The Non-Profit and Philanthropic Management stream (formerly The Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development) at Carleton University has been the lead Canadian partner managing civil society exchange programs since 2002. We are grateful for the support of the funding agency Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) through the International Academic Mobility Initiative.

  • Are you passionate on issues related to civil society* at the local, national, international level?
  • Are you interested in pursuing or currently studying courses related to civil society OR are you an active volunteer?
  • Would you like to learn more about civil society in Mexico or the United States?
  • Would you like to gain a broader range of skills and contacts to pursue careers in the area of civil society within the public, private, and non-profit / voluntary sector?
  • Would you like to obtain practical insight into this field of study while experiencing a different culture, travelling and improving foreign language skills?
  • Would you like to increase employability, research skills and competencies as well as gain international experience?

If you have answered YES this might be the exchange program you have been hoping for. Imagine the opportunity to study in another country while simultaneously earning credits towards your degree and receive a financial stipend.

Read what other students have said about their exchange experience.

*Civil Society organizations are also referred to as nonprofits, not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charitable organizations, third sector or the voluntary sector depending on the country and the context.

Upcoming Exchanges Opportunities 2013 to 2014

Note there are only 5 semesters left to take advantage of this great opportunity before this program ends (Spring 2013, Summer 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014).

For further information and application form please contact sandra_jones@carleton.ca

North American Exchange Opportunities

‘The Role of Civil Society Organizations in Sustainable Community Development” is a four-year program (2010-2014) that sends Canadian students to the U.S. or Mexico to study the complex and changing nature of North American Civil Society/Sustainable Community Development.

A total of 58 student exchanges will take place between 2011 and 2014. 18 of these students will be from one of the Canadian Consortia: Carleton University, Cape Breton University and University of Victoria. Successful Canadian student applicants will be awarded a $ 3,500 (CAN$) stipend and will study in Mexico or the USA (see partner list further below).

In addition to taking courses related to civil society, students will undertake a volunteer internship placement in a local civil society organization.

Program highlights

  • We will consider applicants from a wide variety of academic disciplines (upper undergraduates/graduate level enrolled students).
  • Selection will be based on your academic record, active interest in sustainable community development/civil society, approval by your home Department and eligibility criteria as noted on the application form.
  • If you wish to take courses in Mexico you will be required to have an intermediate comprehension level or higher.
  • Tuition is paid to Carleton University and the exchange duration is for one semester.
  • It is important to note that you do not need to select actual courses upon applying. Students selected to participate on the exchange will work in consultation with the Exchange Coordinator and the student’s home Department to select appropriate courses and pursue credit approval.

CSO-SCD partner universities


United States of America


CSO-SCD Sponsors

Student Quotes

“My name is Zamir, I am from Tlaxcala, Mexico and I did an academic exchange to Baruch College at the City University of New York (Fall 2011). Going to Baruch was one of the best experiences in my life. I met professors and students who are very involved in the Non-Profit Sector and they gave me a bigger perspective about the NGO´s and the mechanisms for a better organization and the interaction with the society and government. The courses helped me to understand the American reality, their diverse culture, history, conflicts, strengths and their passions. All of it was very interesting.

I also did an internship at the Mexican Consulate. I found in there a big connection with the Mexican people, and now I am writing my thesis about the Interaction of Migrants in the International Cooperation for Local Development.

The time in New York City flew as crazy. The city is amazing and I enjoyed it more with the great friends I made there.

