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Microvolunteering: A Mindshift?

We at Help From Home have been promoting the microvolunteering concept for over 4 years now.  During that time, we’ve noticed a nicely sized proportion of the UK voluntary sector hesitantly (at first) embrace the concept.  However in the past 6 months we’ve seen a slight mind shift in who’s tapping into the buzz surrounding the concept.

In case you’re not wired into the microvolunteering main-frame out there, we thought we’d share some of the observations we’ve been seeing lately. One caveat though – this all needs to be put into the context that prior to 6 months ago, none of what you’re about to read was at the level of activity that we’re seeing now.

Competition Entries

Whilst there are many competitions out there globally speaking, we haven’t really seen initiatives using the microvolunteering word / concept in their entries prior to 6 months ago. However, that situation has now changed as we’re aware that at least 3 microvolunteering projects have won the competitions they entered into recently. These being:

  • ‘Vayanihan’ in the British Council run ‘I am a Changemaker’ competition in the Philipines.
  • ‘On your way home’ in the global run OpenIdeo competition entitled, ‘How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace’.
  • ‘Raise 5′ in Virgin’s ‘Screw Business As Usual’ competition

Other less successful ideas include:

  • 15 minutes/day in the OpenIdeo competition, ‘How might we inspire and enable communities to take more initiative in making their local environments better?’


Articles on microvolunteering atually appear quite regulary, but they’re almost always exclusively in UK and US publications. But hey, hang on a minute – interest in microvolunteering within the media is spreading to non-English speaking countries in Europe. Take for instance the recent examples of:

Unless you can read Czech or Romanian (or like us you use Google Translate), take my word that the links take you to articles on microvolunteering.

These days, we’re seeing quite abit of traffic from people outside of the voluntary sector twittering on about microvolunteering. In the early days it usually focussed around, but these days Sparked hardly gets a mention. Tweets have now expanded to include a whole range of initiatives, mostly coming from members of the public.

But hang on there, the voluntary sector seems to be latching on to the buzz and Tweeting about microvolunteering by either promoting the concept or projects from other initiative’s. Recent advocates of the concept include Jewish Volunteer Network (@JVN_org_uk), Excellent Ageing (@ExcellentAgeing) and VCS West Lindsey (@VCSWestLindsey).


Microvolunteering was not usually the topic at conventions, but that seems to be changing. Take for instance  CSCW 2013 in Texas, US between 23 – 27th February, 2013, which will be chairing a session entitled, Micro-volunteering: Helping the helpers in development, designed to discuss ways to take the microvolunteering concept into developing countries. Included on the panel of seven are representatives from IBM, Microsoft and Help From Home!

The International Corporate Volunteerism Conference in Washington, US  between 10 – 11th April, 2013 will also be discussing new approaches to corporate volunteerism, including the concept of microvolunteering.

Our Own Experience

We initially started out promoting 3rd party run microvolunteering actions, but recently we’ve noticed that we’ve become a catalyst for people who contact us wanting to collaborate on their own microvolunteering project. That’s an exciting develpment for us, as we never envisaged that that would happen, but people out there seem to be becoming more aware of the potential that microvolunteering has, to engage the public in volunteering.

A recent example of this was our Global Awareness Days project developed in collaboration with somebody from Hamburg, Germany, whilst our upcoming ‘Skills 4 You’ project (designed to enable people to develop work based skills via microvolunteering actions at home) is being developed in collaboration with a Senior Lecturer in Youth Studies at a local University close to us.


Last but by no means least is a very interesting project from Walthamstow’s MP, Stella Creasy, who’s #7days4stow scheme uses the microvolunteering concept to encourage people to donate 7 days out of 365, be that in chunks of either minutes or hours at a time throughout the year – all to benefit the community of Walthamstow.

For us this is an interesting direction to take, as it reflects a growing interest in offline microvolunteering usage – a recent example being VCS West Lindsey’s Twitter call for microvolunteers to help out at their local RitzCinema and Market Rasen project back in early February, 2013.


There seems to be a small growing momentum of people picking up on what the term microvolunteering actually conveys to the general public and using it to attract volunteers to their projects. Whilst the mindshift is nowhere near seismic in size, it’s enough for us to notice that the microvolunteering radar blip is becoming a lot brighter than it once was.

With apologies to Orange – the future’s bright, the future’s microvolunteering (possibly)!

First published on February, 2013