Tag Archives: digital volunteering

20 Years Ago: The Virtual Volunteering Project

vvlogoThe Virtual Volunteering Project officially launched 20 years ago this month. It was the first attempt by anyone, anywhere, to research online volunteer service and document what works, and what doesn’t. I directed the initiative at its launch – and now, two decades later, I’m in a mood to reflect.

The Virtual Volunteering Project was the brainchild of Steve Glikbarg and Cindy Shove, co-founders of Impact Online (what became VolunteerMatch). In fact, Glikbarg probably originally coined the phrase virtual volunteering, back in the mid or even early 1990s. In its first two years, the Virtual Volunteering Project was funded primarily with the support of the James Irvine Foundation. Additional support in this first phase of the Project came from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Morino Institute and the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. The Charles A. Dana Center, a research institute at the University of Texas at Austin, hosted the Project for most of its life.

How did I start on the road to becoming a virtual volunteering expert? In 1995, while working at Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, the two volunteer interns I’d taken on to build web sites for all of the initiatives we were managing said they would prefer to build the sites on their own computers back on campus, rather than at our office, because their computers were better and it was more convenient for them. They would bring their work to me on disks when they were finished. What a great idea! It worked out very well – they got to work on their own schedule, from their homes, on better computers, and I got what I needed. So I offered the option of working remotely part of the time, even most of the time, to every volunteer I recruited after that at Joint Venture. The next year, Cindy contacted me about running a new virtual volunteering initiative she and Steve had just gotten funded. “What’s ‘virtual volunteering?'” I asked. “It’s what you’ve been doing with your volunteers and talking about on USENET!” she replied.

The Virtual Volunteering Project officially launched in December 1996. It was quite rough at first; the vast majority of the programs that involved volunteers donating some or all of their time online never used the phrase virtual volunteering. In fact, that’s still true today! I remember thinking in those first several weeks that most online volunteers would be 20 something men living in Silicon Valley; imagine my surprise to find out, rather quickly, that most online volunteers were women living all over the USA – and beyond! I was also stunned at how quickly I found more than 100 virtual volunteering initiatives, most of which didn’t know about each other. With the help of online and onsite volunteers myself, I researched virtual volunteering activities, created and continually updated web pages about it, and marketed what I was learning, via both traditional press releases and frequent posts to various online discussion groups. I also involved online volunteers myself – more than 300 over more than four years. As a result, I was invited to speak at a lot of conferences and was quoted in a lot of traditional press, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

I left the Virtual Volunteering Project in Janaury 2001, to prepare for my move to Germany to work for the United Nations to run the virtual volunteering component of NetAid, which became the stand-alone Online Volunteering service. I got that UN job because of my online activities, including participation in various online communities. In subsequent UN and international work, even when the focus isn’t virtual volunteering but, say, communications, I’ve found a way to inject at least a little virtual volunteering capacity building and involvement into the work.

Now, it’s 20 years after the launch of the Virtual Volunteering Project, which is archived here. Not much has changed in terms of best practices in virtual volunteering, the practices that make virtual volunteering effective for nonprofits, NGOs, government programs, schools and more, though there’s lots of new jargon now in the mix: micro volunteering, crowdsourcing, digital volunteering, the Cloud, etc.

vvbooklittle The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by Susan J. Ellis and myself, is our attempt to document all these best practices over the more than three decades virtual volunteering has been happening, in a comprehensive, detailed way, so that the collective knowledge can be used with the latest digital engagement initiatives to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference. It’s a tool primarily for organizations, but there’s also information for online volunteers themselves. It’s available both in traditional print form and in digital version. Thanks to everyone who has purchased it so far! Bonus points if you can find the sci fi/fan girl references in the book…

Also see:

Early History of Nonprofits & the Internet

Al Gore Campaign Pioneered Virtual Volunteering

Lessons on effective, valuable online communities – from the 1990s

Online volunteers created a music festival in St. Louis

Updated: research regarding virtual volunteering

Supervising online volunteers in court-ordered settings

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersA comment was submitted on one of the most popular blogs I’ve ever written, What online community service is and is not. That blog called out a company that is selling what it calls online community service hours, but which is, in fact, a ruse: customers pay a fee and receive access to videos, which they are supposed to watch, and in return for claiming to watch them, the company gives the “volunteers” a letter from a nonprofit saying they performed online community service. As someone that has been promoting virtual volunteering since the 1990s – and quality standards in all kinds of volunteer engagement – it continues to have me outraged.

