Balloon ICS

work with African entrepreneurs to grow businesses that change lives

truly sustainable development

Balloon ICS is a once in a lifetime volunteering opportunity funded by UK Government and led by VSO.

After training in the UK and fundraising for the programme, you'll spend 12 weeks in Uganda or Kenya working with local entrepreneurs to launch exciting businesses that create jobs and improve lives. You will then return to the UK inspired and create 'Action at Home'.

Join one of the first ever international programmes to bring together entrepreneurs, youth volunteers and microfinance to positively change lives.

  • UKaid
  • ICS


weeks 1-2

Meet your team of 10 UK volunteers and 10 local volunteers

Complete the Balloon Enterprise Curriculum developed with leading entrepreneurs and experts from across the world

You'll learn the key entrepreneurial tools and approaches covering topics like customer development, lean startup, design thinking and the business model canvas

Training is fun and hands-on, getting you into the community to design a vending machine or create a new brand for a local shoe seller

Don't worry if you don't have prior business experience, we'll give you everything you need to do a great job


weeks 3-8

In a group of 4 you will be paired with 8 local entrepreneurs. Some will already have a small business looking for growth. Others will only have the seed of an idea

During in-class time you will share the skills and techniques learnt during the Balloon Curriculum. The focus is on innovation and newness so your creativity will be stretched to uncover new business opportunities

We believe that entrepreneurship is a ‘contact sport’ so you will spend the majority of your time outside of the classroom and testing ideas with prospective customers

You will cover everything from idea generation and marketing, to product development, micro-finance and business efficiencies


week 9

Week 9 is home to a Dragon's Den style pitching event. Each entrepreneur will have 30 minutes to present their idea and answer questions in front of an expert pitching panel

You will prepare your entrepreneurs to pitch for investment by working with them to build a funding proposal full of the evidence and learnings of the previous weeks

Post-pitch you will join the expert panel to carry out due diligence on the entrepreneurs and their ideas and collect further information

At the end of this week, with your input, around 50% of the entrepreneurs will receive funding


weeks 10-12

For the final period of the programme you'll support the successful entrepreneurs to implement their business ideas

This might involve helping to launch new products, initiating marketing strategies and generally putting the plans in action

You will also help plan future strategy for growth to ensure that your impact in East Africa is sustainable and continues long after you leave

Through this process in just 12 weeks you will experience the entire startup journey from ideation through the implementation. This will give you a unique insight and skillset to take back to the UK

this programme is your
unique chance to...

Immerse yourself into East African life, staying with host families, experiencing a new culture and working side by side with teams of local volunteers and micro-entrepreneurs

Gain impressive business skills and experiences that employers and investors value highly, setting you up for whatever comes next in life

Have a real development impact, launching businesses that will continue to grow and create jobs for years to come

join a team of...

200 UK volunteers

200 in-country volunteers

550 entrepreneurs

£200,000 of investment

changing the lives
of people like...

John Kamau
Mama Glo

programme places available for 2016 – Be quick, applications being accepted now!

are you...

  • aged 18-25 (volunteer) OR aged 23-35 (team leader)
  • living in the UK
  • ambitious &

...apply now