I came back to my country very motivated of what I lived. I am sure now that we can do a better world with our actions, for this reason I am also participating in an NGO for development in my city home. Definitely, this experience changed my life.” Zamir, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla

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“My name is Alexandra and I am currently completing my Master’s in international affairs at Carleton University. I spent one semester at Baruch College, City University of New York, and completed an internship with one of New York City’s largest non-profit organizations, New York Cares. My exchange in New York City not only provided me with unique and valuable knowledge and hands on experience, it also exposed me to life in a new country and a big city, meaningful friendships, personal growth and much more. Overall my exchange was a fantastic, once in a lifetime, experience that I will never forget.”  Alex. G, Carleton University

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“My academic exchange at the University of South Florida (USF) has gone above and beyond my expectations.  Not only have I been able to experience a new academic culture and university environment, I have also established new contacts and networks with amazing professors and students in my field.   I have also been able to take courses not offered at my home university.  The USF campus is beautiful and there is never a dull moment from movies on the lawn to Tango dance classes and cheering on the Bulls at sports events.  Beyond academic life, I have been given the opportunity to volunteer in the community and learn about the types of community development issues facing the city.  I have met international students from all over the globe who have become a big family here.  I am really enjoying my academic exchange so far and would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to go abroad!

p.s. Imagine waking up each morning to palm trees and sunshine!” Joyce M, Carleton University

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“My university exchange (Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey – Campus Ciudad de México) and internship with a civil society organization in Mexico City did not only allow me to expand my knowledge in a Latin American context; I truly believe that it has also allowed me to move a few steps closer towards my dream of serving my country as a Canadian diplomat. I wish to say thank you to the funders for sponsoring this fantastic exchange program, and I hope that many more Canadian students will benefit from it.”  Jeff A., Carleton University

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“This opportunity meant visiting a new country, taking high quality courses that improved my professional and academic life, knowing new kind and interesting people, and above all the invaluable opportunity of enriching my life with new experiences and with new friends.” Monserrat G., Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey – Campus Ciudad de México, Mexico City, Mexico. Exchanged to Carleton University.

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“I participated on an exchange in summer 2011 to Berlin. During my stay there, I primarily attended courses on the history of philosophy and of political thought, mostly at the Humboldt Universität. The program was an excellent opportunity for me to forge new academic and civil society connections, attend major academic conferences, improve my German, and enjoy the wonders of summer in Berlin. The experience was amazing”. Alex A., McGill University

“Going on the CSEN exchange was one of the most educational and enriching experiences in my Masters work.  I participated in the CSEN exchange in 2011 to study at the Freie Universitat Berlin in Berlin, Germany.  During this time period, I took courses in EU economic and environmental policy and learned about civil society organizations both in Germany and at the EU level.  One of the highlights was being able to work with a group of students from across the EU on a policy paper on improving compliance with environmental law in the EU in one of my courses.   We presented this policy paper during our field trip to Brussels to both the DG Environment in the European Commission and a Brussels-based environmental non-governmental organization specializing in environmental advocacy.  It was so eye-opening to have first-hand experience with civil society organizations in the EU.

I enjoyed my exchange and learning experience so much that I decided to write my Masters Research Essay on sustainable development and green growth in the European Union.  I returned to Berlin for an extra few months at the end of the exchange in order to continue my research at the FU Berlin and work with the faculty there.  I continued to go to many of the lectures featuring civil society organizations as well.  Going on this exchange that the CSEN offered was truly one of the most memorable and enriching parts of my Masters degree and it will shape my career path in years to come.” Monica T., Carleton University

“My Summer 2010 exchange to Berlin was an extremely valuable and enriching experience. I had an insight into German civil society through the courses that I took on Security Sector Reform and Protecting Human Rights in Democratic Regimes. The inter-cultural dialogue was the most valuable part of my education at the Freie University. I also had the opportunity to take a 12 hour per week German language course which helped me to integrate into the city and meet many new friends and potential future colleagues in the civil society sector. I am very thankful for having had this experience and would recommend it to any student looking to expand their academic horizons and world view.”
All the best, Visnja J, Carleton University

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“From May until September 2010 I participated in the exchange program of the EU-Canada Civil Society Educational Network. I came from Freie Universität Berlin to Carleton University Ottawa. Although it was summer term and thus the campus rather empty, I had a great academic experience at Carleton. I especially enjoyed the course on non-profit and voluntary sector governance and management where I personally appreciated most the presence of many practitioners in this field. In addition to school, I also enjoyed traveling around. Also due to the excellent support from the CVSRD, I felt very welcome as a student at Carleton. I am sure I will benefit a lot from the exchange in my future professional life.”
Katharina H., Free University Berlin