I no longer approve comments on that blog, which has more than two dozen, because, for the last three years, most of the comments I get about this blog are from trolls affiliated with the company, ranting about how I hate hard-working people that don’t have time to do traditional onsite service (a rant that can come only from someone who has not actually read the blog) or name-calling such as this:

fanmail

Yes, really. Welcome to my world.

But a recent comment from Mark Waterson wasn’t either of those. I didn’t want his comment, and my response, to get buried in the sea of comments on that blog, so the blog entry you are reading now is devoted to this comment.

Mark says in his blog comment:

“This article points out online community service options that are legitimate, but really misses the point of why those other organizations exist. If you are doing community service for court, you need an official signed letter of someone in the nonprofit organization who “supervised” you saying you have completed X hours of community service. Your alternatives, while more legitimate, do not offer this, even at a price, and so no one doing court ordered community service can even consider your suggestions as possible alternatives for their purposes.”

Mark is incorrect, however, on this issue. Many of the online volunteering options I recommend on this page DO provide an official signed letter by the nonprofit organization who was assisted by the volunteer, stating how many hours the person gave as an online volunteer. And I have been one of those nonprofit representatives that wrote and signed such a letter for someone doing court-ordered community service through virtual volunteering. As I state on many of my pages for volunteers, a person needs to ask the nonprofit he or she wants to help – whether that nonprofit is down the street or across the country – BEFORE volunteering if staff would be willing to write and sign such a letter. Indeed, many will say no – even for onsite, face-to-face volunteers – but you will find some that will say yes if you keep looking, as I suggest on my pages.

As volunteerism expert Susan Ellis frequently points out, there are very few onsite, traditional volunteering activities where a volunteer is supervised the entire time he or she is performing service. Instead, the volunteers is trained, then given a desk, or a work space and materials, or a phone, or a garbage bag and some gloves, and then they do MOST of their volunteering largely unsupervised. As someone who has been fooled more than a few times by a volunteer sitting at a desk, looking at a computer screen for hours, and pretending to work – and after a day or two, I find out nothing is getting done – I’ve realized that volunteer supervision is much more than eyes-on-the-volunteer, or sign-in sheets at the door.

vvbooklittleAs Susan and I discuss in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, there are many ways to supervise online volunteers, to ensure the work is getting done, that the quality of the work is up-to-snuff, and that the volunteer is getting the support he or she needs, such as regular Skype calls, regular emails back and forth, shared work spaces, regular reviews of work to date, etc. In taking those steps, you are going to know very quickly if you are talking to the person actually doing the work.

Could someone fake online volunteering service? Sure, just as people can fake onsite service: hand the volunteer the plastic bag and the gloves, send them down the road to pick up trash, and when they are out-of-sight, a friend brings them a full bag of trash to return to you. Ta da! Or put three volunteers at your information booth, walk away for five hours, and return, not knowing that one of the volunteers paid the others to lie about her time at the table.

Let’s imagine a volunteering scenario: a father gets a DUI and has to do a certain number of hours of community service. He finds a nonprofit that needs 400 photos on Flickr that each need to be tagged with a unique set of keywords, and because each set of keywords is different, it has to be done manually. He signs up to do the work, is accepted to do the work, but his son actually does the work. But here’s the thing: he could also do that as an onsite volunteer: he could go onsite, sit at a desk, and play Tetris until someone passes by, then switch to the Flickr screen and pretend to work until they are gone; meanwhile, his son back at home is actually doing all the work. Here’s a similar scenario: a mom gets assigned court-ordered community service and she signs up to help a nonprofit translate brochures and speeches into Spanish from English. She comes into the nonprofit, sits at a desk, but she plays Scrabble whilst her daughter back home does all the translating.

I think that any volunteer manager of quality would sniff out these scams quickly, through their discussions with the volunteer, review of work, etc. And that would be true of onsite or online volunteers.  TMZ implied that Lindsay Lohan faked her virtual volunteering to fulfill court-ordered community service (be sure to scroll down to the comments – yes, I commented) – it would have been so easy for the nonprofit to know if she did the work or not, through basic volunteer management 101 principles.

