Archive for the ‘Volunteering news’ Category
Two years ago, the Serve America Act was passed with much fanfare. It established a goal of expanding from 75,000 government-supported volunteers to 250,000, and aimed to increase education funding and establish a summer volunteer program for s
tudents, paying $500 (which would be applied to college costs) to high-school and middle-school student who participate. The world’s voluntary organisations looked on with envy.
What a difference a couple of years can make. With pressure to slash budgets,
I think this seems like a false economy for the US, and a real blow for the young people affected. After all, the Americorps version of “national service” is voluntary, not compulsory, and participants receive living expenses and modest college expenses (not a bad option in a time of record youth unemployment rates). It supports innovative projects like Teach for America, which fills hard-to-fill teaching positions with America’s top college graduates, City Year, which has been shown to dramatically reduce teenage drop-out rates in schools, and numerous other voluntary organisations, large and small. (For more, see ICP’s collection of 52 of the most innovative Americorps programmes.)
As Shirley Sagwa writes in the Huffington Post: “Volunteers aren’t free — somebody needs to recruit them and manage them — and charities often struggle for resources, especially during down economies. AmeriCorps members, by recruiting and supervising community volunteers, make it possible for millions of people to make a real difference. As a result, the charitable sector is stronger and volunteers more effective, thereby lessening the need for greater government spending.”
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Since vinspired.com 2.0 was a mere glint in an eye, the digital team at v has been keen to bring the service direct to mobiles. Already, around 2% of our traffic comes from mobiles, and recent IAB research shows that 44% of 16-24 year olds have checked their social media profiles through their phones. As most volunteering still happens in the real world, rather than online, it makes sense to give young people the chance to record their volunteering while they’re doing it, to inspire others and to get recognition for what they do. I recently registered as an iPhone developer, and plans for our first app are well underway.
We’ve also explored the concept of micro-volunteering as a way to encourage people to take their first steps towards giving their time, inspired by campaigning communities such as Oxfam’s Protect the Human, which promotes actions according to time taken. vinspired’s Festive Favours Advent Calendar featured quick and easy ways to show a bit of festive spirit, and we’ve been excitedly watching the evolution of The Extraordinaries micro-volunteering network, especially during the Haiti crisis.
The future’s mobile…
So, when Orange launched a mobile volunteering community, we jumped straight in. The company caused waves in the UK when they teamed up with Rockcorps to launch incentives for volunteers, a controversial move which has successfully delivered volunteering messages to large audiences through high-profile ad campaigns.
The problem with Orange Rockcorps, of course, is that it has limited scale – you can only fit so many people into one venue,
and without “owning” further volunteering programmes, or a menu of opportunities, its expensive and difficult to extend the volunteering offer. So (in addition to the obvious product placement) it makes sense for them to create a mobile app to inspire their community of customers to work together to do good. Together with T-Mobile, they say they’ll have more customers than there are people in Canada – so it’s fair to say that a little time from just a percentage of them could go a long way.
So what’s in it for charities?
Well, Orange is promising to add the best 10 ideas for mobile volunteering to its app, and to market this to its customers. So if you’ve got a task that could be light work with many hands, submit your idea on their community.
The question for me has been: are charities geared up to crowd-source exciting projects? While Orange have the marketing power to take the idea to a large number of people, it will be the tasks themselves which define its stickiness. Thankfully, initial signs are positive, and community members are rising to the challenge of pitching ideas to the public vote. Popular ideas already on the community include donating photos for charities to use on their websites (we’re sure lots of organisations using vinspired would love that service), mapping homeless people’s locations so that charities can offer help, and identifying sites in need of Guerilla Gardening makeovers.
Orange don’t currently seem keen to use mobiles to promote real-world volunteering in their own app, but they are also promising to promote 10 “apps for good” created by charities or social entrepreneurs. So if you’ve got an app
that deserves some attention, let them know – or just get involved by voting for your favourite ideas on the Orange Mobile Volunteering site.