World’s “First Micro-volunteering Network” Launches

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January 28, 2012; Source: GOOD News | The new Web-based platform Sparked is using the tagline “Online volunteering for busy people,” encouraging working professionals to volunteer for the causes they care about. Sparked allows anyone to complete small skills-based challenges for their favorite nonprofits right from their computer.

The platform aims to connect tech-savvy volunteers with organizations around the world, and will soon feature mobile integration. Sparked is for all ages, but is specifically designed to engage millennials—those who grew up in the age of cell phones and social media. Sparked co-founders Jacob Colker and Ben Rigby began with a mobile application called The Extraordinaries (which “allowed people to add image tags to archives while standing in line at Starbucks”), and the idea has now evolved into the world’s “first micro-volunteering network.”

Many nonprofits lack the resources for effective means to reach out to the online community, from language translation to graphic design to effective social media campaigns, so Sparked provides a great resource for nonprofits to crowd-source such projects. The Web site has already had a number of successes, from helping a Kenyan village gain access to fresh water to redesigning a Romanian tech organization’s banner ad.

All of this sounds great, but at the same time, NPQ wonders whether this trending form of volunteerism may discourage individuals from reaching out to nonprofits in their own neighborhood, thereby creating a more withdrawn version of volunteering. And will Sparked allow you to see the tangible results of your work? There are many ways to give back from the convenience of your home today, but is this digital volunteering experience extracting authentic community engagement from volunteering? –Aine Creedon

  • Billy

    Sparked were not the worlds first micro-volunteering network – in fact they missed that one by a whopping 2 years! Microvoluntarios.org were the first in May, 2008. http://bit.ly/AhWP3f

  • Frank Nethune

    😕 Confused by the mish of sentiments in this piece.

    In sum, the author is concerned that “tech-savvy” people won’t volunteer within their own communities? And also that, as the author admits, many nonprofits lack the resources to effectively reach out to communities online? I say “meh” to both.

    Any opportunity for people to engage their interests and passions for bringing the social good to community needs should be supported, not scorned.

    Who’s to say why people give or volunteer to which causes? Why bother supporting relief and development work overseas when there’s plenty of groups in my neighborhood working on causes I either (a) don’t support or (b) can’t accommodate my support because of their own capacity issues?

    Oh, right, those “poor struggling nonprofits” which lack resources to take advantage of the same democratizing free online tools can’t be bothered to participate outside their comfort zone of being under-resourced. They can’t be bothered to make their board, staff, or whoever reach out and participate online– where the very folks who might help boost their efforts increasingly exist and constantly exchange information on great causes.

    Instead of complaining about why people should support more causes “only in their back yards” and offline, why don’t you support efforts to reduce the space between “all of our back yards”, by using all means– online and offline– to support great groups which in turn attract great people to volunteer and donate the very resources needed– wherever in the world they might be?

    Global community, reduced barriers to action, connected borders, and all that jazz means mindshift away from “whining about why” towards “how about what when”. Tools like this Spark thing already look like their helping with the “who” part of the equation…

  • Francesco

    Well, the beauty of the different forms of volunteerism is that they are not mutually exclusive and they are defined around individuals’ interests, time availability and skills. I would personally not be afraid of different forms of voluntary action to compete with each other since no one will be ever able to distribute meals, for example, online nor I believe that people will avoid social interaction (which is part of community volunteerism). I believe that everywhere where a community exists there are volunteers and the “online community” is growing bigger and bigger. Maybe community organisations will be asked to find ways of combining different forms of voluntary action compared to their current practices, which is part of modernisation. Very stimulating debate indeed. Best, f.