“My exchange to the Freie Universität in Berlin, Summer 2011 has given me the opportunity to widen my academic and practical understanding of civil society and it’s role within societal functioning and to do this in a very specialized and innovative field. My concentration on this exchange was on the role civil society groups in the processes of Migration and Integration in Germany and France. I also examined the role of civil society in Diaspora politics. My main concentration was on the role of Muslim youth groups in the budding trend of civil society movements towards the affirmation and creation of their identity as Muslims and as German/French citizens, each being equal. Throughout my studies I was also given the opportunity to ameliorate my command of the German language and to decide that Berlin would be the place I would continue my Graduate studies in the direction of my above research. I thank all contributors and organizers for this remarkable opportunity.” Ella M-Z., Carleton University

 “My name is Anika and this was my second exchange with the University of Winnipeg. I have been to Canada before in 2009 and fell in love with country and its people. This specific exchange gave me the opportunity to do research for my Master’s thesis on climate change policy in Canada as well as connect with the local environmental civil society groups in Manitoba. In addition to my academic and cultural enrichment I met incredible individuals, learned about local initiatives, issues, community engagement and indigenous people in North America. My gained experiences with this program are incomparable and have been life changing. After my graduation in December 2010 I came back to Manitoba and started my professional career as a Public Education and Outreach Coordinator for the climate change project of the Manitoba Eco-Network (local environmental NGO). It is very rewarding to work in the non-for-profit sector where my work contributes to the overall well-being of my community.” Anika T. Free University of Berlin

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“I had a great time in Winnipeg!” Linda K., Free University of Berlin. Exchanged to University of Winnipeg.

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“I participated in the exchange program to Carleton University in Ottawa/Canada from January to May 2011. At my home university at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany I study in the masters program Public and Private Environmental Management. Through various volunteer work for Greenpeace and other civil society organisations I already had gathered some experience in the sector. The exchange program, however, allowed me to expand and deepen my knowledge on the subject. I gained precious experience about financing civil society organisation and their role in development policies. In particular I enjoyed the variety of scientific input in classes at school and the possibility to implement this knowledge in consulting a civil society organisation in Ottawa on their marketing strategy. During the classes I specialized on civil society organisations working on environmental issues. These insights not only prepared me for a potential job in the civil society sector and foster my involvement in volunteer activities but are also beneficial in the masters program at the FU.

Overall, the exchange program allowed me to get to know incredibly committed people, who strive to inspire others to take action in order to improve society. The international network of students, school staff and members of civil society organisations is a sustainable benefit, which I very much appreciate.” Katharina H., Free University of Berlin

“I decided during the final year of my master’s( Management consulting – University of Trento) to participate in the Eu-Canada Exchange Program (Carleton University – winter term 2010). For a long time I was focusing on for profit sector so I was looking for an alternative approach. My purpose was to discover and explore the third sector…but I left with much more: an incredible experience, new prospective and new friends. I’m still looking for how to bring the values of the nonprofit sector into organizational dynamics.” Andreea Av., University of Trento

“I participated in the exchange to the University of Texas at Austin in January 2009. In addition to the opportunity to explore an exciting new city and meet a diverse range of students, this program provided me with practical skills that will be useful in pursuing a career within civil society. After studying a civil society organization indepth through the case study approach, complimented by more general coursework focused on nonprofit management, I feel well-equipped to work in the nonprofit sector. Being an international affairs student, I am grateful to have had the chance to gain international experience, both for personal development and job-related experience.” Tara, Carleton University

“I participated in the 2008 tri-lateral exchange to Mexico City. It was completely rewarding. Not only did I gain hands-on experience in the non-profit sector, but I was able to get an insight into future career paths giving me a huge head start. Understanding civil society in Canada, the United States, and Mexico in an international setting has been a fundamental component to completing my education. Living in Mexico and taking the time to work on my second language has also been a big benefit and an incredible opportunity.” Julia, Carleton University

