Over the past decade I have been fortunate to have been able to travel the world and also do good along the way. For me, it all began during that fateful trip to Nepal in 2010. I had gone on four different volunteer trips before Nepal but for some reason this trip truly changed my life and made me realize that even I can make a difference and impact in people’s lives. After returning from the trip, I engaged my children in helping me raise $4,000 to open up a reading center in rural Nepal through the non-profit organization Read Global. I realized that little things can make a big difference and have a ripple effect within a community. I was hooked. And, I’ve realized that I am not the only one.
There is a growing market for impact-based travel as more people like myself want to travel and do good. However, finding those opportunities can be a bit daunting especially ensuring that “the doing good” is truly doing more good than damage. For instance, there has been a call by many international children’s welfare organizations to put an end to orphanage volunteering as it can have a negative impact on vulnerable children. In the past, I have volunteered with children in developing countries and wasn’t fully aware of some of the potential consequences and ethical complications until I became more involved in social justice work.
Over the next several months, I am working on putting together a list of the best ethical impact-focused and sustainable travel organizations around the globe. While I’m researching these different organizations, I am rounding up guest posts to uncover each organization’s unique mission and how you can travel for good. This guest post is written by the team at Ignite, an organization whose mission is to provide experiences that benefit humanity and the planet.
Ignite: Journeys that Connect, Inspire and Transform
There is a growing demand among travelers to engage in travel for good. More than $2 billion is spent annually on impact-focused travel and year-over-year demand continues to increase, as people look for something more than a stay at an all-inclusive resort. They want to travel responsibly and support sustainable development around the world.
Ignite is energized by this growing demand to pursue purpose, social responsibility and global citizenship. Fundamentally, Ignite is a people development company. We help people become the best versions of themselves through purposeful journeys that combine cultural immersion and adventure. We provide these journeys for individual travelers and we also work with companies who offer our journeys as a way to recognize and develop their employees.
Ignite currently has partnerships in Mexico, Nicaragua and Zambia and we’re pursuing additional partners to expand our journey offerings in the near term.
How was Ignite founded, what was the inspiration?
Rich Johnson, a former marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies, and Ryan Jeffery, a leader for fast growth start-ups, are the founders of Ignite. In their previous lives, Rich and Ryan found themselves working hundred hour weeks, living out of suitcases in sterile hotel rooms, and attending far too many meaningless happy hours. Like so many, they were searching for purpose, connection and the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
This led Rich on a journey to Africa, where, after conversations with local leaders, he was inspired to step into the social sector, co-founding Spark Ventures in 2006 – a nonprofit focused on international community development which has since raised and deployed over $7M for sustainable development initiatives in Africa and Latin America. Along the way, Spark Ventures began to facilitate engagement trips for the mutual benefit of supporters and partner communities abroad. Meeting the desire that people had for deeper connection and inspiration led to hundreds participating in these journeys. Feeling this desire himself, Ryan ventured to Nicaragua with Rich and Spark Ventures and he immediately realized how this powerful experience could benefit individuals and employees.
After hundreds of conversations and meetings, numerous wrong turns, and with the help of some generous advisors and lots of time hanging out together with their two great dogs, they built a company that offers journeys to connect, inspire and transform.
What is the mission of Ignite?
Ignite’s mission is to provide experiences that benefit humanity and the planet.
Our team is made up of globally minded change-makers who believe in the power of connection to inspire and transform. Ignite has a decade of experience providing transformational journeys that unite, empower, and unleash resources that improve the world.
Through continued collaboration with Spark Ventures, deep relationships with our community partners and an extensive background engaging and developing employees, we are uniquely positioned to provide experiences that lead to powerful connection and transformation. In addition, our commitment to environmental stewardship includes a partnership with Sustainable Travel International to offset all carbon emissions from our journeys.
What does Ignite do?
Ignite journeys are culturally empowering, mutually beneficial and focused on creating lasting global impact. Our travelers take part in meaningful engagement with communities and local leaders. They discover the history and natural wonders of the region. And, they enjoy boutique hotels and exceptional meals. Our expertly curated experiences introduce travelers to the best of each country we visit. We have 4-day journeys to Mexico, 5-day journeys Nicaragua and 9-day journeys to Zambia on our calendar – see the full listing of upcoming journeys here.
We empower companies to build a diverse and thriving culture by connecting their employees to the global community. We do this through purposeful journeys that combine cultural immersion, professional development and adventure. These 4-5 day company journeys help recognize and develop employees, leading to increased productivity, reduced turnover and enhanced brand equity – all while making the world a better place. Reach out to get more information on how your company can begin to offer these journeys here.
For individuals and company travelers, here’s what makes our journeys unique:
- CURATED & TURN-KEY // Others facilitate projects, but leave out cultural immersion, relationship building, and adventure. We start with deeply rooted partnerships and curate comprehensive and powerful experiences that companies and individuals can easily take part in.
- ENGAGING VS. VOLUNTEERING // All too often, volunteering is about a hand out, not a hand up. Instead, our community engagement is about learning, authentic exchange and activities that are culturally powerful and mutually beneficial.
- LASTING IMPACT // Our community engagement is planned with lasting impact as a primary focus. Our partnerships are long-term, much deeper and more comprehensive than a single touch-point during any specific experience.
- TRANSFORMATIONAL // Our powerfully crafted itineraries include experiences that connect, inspire and transform. We provide one of a kind, purposeful journeys that lead to personal growth and professional development.
How You Can Join the Journey
Ignite believes that offering people the chance to learn and grow on an experience packed with cultural immersion and community engagement is a powerful way to effect positive change. These travel experiences have the power to connect, empower and unleash resources that improve the world. So the more travel, the merrier.
If you are looking for a more socially and globally conscious travel opportunity, reach out to Ignite for more information on our trips for individuals and companies.
A special thank you to Ignite for providing this guest post and images.
It does get harder and harder to weed out the good volunteer programs from the not necessarily bad, but perhaps ineffective ones. Having done many, I am still not sure which ones made a lasting difference! As much as I (we all) want to help, it seems we have done some places and people a disservice in not allowing them to learn to take care of themselves. The line between leaving others to their own (sometimes disastrous) devices and stepping in to try to make things better is a thin and often invisible one. Any effort to find the kinds of help that truly effect change is great!
Yes it is so true Lexi. There is indeed a very fine line and it is quite complicated. I know that most of the volunteer trips I have been on made more of an impact on me than the communities, however, then again it changed me and made me become who I am and a person more passionate about helping and making a difference. I only had one very bad experience where I actually had to report the place I volunteered at to the organization. The others were amazing yet mostly amazing for me.
I find it very difficult to decide what to do and who to turn to to truly provide long-lasting help for those in need. I am looking forward to your upcoming posts Nicole as I would love to turn more of our travels to volunteer opportunities.
Yes it can be challenging! I’m working hard on uncovering this concept and building a database. Will probably take a long time but I’m excited!
Thank you for reading!
Ignite’s hands-up approach through cultural immersion, relationship building, and community engagement is very appealing. Thank you Nicole for the introduction to their offerings. Looking forward to further interviews with others on your list.
Thanks Lisa! Yes this is going to take quite a bit of research to find all these organizations but I’m excited about the project. Hope all is well! Where are you now in the world?
We’ve arrived in Madagascar and are just now getting settled in. Looking forward to seeing what your research uncovers.
Wow that must be amazing Lisa! Can hardly wait to hear about it!