Does the tiny possibility that a volunteer can fake work done on a computer mean volunteers fulfilling online community service shouldn’t be allowed to do any online work even if it’s supposed to be done onsite at the organization, rather than via their own computer? No more volunteer web site designers, database data inputters, app designers, translators, editors, podcast producers, photo taggers, and on and on, if they are assigned service by the courts? Of course not. Whether this kind of work is being done onsite or online from the volunteers’ home or a nearby library, the likelihood that a volunteer is pretending to do the work while it’s actually a relative or roommate is so tiny, and so easy to sniff out. Fear of what might happen, in this case, isn’t at all justification of not allowing people assigned court-ordered community service to engage in virtual volunteering.

The biggest challenge to court-ordered folks finding virtual volunteering isn’t fear that they will fake their service by having someone else do it; rather, it’s finding virtual volunteering at all. And many nonprofits refuse to work with court-ordered community service folks period, onsite or online. They just don’t love ’em like I love ’em.

Even though I disagree with Mark, I thank him for writing – I’ve been wanting to expand on this issue for a while now.

Also see:

July 6, 2016 update: the web site of the company Community Service Help went away sometime in January 2016, and all posts to its Facebook page are now GONE. More info at this July 2016 blog: Selling community service leads to arrest, conviction

What online community service is – and is not – the very first blog I wrote exposing this company, back in January 2011, that resulted in the founder of the company calling me at home to beg me to take the blog down.

Haters gonna hate, the latest update on Community Service Help and other similar, unethical companies

Community Service Help Cons Another Person, a first-person account by someone who paid for online community service and had it rejected by the court.

Update on a virtual volunteering scam, from November 2012.

Courts being fooled by online community service scams

Online community service company tries to seem legit.

Online volunteer scam goes global

Yes, I love court-ordered community service folks

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersThe Oregon Volunteers Commission for Voluntary Action and Service recently hosted meetings all over the state of Oregon with representatives from nonprofits, religious organizations and government agencies that involve volunteers, and volunteers themselves, to gather information to use in the 2016-18 Oregon State Service Plan and prepare a report for the Oregon Legislature on how to strengthen volunteerism and engagement.

I attended the Washington County meeting. Not many people attended, unfortunately, but the attendees that were there were enthusiastic and ready to work. The second best part of the meeting, for me, was watching one of the commission board members begin to realize just what a pain in the neck requests to nonprofits from corporations for group volunteering activities can be.

The best part of the meeting, for me, was when Sarah Delphine of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation said she loved working with court-ordered community service folks, and I immediately demanded a high-five. Because, for the most part, I love them too. I’ve had good experiences with them as online volunteers.

Oh how that point of view puts me on the outs with so many managers of volunteers! There are regularly rants on various online groups from people that hate working with court-ordered community service folks – or anyone being required to provide community service, including students volunteering as part of a class assignment. “They aren’t really volunteers! I shouldn’t have to work with them!” Gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair…

I approach management of volunteers as community engagement. I’m not just trying to get work done; I’m trying to build relationships and engage with the community, however I might define the community. Organizations I work for often want to engage a diversity of community members – and if they don’t, it’s something I push very hard for. And that includes engaging with community members who are far from perfect.

Let me be clear: I’m not going to involve anyone as a volunteer, online or onsite, that I don’t think is appropriate for the organization, court-ordered or not. I’m not going to create a volunteering assignment just to involve a particular kind of person or a particular group if I don’t think that assignment has real value to the organization where I’m working. I will tell a volunteer – or a group of volunteers, even from a very well-known Fortune 500 corporation – “No, I don’t think we can accommodate you as a volunteer. You might try looking on VolunteerMatch for something else.” My goal is to serve the mission of the organization, and that often means saying no to someone who wants to volunteer. I won’t lower the standards of the organization for anyone.

That said, I’ve worked with about half a dozen online volunteers that were ordered to perform community service by the court, and all have been terrific. And all were VOLUNTEERS, and I treated them as such.

