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Youth and Microvolunteering

I’m aware of several studies that show there is a greater number of people in the age bracket below 24 that participate in microvolunteering actions, than in any other age bracket – 46% aged 24 and under, rising to 83% for those 35 and under (IVR study) and 41% aged 20 and under, rising to 74% for those 29 and under (HFH study). One of the reasons for this may be their increasing familiarity with internet enabled devices like smartphones and tablets.

Here at Help From Home, we’ve noticed a steady interest in microvolunteering from youth related organisations, so much so that we thought we’d relay what we’re seeing out there, in the hopes that this might be helpful to volunteer managers and trend spotters alike.

Skills

Back in May 2013, Help From Home released a project called Skills 4 You designed to enable people to develop work based skills via microvolunteering actions that could be suitable for inclusion in a CV. To date, just under 50% of participants who have signed up to the scheme have fallen within the 24 and under age bracket. We actually haven’t done any specific promotion of this project, nor have we placed any great emphasis within the text of the projects’ webpage towards youth. Whilst we have no particular evidence as to why youth seem to be more drawn to this scheme than any other age bracket, we suspect that the current climate of increased youth unemployment may have something to do with it, where youth are trying to find alternative ways to make themselves more employable.

Academia

Within the academic world, I am  aware of quite a few schools / colleges that have requested information from us or used the microvolunteering actions from our website within the school curriculum. Here’s a few examples to demonstrate this:

Merchant Taylor Girls School: back in May 2013, students were asked to write letters to sick children via the Postpals initiative featured on our platform

Oasis Academy Shirley Park & City of London School for Girls: both schools requested an Actions 4 Causes guide from us earlier on in 2013, tailored to the schools’ particular interests in classroom related volunteering activities

University of Cambridge: requested an infographic from us in May 2013 to demonstrate to their students that they could still squeeze in some volunteering, even though they were revising for their final exams. The eventual infographic was entitled, ‘Doing Good, Doing Revision’.

One of our projects called Help From School, promotes microvolunteering unsurprisingly to schools. As part of this project, we offer a freely downloadable Teachers Resource Pack that enables educators to introduce the concept of microvoluntering into a citizenship course. So far over 2300 copies of it have been downloaded either from the Help From Home website, TES or elsewhere. Whilst we don’t know how many of these packs have actually been used by educators, we do think it demonstrates a healthy interest in the subject that potentially could be encouraging youth to become responsible active citizens via microvolunteering actions.

Education Based Projects

Aside from educators teaching about microvolunteering, students, Universities and even Governments are also embracing it in their very own projects. For instance:

Nottingham University Students Union in the UK has created a specific page for microvolunteeing, where one of its projects encourages its union members to hold microvolunteering parties

The CSIMicrovolunteer project is run by the Israeli based Claremont Students for Israel group, whose aim is to organize events on campus to enable people to better understand the state of Israel. They do this by incentivising tasks such as booking a venue, creating fliers and contacting speakers, which they all label as microvolunteering tasks

University of Derby runs a ‘Futures Award – Recognition in Volunteering’ scheme where, amongst other things they encourage their students to microvolunteer as a way towards attaining the required 20 hours of volunteering

Back in February, 2013 Leeds University Union ran an event to encourage students have a go at some artsy-craftsy microvolunteering projects that was intended to try to improve the lives of the homeless in Leeds.

Various US State Departments use American college students to help them out on online micro-tasks via the Virtual Student Foreign Service platform

Various universities from around the world also promote the microvolunteering concept to their students. These include, among others, Tulane University in New Orleans, US; London School of Economics in the UK; and Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.

Youth Groups

Youth group organisations have latched onto the microvolunteering concept as well, and are using the microvolunteering label to seemingly attract youth to volunteer. Here’s a few examples:

vInspired, one of UK’s leading youth focussed organisations has over 80 actions within its microvolunteering category, which at the time of writing (taking into account it reset its’ counters a few months ago) had attracted over 2200 applicants – comparable with the take up rate of some of the other volunteering categories on its platform

Surrey Youth Focus (SYF) in the UK state that microvolunteering opportunities can be used as part of attaining the Duke of Edinburgh Award, providing the actions have been participated in as a registered member of SYF

Greater Manchester Youth Network contains dedicated webpages describing and encouraging participation in microvolunteering actions to its’ youth membership

Volunteer Centres

A few years back, Help From Home embarked on a campaign to encourage UK Volunteer Centres to consider promoting the microvolunteering concept to their respective communities, which to date has encouraged over 80 VCs to promote the concept on a one-off or ongoing basis. Some of these VCs promote the micro-actions on Help From Home via the Do-it.org database, eg Bolton , Gosport, Erewash where we are forwarded applications of interest from these VCs on an almost daily basis. A cursory glance over the ages of people being forwarded to us reveals that over 60% of them are aged 25 and under. For volunteer managers, that should be raising some eyebrows.

The Final Word(s)

In closing then, from our viewpoint there appears to be some evidence in the form of definite data (surveys) or anecdotal data (VC applications and interest shown by youth groups & educators) that youth are more inclined to engage in microvolunteering actions than any other age group. Perhaps it’s what the term ‘microvolunteering’ conveys to youth (bite-sized, no commitment) that is attracting them, or perhaps it’s their familiarity with the internet technology that is encouraging them to look at the concept.

At this stage we don’t know what the underlying reasons are, but for volunteer managers I believe it’s a noteworthy trend to keep an eye on, as the internet and ‘just around the corner’ technology (wearable computers, augmented reality, 3D printing, QR codes and personal drones) with its implications on volunteering, aren’t going to go away any day soon!

First published October, 2013