Guest Blog – The Rise of Microvolunteering

As a very special treat for you this week, we have a guest blog for you. This happens when we recruit an expert from outside JVN to tell us about a special event, campaign or concept to do with volunteering. This week’s guest blogger is Mike Bright, an expert on the concept of microvolunteering who works for the organisation Help From Home. Microvolunteering is the perfect form of volunteering for those who find it hard to committ regularly or for very long to worthwhile causes, or for people who find it hard to leave home or the office…

Mike Bright, Founder of 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) and Brightworks (2011, UK), 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 too much into their own or work time. It’s also attractive to companies because their employees do not have to leave their offices and so waste time mobilising their workforce to attend a traditional volunteering event.

But what of unskilled 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 of at any time to suit a person’s lifestyle, regardless of the professional skills they do or don’t have.

Orange’s Do Some Good mobile app also taps into the unskilled microvolunteer and is riding the wave of the explosion of apps proliferating this market. How easy can it get to volunteer these days? A few taps on the screen and you’re done!

The UK’s Institute of Volunteering Research published a research paper in June 2012 to explore microvolunteering through smartphones.  Amongst its 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, Guardian, etc. UK volunteering organisations have been picking up on the ease with which people can now volunteer, so much so that they have created new volunteering categories to cater for its popularity, e.g. Volunteering England, Vinspired and Ivo.org. Even the UK government is promoting microvolunteering via its official Number 10 website as well as a few County Councils, e.g. North Somerset CC and Surrey CC, whilst just over 60 high street Volunteer Centres are promoting the microvolunteering concept, either on a one-off or ongoing basis.

Riding on the back of this popularity are non 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 RSPB, Marie Curie Cancer and Resolve International for typical examples of this.

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 ZiviCloud (Germany), Microvolunteering Consultancy (Romania), TagDel (Denmark), Microvolunteering Parties (UK), and Spots of Time (UK).

Microvolunteering actions will continue to be innovative in the future. There’s a handy article on this topic here, which 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), augmented 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!!

To take a look at some microvolunteering opportunities for yourself, check out the 23 opportunities Help From Home have offered on the JVN website here.

This week’s opportunity of the week is a Promotional Materials Distributer for World Jewish Relief’s legacy, to help deliver promotional legacy shoppping bags to Kosher shops and distribute leaflets in the North and East London areas. You must be available between 8am and midday on two out of three dates – the 2nd, 9th and 16th November. To get in touch, contact Cat Mansoor on 0208 736 1272, or for full details click here.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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