Live Different’s Development Model


LiveDifferent’s development model combines sustainable community development practices with integrated volunteering, resulting in meaningful and long-term positive outcomes for all parties involved. Our projects focus on mutual empowerment, as our volunteers work alongside community members to meet basic human needs, while motivating one another to shift their perspectives towards life-long kindness, hope, and change. The five key elements of this model are community, relationship, basic needs, dignity, and humility.


Symbiotic Development – Here at LiveDifferent, we believe that there is a great quality of experience, relationship, and long-term impacts that can be overlooked when international development and volunteering are seen as being at odds with one another. We do not operate under the assumption that charity or development work is a system where only one party can receive, while the other party gives. We have found this to be a false dichotomy, and in fact that the opposite is true. When a proper framework of relationship, dignity, humility, and community is built upon, a symbiotic relationship is created. This relationship allows all parties to grow and benefit in ways that would not have happened if they had not had the chance to know and care for each other. Fostering this type of development model ensures a mutual understanding of the unique needs at the core of each individual and community, and shows that we are all in a position to serve one another, regardless of circumstance.


The core strength of everything we do is always centered around authentic relationships where we learn from and are encouraged by each other.  No matter what the situation, respect and dignity is always given with no strings attached. People are not viewed as projects, but as partners and friends to work along with as we meet basic human needs – together.

We are purposeful in our communication with all volunteers to assure that they are prepared, educated in our approach to people and communities, and are aware of the sensitivities to the local cultures and customs.


We understand and appreciate that every community is as unique as the individuals who live there, and we interact with each one in ways that they help define. What gives our volunteers the privilege of coming and going from communities in 7-10 day stretches is that we have ongoing commitments to the bigger picture of the work being done in those communities for the long-term.

Any schools that LiveDifferent helps to build are in partnership with local governments and/or local organizations who are committed to their long term sustainability and success.

We are diligent when it comes to community research, program creation and facilitation, follow-up support, and evaluation with everyone involved.  Before we bring volunteers to work in various communities, we conduct years of prep work, and build relationships with stakeholders.  We network with local leaders, government officials, community members, and other organizations who may be working in the area, so that we, and our volunteers, can be assured that all efforts and resources are maximized completely.

We believe in the value of local families and communities investing (via resources and time) in their own communities. We not only include and employ local workers, we partner with families and community volunteers of all ages who engage with our build projects and our ‘Day-in-the-Life’ experiences.

Basic Needs

It is essential that we serve the actual needs of the communities we partner with, and not just serve our own need to “feel” like we did something meaningful.

We are sensitive to local economies and do not randomly hand out donations.

LiveDifferent’s core activity is to help achieve basic shelter for those who need it.  We understand that without a clean, safe, dry, and warm home, a family’s potential success is severely limited.  After basic shelter has been attained, a family can then continue prioritizing efforts towards some of their other basic needs, many of which are beyond our abilities and expertise.


A key aspect of LiveDifferent’s development work is not just building tangible projects and houses, but is also about meeting psychological and emotional needs by instilling a sense of dignity and worth. Operating with respect, compassion, and empathy for the local families that we serve, and genuinely treating them as equals, builds an increased confidence and self-worth that often is as valuable as the physical building project that acts as a conduit for this type of authentic connection.

We believe it is important to ensure that families and communities know how much they teach us and how much we appreciate their incredible hospitality, generosity, and ongoing relationships. We genuinely approach each project as a shared learning/life experience, not as a ‘hand-out’ but a ‘hand-up’, and the beginning of a life-long friendship.


Our staff and volunteers understand that we have as much to learn as we have to give, and do not view ourselves as heroes. We view the families and community members we work with as the true heroes.

A key objective of the volunteer experience is for each person to exit with a humble awareness and sense of their capability, potential, and responsibility to continue to live differently and to contribute to change both locally and globally. We are purposeful to challenge all volunteers to follow their passions while connecting them in some way to helping vulnerable people at home and around the world.

We take pride in the successes of our program, however we do not feel that we have “arrived” or have everything figured out. Instead our mindset is one of continuous learning and improvement and we need to always be seeking how to have better, and more sustainable outcomes.

We don’t believe that our model is the only model, or necessarily the best model. It is simply one of many that is meeting specific needs in the healthiest way we know of. We welcome all questions, concerns, and ideas that offer the potential to increase the effectiveness of our efforts.