Micro-Volunteering: The Next Big Thing?

Sep 22, 2009

I’m intrigued by a new concept in community service called “Micro-Volunteering.” It gives people a chance to provide consulting, type information, interpret text and images, and other volunteer work for charitable causes through their mobile devices.
In my experience, most people are more than willing to give of their time to a charitable cause. The challenge is that the increasing number of things we have to do each day leaves us with less and less room to do the things we want to do.

That’s why texting, Twitter and instant messaging are gaining in popularity – they are tools to squeeze more productivity out of the brief periods of down time in between business meetings and soccer games.

National Public Radio had a recent segment on Micro-Volunteering, which is where I first heard that it is actually catching on. The Wall Street Journal also covered the topic in its blog this week, and mentioned a new iPhone application for Micro-Volunteering.

An organization called The Extraordinaries seems to be leading the movement, based on Jeff Howe’s theories of Crowdsourcing, defined as “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

We’ve taken lots of approaches to providing volunteer opportunities for Amway employees and distributors under the Amway banner. Everything from board leadership (US) … to fundraising (Europe) … to volunteer clubs (China) … to local competitions (India) … to mentoring (South Africa).

Amway people are known for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard, but rewarding, work of improving their communities. But it’s often a question of finding the right fit.

So is Micro-Volunteering the next big thing?

While, it’s certainly one more tool in the toolbox. And in an increasingly complicated world, it just might make a big difference.

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