What is an International Professional Exchange Program (IPEP)?

One of the main activities of CIF is the promotion and implementation of international professional exchange programs in different countries of the world (International Professional Exchange Program/IPEP). The target group is professionals in the field of social work and human services and closely related field with at least two years of professional experience.

CIF International IPEPs offer opportunities for professional, cultural and social exchanges, making them unique experiences, especially in placing an emphasis on supporting mutual respect for cultures. IPEPs combine practical and theoretical learning for participants about the social and cultural environment of the host country.

CIF Switzerland offers an IPEP in Switzerland (usually annually), and refers professionals from Switzerland to programs worldwide provided by other national branches.

IPEPs worldwide

A typical IPEP lasts between two and five weeks, and in the USA it can be up to 18 months. The IPEPs in Switzerland last 16 days. CIF national branches usually offer IPEPs only once a year or less frequently, but participants in CIPUSA stay in the USA for the whole year.

Are you interested?

IPEPs have the following main elements:

  • entation to local and regional cultural-social-political and organisational structures and an introduction to the current social services system in the country,
  • professional and personal exchanges between participants themselves, as well between participants and representatives of the host country,
  • theoretical and practical experience in observing social workers and other related professionals in well-chosen agencies and organisations, as well as experiencing the culture of the host country,
  • living in host families, which is a key part of CIF’s IPEP philosophy.

All IPEPs are based on the model of Dr Henry B. Ollendorff, and follow the Manual for IPEPs of CIF International, with some country-specific features.

Participants: who can participate?

  • Participants should have an educational background in social work, social welfare or human services field/related fields, and
  • at least two years of professional experience in these fields.
  • IPEP participants are required to have language skills to a proficient level: most require English, although there are some IPEPs in French or Spanish.
  • The IPEP is not a holiday, so a full-time presence during the entire program is expected.

IPEP application procedure:

The application procedure is standardised for all IPEPs worldwide, and follows a multi-stage process

Application form to download HERE

IPEPs in Switzerland

Since 2009, CIF Switzerland has organised exchange programs within Switzerland for participants from across the world. More than 40 professionals from fifteen countries have already participated in our IPEPs.

The application deadline is several months before the start of the program. The specific date is indicated in the most recent Swiss CIF IPEP flyer.

The application form should be submitted through the home national branch or the CIF contact person of your home country. Only if there is neither a national branch nor a contact person should an application be submitted directly to CIF Switzerland


We work closely with:

  • The Swiss Professional Association for Social Workers (AvenirSocial)
  • The Swiss Federation of Educative Communities (FICE)
  • The University of Applied Sciences, Department of Social Work, Zurich (ZHAW)
  • The national umbrella association of social institutions for vulnerable people (ARTISET, formerly known as CURAVIVA Schweiz)
  • Various expert speakers, agencies and organisations from the social work sector.

Importent: Swiss IPEP

Length of the program
16 days, usually in the Spring
Number of participants
4 – 8 participants, with selection through the application procedure

Communication in the program is in English. The host families and other people involved speak German and English.

English language skills in writing and speaking to a very good level are required.


4 days introduction in a youth hostel

12 days with a host family

Costs to participants

The participation fee is 400 Swiss francs per person, which covers the accommodation and almost all boarding costs, as well as travel for the program in Switzerland and some other program costs.

Participants are responsible for their travel to Switzerland and back to their home country, the visa cost applicable to Switzerland/Schengen countries, and relevant health insurance. The certificate of health insurance is to be forwarded by mail one month before arrival.

Participants are also responsible for their own lunches and for all extra expenses which are not related to the program. These include,for example, personal toiletries, souvenirs, gifts, long-distance communications such as by telephone and internet, and all expenses before and after the duration of the program

Discretionary financial support is decided on a case-by-case basis upon application.

Support to participants Participants can contact the CIF team with any questions, from the time of the initial contact and throughout the entire program.
Other requirements
Participation in the IPEP requires the full commitment of participants. Therefore, it is not acceptable or supported for participants to bring family members or friends. CIF Switzerland declines any responsibility for this aspect.

The Swiss IPEP structure has following main features:


Introduction, over 4 days: Participants get to know each other and the CIF Switzerland team, and learn about life in Switzerland, the social and political system, and the social welfare and the Swiss education systems.

Insight is provided into the following professional fields, over 10 days: public and private social services concerning children, young people and families, such as care and health services, and intercultural work.

The program schedule is quite intense and usually takes place during much of the day, and evenings are often for leisure, e.g for sports or other activities with the host family or the group.


  • Workshops and input through lectures within the group
  • Visits to social services organisations and agencies
  • Exchanges and group reflection on the experiences, opinions, and professional methods, as provided in Switzerland and in the participant’s country of origin
Social and cultural activities
Excursions and visits to tourist attractions, and joint activities with the group or host families.