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The rise of microvolunteering

The rise of microvolunteering

July 01 2014

By Holly Winman

A closer look at 2013 NT100 project, Help From Home

By Help From Home Founder, Mike Bright

Microvolunteering can be described as easy, quick, no commitment online or offline actions that benefit a worthy cause. The United Nations Volunteers issued ‘State of the World’s Volunteerism’ a report released on 5th December, 2011, in which they described microvolunteering as one of three fast growing trends in the global volunteering arena. But how has this come about?


Help From Home Founder, Mike Bright

Modern microvolunteering networks arguably first started back in May 2008 with Microvoluntarious (now defunct), 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 followed with the likes of Sparked (2010, America – now known as Skills For Change), Koodo Nation (2011, Canada), Troopp (2011, India, and now defunct) and Brightworks (2011, UK – and now defunct), who all attempted to tap into professionals who wanted to use their skills to benefit non-profits.

But what of unskilled microvolunteering that could appeal to the masses. We at Help From Home have now collated over 800 non-skilled microvolunteering opportunities that can be participated on the go, on demand and on a person's own terms, regardless of the professional skills they do or don’t have. We have jointly pioneered the microvolunteering concept since we first set ourselves up in November 2008, where our remit has been to use the collection of microvolunteering actions featured on our database to, among other things:

  • Show people how they can create impact in the world during their spare moments, even in as little as 1 minute from their own home. So far over 5300 micro-actions have been registered on our platform.
  • Encourage office workers to volunteer during their lunchtime or their commute to and from work. We've seen interest from the likes of Sainsburys, Ebay and Whitbread in using actions from our platform in their employee supported volunteering schemes.
  • Engage students in microvolunteering activities during a class lesson, without them actually leaving the classroom. We're currently working on a project that has the possibility of including micro-actions within the Welsh Bacculaureate Award.
  • Inspire Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Involved Organisations to promote microvolunteering to their catchment area andsupporters. An increasing number of volunteer centres are holding microvolunteering events to show people how easy it is to volunteer, for example, '30 actions of good in 30 minutes'

The UK’s Institute of Volunteering Research has published several research papers on microvolunteering. Their June 2012 study discovered that over 83% of respondents would recommend microvolunteering to friends and family, whilst 95% planned to continue microvolunteering in the future. Their much larger November 2013 paper went on to further state that, ‘The demand for micro-volunteering from individuals is likely to grow because it meets people's desire to be in control of their time and engagement, and suits their increasingly busy and unpredictable lives.’

Quite a few nationally recognised volunteering bodies around the world have picked up on the concept as well and created volunteering categories dedicated to the microvolunteering concept, a few examples being vInspired, Idealist and Go Volunteer Australia.

In 2013, a new trend began to appear, where non-profits began promoting and describing offline, bite-sized, no commitment actions as microvolunteering ones, which would have previously been labelled as traditional actions. Here's a few examples of these: CSIMicrovolunteer, Cenovus,and Daisy's Dream.

As the momentum continues to build around the microvolunteering concept, we at HelpFromHome feel there's a huge potential to do-good within many sectors of society. For instance:

  • Several studies have been issued stating that volunteering increases a person’s wellbeing and health. We believe microvolunteering activities could be taken to a persons' hospital bed or whilst their convalescing, with the possible ramifications of improved health recovery in a patient. We're currently looking at ways to achieve this.
  • How often are volunteering opportunities labeled as being suitable for disabled people? Not many! Microvolunteering has the potential to bring volunteering opportunities to a person, rather than the other way round. We believe that more disabled people could be given a sense of empowerment if they could give back to society from their own home.

Of course, all this would not have been possible without the technology out there to make bite-sized volunteering possible and accessible, be that on people's smartphones, tablets, PCs or maybe even watches in the future. Technology in the guise of the internet and social media are the conduits we use to spread awareness of these opportunities to the public. Without them, it's difficult to see how we could reach so many people. In fact roughly 90% of our operations rely on technology to do the social good we do, ranging from Skype for our communications through to the tablets that are used at microvolunteering events to show to passers by how easy it is to volunteer.

Microvolunteering actions will continue to be innovative in the future, using technology that's either just 'around the corner' or currently in its infancy right now. There’s a handy article on this topic here, which touches on the effect that technology could have on the microvolunteering arena, including wearable computing, augmented reality, 3D printing, QR codes and even personal drones.

So, is microvolunteering on the rise? It certainly seems like it, and we at Help From Home intend to continue to be at the forefront of promoting it. Watch this space…

Follow Help From Home on Twitter: @helpfromhome

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