- In developing countries and countries in transition in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe, the Institute seeks to establish and support adult education which responds to the situation in each partner country, is guided by objective criteria and functions in the interests of the poorest sections of the population.
- In the industrialized countries it fosters professional interchange and, increasingly, project cooperation. In Germany it accomplishes education of development politics, above all in "Volkshochschulen" (folk high schools).
- We play a part worldwide, together with the specialist adult education associations that operate regionally and globally, in the necessary work of disseminating information and lobbying.
The emphasis of the work has naturally changed over the decades as circumstances have demanded. While the support for adult education in the 1960s was still seen as part of the educational aid given during decolonisation, the focus shifted in the 1970s and ‚80s to the international exchange of experience. In the 1990s, the changes in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe, and the process of European unification, faced IIZ/DVV with new tasks and challenges. At the beginning of the new millennium these relate above all to the enlargement of the European Union.
Over the last decade in particular, adult education has increasingly become an effective instrument for the establishment and expansion of democratic structures, besides providing education in general, cultural and vocational subjects. It can play an important role if the aim is to enable people to participate more fully in social, cultural and political life, at all levels from the local to the international.
The most important donors are the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, the Department for Foreign Affairs, the Information Department of the Federal Government, the European Union and the Worldbank.