Ethical short-term missions involves far more than just organising the logistics of a trip. 

It is important to recognise that implementing ethical STM is complex and therefore requires careful consideration and planning.

This section of the website will help guide your organisation as you practically outwork the considerations and concepts discussed in the previous ethical framework section. If you haven't already, we suggest you read first before continuing.

The information in this section is designed for both sending and receiving organisations. This may include but is not limited to churches sending teams, local community organisations receiving teams or for organisations who handle both. 

7 key steps

There are 7 key steps involved in outworking an effective STM program (see diagram below). For each step you'll find practical information, links to resources and sample tools provided to equip you as you outwork your STM program.

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Ensure adequate guidelines are in place  

It is also important that you ensure that you have the correct policies in place which cover STM and volunteering placements. This should include at a minimum: 

  1. Child Protection Policy; and 
  2. Communications guidelines..

Child Protection Policy (CPP)

We often presume everyone has the same understanding of what constitutes appropriate behaviour and actions towards children, which sometimes is not the case – especially when there is a lack of clear guidelines and when people are placed in cross cultural environments.

Effective child protection policies and codes of conduct are vital to minimise risks to children by:

  • providing clear behavioral guidance; and
  • outlining child protection and safeguarding commitments, responsibilities and reporting procedures.

A CPP also serves to protect your organisation and staff; by demonstrating your commitment to child protection and safeguarding and creating clear boundaries, which minimises the risk of potential misunderstandings or incidents that may lead to allegations of child abuse.

A child protection policy should include: 

  • Introductory Information:
    • A Statement of Commitment
    • Policy Purpose
    • Guiding Principles
    • Scope
    • Definitions
  • Recruitment and Screening Practices
  • Use of Images and Information
  • Reporting Requirements and Processes
    • Other Sections
    • Education and Training
    • Risk Management
    • Child Participation
    • Reviewing Policy

Communications Guidelines: 

Sharing our STM experiences with family, friends over social media, through images and videos can be really powerful. It can be a core part of advocacy and awareness awareness efforts that encourage support for international missions, development and relief. 

However if done incorrectly, the things we post and the stories we tell can cause harm by perpetuating negative stereotypes and violating the rights and dignity of the people we are portraying.

It's important that guidelines are in place so that team members and volunteers are equipped to know how share and post about their trip in an ethical and effective way.

Guidelines should include sections dealing with: 

  • Portraying of Local People  We must be highly conscious of how we portray people both in the language and images we use. People should always be presented in a dignified manner, highlighting their agency and avoiding presenting people as helpless and in need of being ‘rescued’.
  • Truthfulness: Issues, communities and people need to be presented truthfully and we need to ensure we avoid exaggerating facts or sensationalising issues while also avoiding oversimplifying issues, their causes and solutions and the diversity of communities.
  • ·Portraying of Children: Children’s situations often evoke particularly strong responses, however we must be careful not to exploit this and instead put the child’s best interests and safety first. Children should never be presented in a vulnerable or submissive manner. They should always be adequately clothed and  private or sensitive information should not be made publicly available.
  • Portrayal of Sensitive Issues: Guidelines should be in place to boundaries around how teams portray sensitive issues such as trafficking, domestic violence, vulnerable children, families in crisis. Sharing intimate details of someone's experience of exploitation and trauma can cause a survivor to experience feelings of shame or reinforce a negative identity. Extra caution should be exercised with sharing these stories over the internet, as once up they are very difficult to pull down and the dissemination is not easily controlled. 
  • Consent for Stories and Images: As a part of showing respect for the people and communities we engage with, we should always seek permission from individuals before taking, posting or distributing people's images or stories. Communication guidelines should clarify where informed written or verbal consent is required including consent around taking photos of children. 
  • Managing levels of risk: Be aware that individuals or groups may be put at risk of stigma, reprisal, violence or rejection in their communities as a result of exposing their identity or story. A person’s safety, privacy and reputation should always be put first. Guidance around what information and images can and cannot be used should be in place to minimise risk.
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