The Rise or Not Of Micro-Volunteering
13 November 2012 at 11:12 am
OPINION: Australia is now discussing and experimenting with micro-volunteering but the uptake has been slower than the rest of the world, says Mike Bright the Founder of UK-based Help From Home.
Microvolunteering can be described as easy, quick, no (or low) commitment online or offline actions that benefit a worthy cause.
The United Nations Volunteers issued a report on 5th December, 2011, ‘State of the World’s Volunteerism’, which described microvolunteering as 1 of 3 fast growing trends in the global volunteering arena.
How has this come about?
Modern microvolunteering networks arguably first started back in May 2008 with Microvoluntarious, who offered a system for non profits to post requests for help with simple actions that people with professional skills could complete in 15 – 120 minutes.
Similar schemes have been set up with Sparked (2010, America), Koodo Nation (2011, Canada), Troopp (2011, India), Brightworks (2011, UK) and ZiviCloud (2012, Germany) who all attempt to tap into the skills that professionals have and are willing to use to do some good out there.
These schemes are attractive to employees who can utilize their skills to help out worthy causes in bite-sized chunks of time, without impeding to much into their own or work time. It’s also attractive to companies as their employees do not have to leave their offices and so waste valuable time mobilising their workforce to attend a traditional volunteering event.
But what of unskilled / semi-skilled microvolunteering that could appeal to the masses. UK based Help From Home was established in December 2008 and has now collated over 800 non-skilled microvolunteering opportunities that can be dipped in and dipped out at any time to suit a person’s lifestyle, regardless of the professional skills they do or they don’t have.
Australia, also now seems to be discussing / experimenting with this concept, eg Tasmanian Times, Jane Austen Festival Australia and 3pconsulting (page 8 of the pdf download).
Whilst it appears there are no dedicated Australian microvolunteering portals out there, 2 Bob's Worth did give it a go back in 2009, but sadly didn't quite reach the momentum it aimed for.
The UK’s Institute of Volunteering Research published a research paper in June 2012 to explore microvolunteering through smartphones. Amongst it’s findings, it discovered that over 83% would recommend microvolunteering to friends and family, whilst 95% plan to continue microvolunteering in the future.
This approach of the ‘on the go, on demand and on your own terms’ type of volunteering has been gaining increased coverage in the media – it’s all been featured in the Huffington Post, BBC, New York Times etc. Governments and Local Authorities from around the world are also picking up on the use with which people can now microvolunteer. Check out UK Governments Number 10 website, US Governments proposed TAPAS project (scroll down to the middle of the page) and San Francisco's bid to win $5million with their proposed microvolunteering idea.
Riding on the back of this popularity are Not for Profits and charities who are creating their own microvolunteering actions or using the term to describe micro-actions that previously were labelled as traditional volunteering in order to tap into the 'buzz' that revolves around microvolunteering.
Take a look at Marie Curie Cancer, Resolve International, American Red Cross and DESC for typical examples of this.
Help From Home features a few Australian based charities that utilizes microvolunteers to benefit worthy causes, as indeed does Sparked eg UnitingCare Burnside, Autism SA, and Child Wise.
So what of the future of microvolunteering? It seems to be diversifying and expanding! Aside from the microvolunteering platforms mentioned above, new initiatives are beginning to emerge, namely Microvolunteering Consultancy (Romania), TagDel (Denmark), Microvolunteering Parties (UK), Spots of Time (UK) and VineStove (US).
Microvolunteering actions will continue to be innovative in the future. There’s a handy article on this topic here, but basically touches on the effect that technology could have on the microvolunteering arena, including cyber microvolunteering (using computers and equipment controlled remotely from half way across the world), augumented reality (crowdsourcing human senses to provide information feedback) and 3D printing (creating medical devices and other inventions for those in need).
So, is microvolunteering on the rise? It certainly seems like it. Watch this space!!
About the author: Mike Bright is the Founder of Help From Home, a UK-based initiative that runs a free community service to promote and encourage participation in easy, no commitment micro-volunteering opportunities across the globe where a few minutes is all that is needed to help out worthy causes.