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Microvolunteering: Blossoming and Blooming

For those of you that haven’t been keeping up to speed with the microvolunteering arena (and why not!), I thought I’d share some of the knowledge I’ve been gathering over the past 6 months about the state of play in the microvolunteering world. It’s just a snapshot of the arena and by no means a comprehensive review.

I’ll start with the current crop of established players in the market and then move onto some of the emerging players that have been pushing their shoots above the soil, so to speak.

Dedicated Microvolunteering Initiatives

- Skills For Change: Globally, Sparked dominate the skilled microvolunteering world. It’s platform is being increasingly used by charities, volunteer centres and businesses alike to tap into people who have skills like design, communication and IT. They’re on the up and if the rumour is true, about to market their service to the ‘superfan’ brigade of big business brands.

- Microvoluntarios (now defunct – Jan 2013): The original pioneer of the microvolunteering concept in early 2008 (long before Sparked claimed to be the pioneer), are still going strong. Whilst their platform has not changed at all since they started, they are still helping out a healthy dose of non profits each month.

- Help From Home: Arguably at the forefront of non-skilled microvolunteering promotion, continues to make inroads into expanding awareness of its ‘microvolunteering for the masses’ style of bite sized actions. Looking into various new areas of promoting microvolunteering, which are not being tapped into by other initiatives.

- Brightworks (now defunct – Jan 2013): Comfortably moving along at the moment, but Ben Matthews, Founder of BrightOne is looking to the future where he states that,

“Rather than head down the app route, with our microvolunteering platform – Bright Works – we’re looking at it from a responsive design perspective, where it will be usable through the browser across all devices, whether that’s mobile, tablet or desktop – or even whatever comes next! It’s all about making it convenient to the volunteer, so they can get involved and do some social good no matter what device they are using to connect to Bright Works.”

- Orange Do Some Good App: Still championing the 5 minute micro-action via mobiles where it has a very healthy turnaround of actions from a wide variety of nonprofits. Interestingly, the Institute of Volunteering Research decided to use the App as the platform to host it’s survey on microvolunteering. Its report was published in early June 2012.

- Troopp: Whilst it promised alot, this Indian based company has fallen by the wayside a bit as not much activity has happened on the site since January of this year. Pity really, as the Indian market is a huge one to tap into.

- Spots of Time: very much an offline bite-sized volunteering initiative that has been steadily increasing its reach and number of tasks available

General Volunteering Sites

- the first general volunteering site to promote microvolunteering. Whilst their microvolunteering category was initially populated by Help From Home, it is now being added to by an increasing number of different nonprofits

- vInspired: the activity amongst youth signing up to their microvolunteering category is on a par with some of their other more traditional volunteering categories

- Volunteering England: has been promoting microvolunteering since mid 2011

- High Street Volunteer Centres: over 60 UK Volunteer Centres have now promoted microvolunteering on a one-off or ongoing project

- Various County Councils and even the UK Government are backing the microvolunteering concept

New Dedicated Initiatives

Moving onto the current crop for this year, 2012 seems to be blossoming into a year of diversity. Here’s a round up of the ones I’m aware of:

- ZiviCloud: a microvolunteering / online portal being developed in Germany using the same open source software that BrightWorks is using, but with a few additional bells and whilstles thrown in for good measure. Possible launch, Autumn time?

- Microvolunteering Consultancy: a totally free online / offline service from Romania conducted through the Help From Home initiative, whose remit is to provide advice to voluntary organisations in creating innovative microvolunteering actions that will benefit the aims of their mission and the worthy causes they serve

- Untitled (no working name for project): a microvolunteering initiative being developed by Dubai based C3, with the aim of possibly launching by the end of the year

- TagDel: a Danish online / microvolunteering platform in Beta stage, whose function appears to be centred around Danish people posing solutions online to real world issues in Danish society

- Microvolunteering Parties: a student led initiative from Nottingham University, formed in May, 2012 that is encouraging students to collectively microvolunteer in a fun party format

- VineStove: a US based microvolunteering platform that is being developed by Casey Armstrong, a crowdsourcing expert who is hoping to tap into

“the value of online labour to affect real world change in new creative ways”

- Volunteer Anywhere: an outline proposal for a non-skilled microvolunteering platform that will deliver bite sized actions via an interactive social media format that will combine a fun, friendly competitive environment with the facility to measure their impact on society.

- Madin15: US based org but also catering to UK, Canada and OZ/NZ. It’s name stands for ‘Make A Difference in 15 Minutes’. Has various time categories including opportunities that can be completed in upto 15 minutes and from 15 to 60 minutes.

- Sozialer Funke:  German based initiative wishing to set up an online / micro volunteering platform for German speakers, based loosely around the model

- Betterplace: This German based org is in talks with Vodaphone to develop a mobile website and app that potentially will enable people to volunteer on the go, via online / microvolunteering actions

In closing then, I believe even more initiatives will spring up in the near future with even more innovative approaches to delivering micro-actions. The technology and imagination is certainly there to do it, so watch this space – who know’s what’s going to emerge from the undergrowth!

Article first published on ivo by Help From Home in June, 2012.