Not everyone who has contacted me to volunteer online to fulfill a court order has ended up volunteering with me. Most disappear after I write them back – just as most people that inquire about volunteering in general disappear. Why do most folks disappear? Because it’s so easy to say “I want to volunteer with you!” So easy to send that email, send that text, make that call. But it’s much harder to actually do it, court-ordered or not – it dawns on folks that, oh, volunteering, online or onsite, really does take time and effort, and they fade away, off to look at some other shiny something they read about online.

My first communication with every person that wants to volunteer notes, among other things, that they have to get permission from the court or their probation officer BEFORE they start volunteering with me if they are wanting to volunteer to fulfill such an obligation. Many times, they don’t get the permission – the court or probation officer says no. So that’s another factor that’s kept the numbers of court-ordered folks I’ve worked with quite low. But for the half a dozen folks who did get permission to volunteer online with me: they were terrific volunteers. They got the assignment done, they did the assignment correctly, they did it on time, they stayed in touch – and, in addition, they volunteered more hours than they had to by the court. One guy stuck around for a few months doing small online assignments for me, going far beyond anything the court had asked for. And I thanked them, just like I did with any volunteer: they got listed on a web page that named them and what they did, along with all other volunteers, they got an email thank you from me, they got invited to focus groups, and on and on.

I really want to help people doing court-ordered service to volunteer. That’s why I created a web page specifically to help guide them. And that’s why I created a web page of where to find virtual volunteering & home-based volunteering with established nonprofits – because there are so many companies out there claiming to give court-ordered community service folks the hours they need for a small fee (please do NOT pay a company for online community service!).

You can involve court-ordered community service volunteers without lowering your standards for volunteers. But don’t say no to someone who needs volunteering time for a court or probation just because its mandatory service, because it’s not pure volunteering – whatever that is. Put the person through all the same screening and orienting you do for any volunteer candidate. If they make the cut, bring them on board. If you see volunteer management as community engagement, as something so much more than just getting work done, there’s no reason not to.

vvbooklittleWant to know more about the realities of engaging volunteers online? Hey, there’s a book for that! The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook is available for purchase, as a hardback book or an e-book. You will not find a more detailed guide for using the Internet to support and involve volunteers! It includes extensive information on safety and confidentiality, for those wanting to use such as an excuse for not involving online volunteers, court-ordered or not – and has specific advice regarding working with court-ordered volunteers.

Junior Achievement & Virtual Volunteering

Just found out about Taking It Digital: New Opportunities for Volunteer Service, a report published by Junior Achievement and the Citi Foundation. It reports on JA’s Digital Volunteer Strategy Initiative in the USA, launched in April 2014 and which develops online educational assets and digital delivery tools for JA’s high school JA Personal Finance® course.

“This report is based on the best practice literature in online volunteering, volunteer management, and online education; a review of a beta set of online project tools; and interviews with JA volunteer managers involved in a recent pilot of the Initiative (Phase II of a two-phase pilot project). The study purpose is to identify issues organizations should consider in taking their volunteer/service programs into the digital realm.”

In the JA’s program, volunteers teach a five-unit course to students in diverse school settings using both on-site and off-site components: after an initial face-to-face visit to the classroom to introduce the course, the volunteer remotely leads several sessions of online lessons, which requires onsite facilitation by the classroom teacher.

I’m thrilled to know that my book, The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, was used as a resource for this report and its recommendations – and to see so many names of well-known researchers and practitioners regarding virtual volunteering, many of them my colleagues, cited in the detailed report.

This JA digital initiative / virtual volunteering effort is in addition to the Enterprise Without Border E-Mentoring tool, created and is managed by Junior Achievement Young Enterprise Europe (JA-YE Europe). It’s for volunteers from the business sector, teachers and student companies participating in the EwB program and enables its members to create discussion groups, discuss and work on particular projects and topics, and provides information about upcoming on-line webinars, EwB cafés, presentations and enables access to all study materials connected with EwB activities.

Congrats to Junior Achievement for both your initiatives and for being so open in sharing your information, and to Citi Foundation, which joins: Fundacja Orange (the Polish branch) in funding virtual volunteering-related initiatives. Sadly, they seem to be the only two companies currently supporting such innovation with cash.