“The best aspect of this program is the opportunity to connect with a variety of civil society organizations in Mexico. You experience first-hand how different organizations seek to fulfill their mission; whether that involves selling goat cheese to fund a house for children or professionalizing to attract a stronger donor base. Seeing the commitment, dedication and ingenuity of people in the third sector in Mexico is truly impressive.” Aruna, Carleton University

“The exchange program was an incredible experience. I visited twelve local nongovernmental organizations operating in Mexico City where I learned about the challenges faced by Mexican civil society. I participated in some original case study research and learned how to compare the different civil society sectors in North America. I also met some wonderful people from Canada, Mexico, the United States, and around the world, which enriched and completed my experience abroad. I would definitely recommend the program to anyone interested in strengthening their knowledge about the nonprofit sector and being able to identify some critical issues facing Mexican civil society. The program also allows one to explore the cultural richness that Mexico City has to offer.” Luis, Carleton University

“I recently participated in the academic exchange program: “Developing Civil Society Education via Case Studies: A North American Perspective” (DCSCS), hosted by the Center for Voluntary Sector Research and Development (CVSRD). The program consisted of two classes, which provided an overview of the third sector in the North America, with an emphasis on Mexico, as well as a case study of a Mexican civil society organization. The academic component of the program provided insight into the key opportunities and challenges facing civil society organization in Mexico and gave an overview of the similarities and differences in the civil society in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Based on my experience, the most exciting component of the program was meeting various local civil society organizations and working in-depth with one organization to compile a case study. For the case study, we worked on an international team (a student from Mexico, Canada and the United States) to research and write a case study on a key challenge facing a local civil society organization. My group researched an organization that works with an extremely impoverished indigenous community in the North of Mexico. This case study was particularly interesting because it highlighted the challenges of working to address extremely poverty, while respecting and preserving indigenous culture.” Emma, Carleton University

“I was chosen to participate in the exchange program last January 2008 this year at Carleton University. The exchange proved to be a turning point in my academic, professional and personal life. In the academic scope, the semester the academic side the semester strongly contributed with the research I am currently working on as my master degree thesis, a case study of a community foundation in Mexico. The case study conducted at Carleton throughout the program worked as a very good comparison of the models of civil society in the Canada and Mexico. The amount of things I learned from this makes a long list. During the semester, I also had the opportunity of handing in a paper that involved some of the main issues in my thesis research. The comments and observations of my fellow students who proofread my paper and those made by the professor became important improvements for my thesis. Spending a semester in a different country having the opportunity to meet new people learning the differences in the everyday life, and having the opportunity to make friends is an incomparable experience that has strengthened my personal life. As for my professional life it’s enough to say that I’m currently starting a small NGO with a group of friends.” Icker, El Colegio Mexiquense

“I participated in an exchange at the Tec de Monterrey in Mexico City, Mexico, about Mexican Civil Society. The experience was enlightening, rich and very informative; I say these things because of the research I performed, the people I met, and all the things I learned in life and academically. My background is Latino, so I thought I would have a good grip on the culture but I was surprised to find out I did not. Mexico became a completely new place for me, even though I spoke Spanish perfectly and looked just like everyone there. This also translated to my research on Civil Society, because all my previous knowledge on Civil Society had to be reexamined to incorporate all the new things I was learning. I must say my experience in this program is un-replaceable, and without it I would not be able to further my research back at my own university.” Andrea, McGill University

“This exchange program was a great combination of in-class theory and first-hand experience regarding civil society. The various on-site civil society organization visits gave us an idea of the different approaches taken by Mexican organizations to be sustainable, as well as the challenges faced in the Mexican context. This program allowed me to see in action many of the concepts I have studied. As a master’s student in International Affairs with a specialization in Trade Policy, this experience also gave me a more balanced course of studies as I gained knowledge about the third sector. The opportunity to do a case study helped me develop valuable interview, research and analytical skills. In addition to the academic enrichment, the cultural experience was also amazing. I was able to develop my Spanish skills and interact with Mexican and international peers. This experience helps students become more adaptable and comfortable in another culture—characteristics that are extremely valuable. As a result of this program I have developed transferable skills that will help me professionally and academically, have expanded my network and have gained a stronger appreciation of the nature of civil society in North America.”Luis

