Through an analysis of VSO volunteers' motivation, this article contributes to debates on the implications of individuals' behaviour within the international development context. The relevance of understanding why individuals do VSO is emphasised, in view of VSO's role as a major agency through which the UK contributes to overseas development objectives. The article reveals that issues of power and powerlessness between the volunteer and their host community in-country may underlie individuals' intentions to become a volunteer. However, individuals' motivation for change in their own life, as well as their wish to build their understanding of the world, might help overcome these issues once in-country. It is suggested that the relationships volunteers establish with local people in-country motivate volunteers to remain active participants within the development process on their return to the UK. In terms of volunteer management, the study reveals not only that it is relevant to contemplate the implications of VSO volunteers' motivations in the context in which they act, but also that the context itself influences their motivation. Of particular relevance is the strength of the partnership between VSO and partner organisations in-country.