Also see:

Hey, corporations: time to put your money where your mouth is re: nonprofits & innovation

Reddit controversy is a lesson in working with volunteers

redditReddit is a very high-profile online community that has been in the news a lot lately. It’s in the style of an old-fashioned online bulletin board – a very popular, simple, low-graphics platform on the early days of the Internet that I miss very much. On Reddit, members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links, and can vote submissions up or down – voting determines the position of posts on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called subreddits.

The community membership has created a strong, outspoken, high-intelligent culture that can be, at times, aggressive regarding its belief in free speech, and there are very few rules about the types of content that may be posted. This has led to the creation of several subreddits that have been perceived as offensive, including forums dedicated to jailbait (since banned) and pictures of dead bodies. On the other hand, the Reddit community’s philanthropic efforts are some of my favorites to highlight in my workshops.

Reddit employee Victoria Taylor helped organize citizen-led interviews on Reddit with famous people on the very popular “Ask me Anything” (AMA) subreddit, including interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch (sigh), USA President Obama, Bill Nye, Madonna, and Eric Idle –  and these sessions often ended up landing on the news for some especially funny or outlandish answer given. She was very popular with the volunteer online moderators. But recently, Taylor was fired. Reddit moderators have said they were “blindsided” by Taylor’s firing and that she was “an essential lifeline” for them and Reddit employees. Many Reddit users have demanded answers from Reddit’s interim CEO Ellen Pao regarding why Taylor was dismissed. In protest of her dismissal, moderators on several of the site’s largest subreddits locked users out. Pao is now scrambling to calm hostilities, and says it’s all just a result of miscommunication.

This mutiny by the online moderators is actually an all-too-common problem for organizations that involve large numbers of very dedicated volunteers, online or onsite. Reddit forgot that its volunteers aren’t just free labor; they feel personally invested in this organization, they feel ownership, and while those characteristics make them excellent moderators, it also means that, if they feel taken advantage of or that they aren’t being listened to, they will rebel, very publicly.

Reddit leadership needs to immediately read America Online volunteers : Lessons from an early co-production community, by Hector Postigo, in the International Journal of Cultural Studies 2009. This article analyzes the case of America Online (AOL) volunteers, specifically when company changes resulted in the rise of a labor consciousness among many volunteers, which in turn made the “free distributed workforce” impossible to sustain – and invited intervention by the US Department of Labor. They also need to each buy a copy of The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, and READ IT. And maybe hire Susan Ellis and I to help them fix this mess…

Update, July 7: the Wall Street Journal has also blogged about this issue from a volunteer management perspective. I’ve added a comment on it.

hey, corporations: time to put your money where your mouth is re: nonprofits & innovation

logoI started talking about virtual volunteering – without knowing it was called that – as early as 1994, more than 30 years ago. Soon after I started babbling about it, I directed The Virtual Volunteering Project, based at the University of Texas, back in the late 1990s. Back then, I thought that, by now, well into the 21st century, there would be corporations clamoring to sponsor virtual volunteering activities and events. I could see back in the 1990s that this wasn’t just a fun idea – it was an effective one for nonprofits, NGOs, and volunteers themselves – and that it would become a widespread practice. I just knew corporations would want to be seen as leaders in the movement and, therefore, fund it.

Yet, 30 years later, while thousands of nonprofits all over the world have embraced using the Internet to support and involve volunteers, corporations remain largely silent in their involvement and support. I am frequently contacted by nonprofits and NGOs looking to expand their involvement of online volunteers, or that want to do something particularly interesting or innovative regarding virtual volunteering, but they need funding, and they want to know if I can help. And I can’t. Because corporations clamoring to be a part of virtual volunteering just hasn’t happened.

