Following an analysis of how the development sector communicates with the public, they found that, in general, this is problematic: the surface words commonly used tend to activate deep frames that can be considered negative and detrimental to the people the NGO declares to support.

Examples of some problematic surface frames are:

  • Help the Poor frame – This emphasises the image of rich people giving and poor people receiving
  • Giving Aid frame – To end poverty, people should give money from wealthy countries to poorer ones
  • Charity frame – This reinforces the image of NGOs being an instrument that allows privileged people to share wealth those less fortunate.

Examples of the deeper frames with which these messages can be linked include:

  • The Free Market Frame, which presumes that the world is filled with individuals seeking to maximise their self-interest. Wealth is created through the industrious efforts of these individuals, whose personal freedoms combine with self-discipline to make them more competitive. This presumed industriousness makes them deserving of the wealth they acquire.

In other cases, NGO communications can also activate surface frames that are considered more positive in terms of bringing about long-term change:

  • International Solidarity frame – The idea that we are all in this together: what affects one of us will affect us all.
  • Social Responsibility frame –We have a collective responsibility to make society better

Below is what is known as the Schwartz values circumplex. Have a look at it and see what values you can connect with and which ones you would like to encourage in others. Keep this in mind for stage 3 and 4 of the course when developing your next steps after the course



Take 10 minutes and think about what values you feel it is important to promote in your life and action project?

Developing critical literacy

Building on our work looking at values we now encourage you to work on your critical literacy skills. We  strongly encourage you to critically engage with the material in this course, and to bring this questioning perspective to the information you get on a daily basis. Challenge what you read, hear and see. We also encourage you to challenge views, assumptions about the world and your own blind spots. Below is a blog and an activity to help you to begin to do this.

This blog on critical literacy raises a number of issues and questions for you to consider as you continue through this module. The blog is taken from the ‘Econowha? Free online resources for economic literacy’.


Blog 1

So how does this help us to explore the global development issues we’re facing? We invite you to do the following activity, to help unpack some of the underlying causes of inequality and injustice.

Why, Why Why

Take an issue related to international development about which you are particularly concerned, e.g., Poverty, Inequality, Climate Change.

Ask the question: why does this exist? After you answer this, ask why again. Each time you answer the question, ask why. Do this 5 times.


A: Why does Climate Change exist?
B: Because we are putting too much carbon into the air

A: Why?
B: Because of consumption patterns in the west

A: Why?
B: Because …….

A: Why?
B: Because …….

A: Why
B: Because ……..

For the underlying causes that have been identified, explore what might be some solutions to these issues, and who are the players on different levels that need to be engaged to create a change on this issue? Keep this in mind as you move through the rest of the course and explore the SDGs below.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The issues facing the world are varied, but interconnected. In 2015, more than 190 governments from all over the world adopted 17 new goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  All UN member states are expected to use them to frame their development agendas. They are applicable for all countries, both in the global north and the global south. The SDGs have great potential for volunteers, as they provide a global framework within which all action for global justice can be located.

Here are two blogs and one podcast that explore the SDG’s from different angles:

Blog 1- The Potential of the Sustainable Development Goals for Volunteers

(To read blog click on the photo)



Blog 2- Warm and cuddly global goals? The international community must get real- 

(To read blog click on the photo)

Blog image 2

Podcasts- The development plan for the 21st century – podcast

(Click on the icon to listen to the podcast)


If you would like to know more of the details of the SDG’s you can click on the goals below. Here the goal as well as the targets and indicators are outlined here:


To learn more about the 17 SDGs, click on each of them below.

sdg-icon-goal-012345678sdg-icon-goal-09sdg-icon-goal-10downloaddownload (1)images (2)images (1)images (3)images (4)images (5)


We invite you to reflect on the questions below, either in a word document or your own journal.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is positive about the Sustainable Development goals?
  2. Do you feel there is anything missing from the Sustainable Development Goals framework?
  3. Which of the goals do you feel most passionate about and why?
  4. What is your view on what the author in blog one says about the holistic nature of development and that every countries is expected to work on the SDGs?
  5. What are your views on what the author of blog 2 says “There is nothing apolitical about sustainable development” “The UN system has to have the courage to hold its member states accountable”



#SDG Challenge

If you’d like to  develop your knowledge and skills about the SDG’s, why not sign up for the #SDGchallenge?

The #SDGchallenge is a development education project that aims to equip individuals with the knowledge, skills and motivation to take informed action to contribute towards the achievement of the SDG’s.  By signing up, you’ll get free access to online resources about the SDGs, including articles, videos and blogs.  You’ll also be invited to take up a series of challenges that will demonstrate your commitment to achieving the goals.

To sign up click on the image below


Please leave a comment letting us know if you have completed this section have completed this section and where you are from.