“One of the most important elements of the exchange was that it allowed me to compare and contrast the challenges faced by civil society organizations in Mexico, Canada and the US. Being an International Affairs student, the trans-national connections between various civil society actors was of particular interest. I was able to see first hand the potential for greater connectivity between organizations and institutions at all levels in the three countries.” Fran R.

“I participated in the Trilateral Student Exchange in the summer of 2005 at the University of Texas at Austin. The Trilateral Exchange was an incredible experience in so many ways! I had always been curious about civil society and the function it served. Thanks to the exchange I was able to gain the knowledge I sought and more! Not only did I acquire an appreciation for the function of civil society plans in improving the wellbeing, but I was also exposed to the varying prominence and opinions of the third sector in Mexico, Canada and the United States. In addition to the incredible academic experience, I was able to visit various NGO’s in the surrounding area to gain an appreciation for the incredible work such organization undertake and I even had the opportunity to help out on several occasions. One such occasion was a day that was spent at a food bank where I had helped to prepare and serve lunch to less fortunate individuals. Furthermore, I met incredible individuals and made strong bonds with many individuals, which I will take with me for the rest of my life. After participating in the Trilateral Exchange program I felt compelled to gain hands-on experience in the third sector and went to Ecuador to work on a reforestation project. This was a great experience and because of my participation in the exchange program in Austin, Texas, I was better able to see how the efforts of the NGO with which I worked contribute to the overall wellbeing of the surrounding community. The exchange program was a truly rewarding experience!” Shawn M.

“This experience was highly determinant in my academic career…Right now I am a third year PhD student in Marketing in Spain and the focus of my research is still on the non-profit sector.” Nelida M.

“About the program, just one word: AWSOME!” Patricia A.

“In the winter of 2004 I was selected to participate in the Trilateral Student Exchange Program. I chose el Colegio Mexiquense in Toluca for my studies and left in January to study Civil Society and Municipal Governance for four months. My expectations were generally that I would strengthen my Spanish all the while expanding my knowledge of how community-based organizations and municipalities in Mexico strengthen civil society in the country. My experience far exceeded my expectations. The immediate impact of the exchange program was that I left with a genuine passion for international development informed by the fascinating examples of Mexican communities mobilizing to determine their own futures. Almost 3 years later the impact is still apparent as I have kept in contact with friends and organizations I met in Toluca. I currently work in international development, working in Spanish to support local partners in Guatemala and Bolivia to strengthen civil society organizations. I have also applied for a Masters program in Community and Regional Planning – an area of study that was first introduced to me during my time in Mexico. While I can draw professional and academic links to the Trilateral Student Exchange Program it is the personal contribution it made to my life that is more difficult to quantify and the personal growth I experienced exceeded all expectations. In the end, the program taught me the importance of working in solidarity to ensure that people in Mexico and Canada have a way to advocate for themselves and a vehicle to improve their livelihoods, because without a voice, we all live in poverty.” Akua S.

“This international experience was crucial to determine the area I will be working in the future: research on alternative ways in which civil society can respond to the needs of developing countries.” Renaldo A.

“My student-colleagues were incredibly friendly and went out of their way to make sure me and the other Canadian students felt welcome and that we were part of their graduate class…I will never forget studying some of the concepts related to civil society organization and participation and then heading to Oaxaca on the weekend and seeing massive strikes – massive civil society movements – all around me. I cannot stress enough what a great program it is.” Sara P.

*Civil Society organizations are also referred to as nonprofits, not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charitable organizations, third sector or the voluntary sector depending on the country and the context.