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The work of Black Lives Matter and other racial justice organisations, in response to recent tragedies, and the many centuries of injustices that precede them has been an educational moment for us individually and collectively.

It’s made us aware of how our own work on equity, diversity and inclusion has fallen short of the mark. We’ve also become aware of how much of our work has been based upon practices and studies that have themselves been built upon oppressive structures and procedures. 

While we’ve always considered ourselves committed to the goal of an inclusive society, we’ve found that our work doesn’t yet recognise or address all the ways in which oppression is in action across institutions, industries, other cultural systems and our personal lives. 

We’re dedicated to listening and learning, reflecting on our past actions and then taking urgent anti-oppressive action towards a more just, global society. Long-term momentum towards this objective is essential and we’re committed to the continuous development of our ethical policies and how they’re implemented across our organisation. 

Below you can read about the preliminary actions we’ll be taking up. Please check back with us in the first quarter of 2021 to learn about our progress and next steps. 

To other organisations working in our sectors, we ask that you join in taking real action towards meaningful change.

Our principles and policies

We’re reviewing our ethical principles and our operational policies such as equity, diversity and inclusion. Our aim is to ensure that they acknowledge all forms of oppression, such as racism and homophobia that persist in institutions, industries and other cultural systems, and incorporate anti-oppressive principles designed to create a more just society. 

We recognise that international development and education has white-centred European colonialist roots and are incorporating more decolonial and anti-oppressive histories and approaches into the work that we do using the work of experts who have themselves experienced oppression. 

Our leadership team and staff

Currently, although our senior leadership team includes a significant number of individuals who identify as women, it doesn’t feature many other kinds of diversity. The team is dedicated to becoming more diverse and are discussing how best this can be achieved. 

Our leadership team forms part of our remote operational management team. The rest of our global staff consists of small local teams in the locations where we run our international in-person programs. You can learn more about the individuals behind GVI by visiting our “Meet the team” page

Because we don’t currently track diversity across our organisation we can’t confidently provide information about the diversity of our staff, their level of authority or their compensation. However, a high-level overview has shown us that while all our staff teams feature degrees of diversity, our current diversity initiatives have not yet done enough.

This is why we’re putting a diversity measurement system in place. This will allow us to better assess our current diversity initiatives, implement available refinements and new ideas. It should be noted that we’re aware that some individuals will not want to link themselves to oppressed identities, especially to their employer, so providing any information will always be optional. 

Some of the new initiatives we’re putting into place include:

  • a system for our staff to anonymously report on experiences of oppression and how we can do better to create a fully inclusive work culture
  • developing training for our managers on how they can better support the professional success of their team members impacted by oppression
  • providing resources for our human resources team and managers to learn about how best to create safe spaces for those experiencing oppression and conduct difficult conversations around diversity
  • developing training for all our staff about unconscious biases and common harmful practices
  • reviewing our hiring practices to implement strategies that eliminate unconscious biases affecting job descriptions, resume reviews and interviews conducted by our team. 

It should be noted that as a global organisation, we take into account how oppression operates on a global and a local level. 

Our participants 

We don’t currently track the diversity of our participants, but we’re putting a measurement system in place. Again, we’re aware that not everyone will want to identify themselves and we’ll leave it up to our participants to make this decision. 

While we already create opportunities for greater participation in our programs for individuals underrepresented in international travel through scholarships, we're amplifying these efforts. 

Some underrepresented individuals include Black, Indigenous, Asian, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander and Multiracial travellers, LGBTQIA+ and specifically Trans and Non-binary travellers and those with disabilities or perceived disabilities. 

We’re also designing training for our pre-travel support staff and location-based staff to assist those who might face difficulties with international travelling due to oppression.  

In addition, we’ll be amplifying our national scholars program, offering education and work experience to local individuals in the countries in which we operate. 

It should also be noted that while we already educate our participants about the “white saviour complex” and why it’s harmful, we’ll be creating more in-depth training on the subject.

Our marketing

While we make an effort to feature underrepresented travellers in our marketing, we’ll be amplifying our efforts in this area. 

Over the years we’ve also tried to steer clear of representing our staff and our participants as “white saviours”. However, after reviewing more sources, we think we can do better. That’s why we’ll be conducting a holistic review and update of our marketing materials. 

In addition, although we already provide some education for our audience about what “white saviourism” is and why it’s harmful, we’ll be putting this goal at the forefront of our sustainable development and other impact-related promotion efforts. 

Historically, we’ve focused on education and awareness and stayed away from participating in advocacy. We were motivated by our desire to stay away from activism that is performative and often harmful. 

However, our thinking on this has changed in response to adding new online courses in human rights and climate action to our service offerings. We’re currently looking at how best to use our existing marketing resources to contribute to amplifying messaging around social and environmental reforms.

Our educational content

We recognise that oppression is experienced and perpetuated in educational content. One of the ways in which this manifests is that real histories about colonialism, racism, feminism and LGBTQIA+ history are left out. 

We’re reviewing our curriculums and course content to see where the knowledge of experts who have themselves experienced oppression can be incorporated.

Our partners

We already have a vetting process in place to ensure that the organisations we partner with are operating ethically. This includes our academic partners, booking referral partners, conservation or social impact partners and local suppliers of accommodation, transport and other travel services. We’ll be adding a review of an organisation’s stance against oppression to this vetting process. 

In addition, we’ll be looking at how we can partner with organisations that actively work against oppression and who feature key decision-makers and staff members representative of individuals who experience oppression across institutions, industries and cultural systems.