It’s not true of all corporations: the international telecommunications company Orange seems to get it, to a degree: Fundacja Orange (the Polish branch) partially funds the ground-breaking Discover E-Volunteering competition, the best showcase of new virtual volunteering initiatives on the planet. But, sadly, the UK branch of Orange seems to have already discontinued its Do Some Good smart phone app to help people volunteer through their mobile phone, launched in 2012 – less than three years ago. Hewlett-Packard used to have a pioneering e-mentoring program, bringing together their employees, as mentors, with high school students, and the program is frequently referenced in academic literature 20 years ago about the promise of e-mentoring – but that program is long gone, and I can’t find any association between HP and virtual volunteering anymore. Rolex seemed somewhat interested in microvolunteering, a version of virtual volunteering that engages online volunteers in micro tasks, but that initial interest seems to have quickly, completely waned. Cisco was a key financial and in-kind supporter of NetAid, a part of which became the UN’s Online Volunteering service, but that support ended in 2001.1

You’ve heard it and read it so many times: corporate folks chastising nonprofits and NGOs, saying those mission-based initiatives need to be more innovative, saying they need to embrace the latest network technologies and revolutionary management styles and on and on. Yet these same corporations demanding nonprofit innovation aren’t funding virtual volunteering-related initiatives.

Time to put your money where your mouth is, corporations: there are some terrific virtual volunteering activities out there. There are outstanding innovations happening at nonprofits and NGOs all over the world. You say you want more risk-taking, more innovations, more tech-use by mission-based organizations – okay, they stand ready to do it. All they need is the investment. Are YOU ready to put your money where your mouth is?

vvbooklittleAnd also… why haven’t you bought The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook?

😉

1: The last sentence of this paragraph, regarding Cisco and NetAid, was added on July 24, 2015

Nov. 11, 2015 update:  Nonprofit leaders are not focusing enough attention on innovation, measuring the impact of their efforts, and creating funding structures that encourage risk-taking, according to a new report from Independent Sector. Great – who is going to FUND THOSE ACTIVITIES?!

Spontaneous online volunteering/crowdsourcing in response to Eric Gardner grand jury decision

Have you seen the remarkable, spontaneous online volunteering / crowdsourcing that’s happening in response to grand jury decision about the death of Eric Gardner in New York City? There are thousands of tweets with the tag , with various people identifying as white in the USA posting about times they have committed crimes and come in contact with police as a result, and even been confrontational with the police at those times, and how they were not arrested as a result. It’s meant to refute the justifications for police use-of-force regarding the killing of Eric Gardner.

Powerful stuff.

More about spontaneous online volunteers.

 

Haters gonna hate

angryjayneI’ve been online since the early 1990s, and I have a bit of Internet fame because I’ve been researching and promoting virtual volunteering / e-volunteering / digital volunteering since the 90s as well. So, of course, I get hate mail.

You’re going to get negative comments online if you dare to post an opinion of any kind online. And my hate mail comes mostly because of blog posts I’ve made regarding companies that are selling community service hours for online activities that are NOT online volunteering. The companies are called Community Service Help, Inc., Community Service 101, Community Service Help, Logan Social Services, Court Ordered Community Service and the Terra Research Foundation. I’m sure there are more.

The latest hate mail is from “Kyle”, who listed his email as Jajalacrosse@yahoo.com. It’s representative of the kind I get regularly. On 2014/11/19 at 19:48, “Kyle” submitted this comment to this blog about these community service scammers:

You’re an idiot lady. Sorry you can’t relate to being given an unrealistic number of community service for a petty “crime” but someday you’ll understand. Keep your nose out of programs that you don’t find “suiting” for you.

Most of the negative comments I get are like this – they imply, or outright say, that I’m opposed to online volunteering. I’m not, of course – I’ve been promoting virtual volunteering since the 1990s. My latest gig to promote it was a trip to Warsaw, Poland this month. I wrote a book about virtual volunteering! I’m guessing that Community Service, Inc. tells people to write me, as a representative called me at home, outraged, when I published my first blog about his company, and the comments are always on the same blog – the company must also encourage writers to not read my blogs because, if they did, these folks would understand that I have been promoting online volunteering since the 1990s, and that most online volunteering is FREE and there is NO NEED to pay a company like Community Service, Inc. for it.

I’m sure these companies also really don’t want their prospective customers to read these comments by a person who paid for online community service from one of these companies and had it rejected by the court. Or to see all of the TV stations that have investigated these schemes (links to these stories in the blogs at the end of this blog).

Here’s free information on Finding Online Volunteering / Virtual Volunteering & Home-Based Volunteering with legitimate organizations.

