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may discourage individuals from reaching out to nonprofits in their own neighborhood, thereby creating a more withdrawn version of volunteering.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