Back in 2011, and again at least once since then, I wrote the Florida State Attorney General’s cyberfraud division, the Consumer Services Department of Miami-Dade County, numerous parole and probation associations, the Corporation for National Service and AL!VE to PLEASE investigate or, at least, take a stand regarding these scam companies – to date, they still have done nothing.

Also see:

Community Service Help Cons Another Person – a first-person account by someone who paid for online community service and had it rejected by the court.

Update on a virtual volunteering scam.

What online community service is – and is not – the very first blog I wrote exposing this company, back in January 2011, that resulted in the founder of the company calling me at home to beg me to take the blog down

Courts being fooled by online community service scams

Online community service company tries to seem legit.

Online volunteer scam goes global

Could your organization be deceived by GOTCHA media?

Social media: cutting both ways since the 1990s

I’m in Poland & Spain/Catalunya in mid-November

I’ll be flying to Warsaw, Poland, arriving November 12, to present workshops on November 13th and 14th regarding virtual volunteering and meet with various NGOs from Eastern Europe, including representatives from Ukraine (HURRAH!!), for e-wolontariat.pl, a Polish-based NGO that is at the forefront of promoting digital volunteering in Europe. Participants will include finalists of the Discover e-volunteering competition – NGO representatives who are finalists to win a grant for the implementation of their ideas for e-volunteering projects.

This came about for two reasons: because of the publication of The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, and per my role in my research for the ICT4EMPL Future Work project undertaken by the Information Society Unit of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (I explored Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU:  Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion).

For information about either the Discover e-volunteering competitione-wolontariat.pl, or the events I will be attending, please contact the event organizers through the e-wolontariat.pl web site.

I’ll also be in Barcelona, Catalunya/Spain, all day on November 17, 18 and 19, for a personal visit, but would be happy to meet with any NGO, university or government representative who might like to have lunch or coffee and a chat about anything related to volunteering, NGOs, and/or tech4good. Please contact me at jc @ coyotecommunications.com if you would like to meet whilst I’m in Catalunya/Spain.

Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU (virtual volunteering)

paperAt long last, Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU:  Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion, has been published. 

My research was for the ICT4EMPL Future Work project undertaken by the Information Society Unit of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and consumed most of my 2013.

As part of this project, I created a wiki of all of the various resources I used for my research, and it includes a list of online volunteering-related recruitment or matching web sties that are either focused on or allow for the recruitment of online volunteers from EU-countries, and a list of more than 60 organisations in EU countries that involve online volunteers in some way. The wiki offers many more resources as well, not all of which made it into the final paper.

I also blogged about what I learned from researching virtual volunteering in Europe, such as how much virtual volunteering is happening all over Europe, how Spain is, by far, the leader in Europe regarding virtual volunteering (particularly in Catalonia), how little the French seem to be doing with regard to virtual volunteering (tsk tsk), and that traditional volunteer centers in Europe are pretty much ignoring virtual volunteering – if it’s mentioned at all, it’s talked about in terms of being new and rare – which the research firmly established is not at all the case.

It would be amazing if this paper lead to significant change in the EU regarding volunteering: if volunteer centers – from the city level to the international level – fully acknowledged virtual volunteering at long last, and if detailed materials regarding how to create virtual volunteering tasks was written and published in all the various languages of Europe. It would be great if employers in Europe started valuing volunteer experience on people’s résumés, something they don’t seem to do currently. What would be particularly awesome would be the establishment of online discussion groups for managers of volunteers in European countries., something that, as far as I can tell, only exists for the UK (UKVPMs) and, to a degree, in Spain (E-Voluntas). People are hungry for virtual volunteering activities – particularly, but not limited to, people under 40 in the EU. I hear European-based NGOs and charities complaining about not being able to involve young people as volunteers – and then balk at the idea of creating online volunteering assignments. THIS HAS TO CHANGE.

Also, as a result of this and other research, I have a list of people based in Europe that I consider experts in virtual volunteering – in the U.K., in Spain (of course – mostly in Catalonia, in fact), in Germany, in Italy (met her after the research was turned in, unfortunately) and Poland, and if you are a researcher, journalist, or organization interested in virtual volunteering, and want to talk to an EU-based consultant, give me a shout and I’ll give you my list of contacts.

Also see this review of the paper by Ismael Peña-López.

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