October 12, 2009

The Extraordinaries: Building the ‘micro-volunteering’ movement

JD LasicaAt Net Tuesday last month and the recent gathering of social change organizations at Chronicle Books, both in San Francisco, participants heard from Jacob Colker, co-founder and CEO of The Extraordinaries about their ambitious effort to kick-start a “micro-volunteering” movement of people who help worthwhile causes in their spare time through the use of their mobile devices.

Who knew that “the power of spare energy” held such potential?

I continue to be impressed by the breadth of projects being supported by The Extraordinaries — whose name, co-founder Ben Rigby told me at NetSquared, is a bit tongue in cheek but also points out that each of us is capable of contributing to the greater good in extraordinary ways. Last month Time magazine, in a listing of New Ways to Make a Difference, cited the Extraordinaries as a prime example of using new technologies to advance the social good, “from using your smartphone to view and label photos (to help digitize museum archives) to snapping a picture of a local park (to help build a map of places where kids can play).”

It’s simple to participate: Download the free “The Extraordinaries” application to your iPhone (or to a similar smart phone) or use a Web browser to peruse the list of micro-volunteer opportunities. Follow them on Twitter at @extraordinaries. Sundeep, a principal in the organization, taught an online class about micro-volunteering last week on eduFire; look for others in the near future. Continue reading

September 14, 2009

Use the Web to improve your community

Mozilla Service Week offers ideas to help you put technology to good use

mozillaJD LasicaSocialbrite is a partner in Mozilla Service Week, which runs today through next Monday. The initiative inspires tech companies across the globe to offer their talent and expertise to local organizations that need their assistance.

Here’s a quick overview from our friends at Mozilla:

“During the week of September 14-21, 2009, we’re asking individuals to step up and make a difference by using the Web to better their community. We’re looking for people who want to share, give, engage, create, and collaborate by offering their time and talent to local organizations and people who need their help. … By utilizing our community’s talents for writing, designing, programming, developing, and all-around technical know-how, we believe we can make the Web a better place for everyone.”

Some specific ideas that Mozilla offered:

  • Teach senior citizens how to use the Web.
  • Show a non-profit how to use social networking to grow its base of supporters.
  • Help install a wireless network at a school.
  • Create Web how-to materials for a library’s computer cluster.
  • Refurbish hardware for a local computer center.
  • Update a non-profit organization’s website.
  • Teach the values of the open Web to other public benefit organizations.

Today the Mozilla blog gave an update, saying: “we’re close to 10,000 volunteer hours and over 3,500 volunteer opportunities.”

Choose from a list of over 3,500 service opportunities on our partner sites (Idealist & betterplace.org). There is a plethora of opportunities, including helping The Nature Conservancy of Chicago, IL with its photo archive, developing a LinkedIn group for Wardrobe for Opportunity in Oakland, CA, helping CARE, Germany’s largest NPO, and keeping Mexico’s Puente a la Salud Comunitaria’s website up-to-date.  Our partner OneWebDay also has a variety of service events taking place on and around Sept. 22nd, including a number of events in San Francisco.

You’ll also want to learn how you can take part in OneWebDay on Sept. 22 to make the Web better. Begin by following @owd on Twitter and donating your Facebook status on Sept. 22.

August 11, 2009

United We Serve: Become an agent of change

JD LasicaLike millions of Americans, I’ve been looking for ways in which to get more involved in worthy community efforts. The traditional ways in which you can volunteer and gave back at the community — say, working in a soup kitchen or signing up for AmeriCorps — just expanded exponentially with the recent rollout of the United We Serve initiaitive at Serve.gov. Above is a video of some recent United We Serve activities, including a visit by players from the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to the White House.

Monday I was one of 75 people to join a United We Serve conference call featuring Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement (who reports to Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President, and Christina M. Tchen, Director of the Office of Public Liaison); Yosi Sergant (@a35mmlife on Twitter), Director of Office of Communications, National Endowment for the Arts; Michael Skolnik (@michaelskolnik on Twitter), Political Director to Russell Simmons and Editor for the politics section of GlobalGrind; Nellie Abernathy, director of the outreach program for United We Serve; and Thomas Bates from Rock the Vote, among others.

The call’s goal was to enlist grassroots organizers to spread the word about United We Serve and highlight the role that the arts community plays in documentnig stories of how arts service can be fun, engaging and youthful.

United We Serve: What it is

United We Serve - Serve.govAs Yosi Sergant put it on the call: “What the hell is national service, and how do i get kids with fancy clothes and haircuts to pay attention to it?”

The first thing to know about United We Serve is that it’s an initiative in which people in nonprofits, community organizations and government agencies — at the local, state and federal level — join together to enable and facilitate greater community service. People can get involved in two ways: By posting a service project to the Serve.gov site and engaging others who may be interested in the same issue, or by signing up for a project. Your commitment level is up you, and it’s easier than ever to find a project that matches your interests through the easy-to-use tools on Serve.gov.

We’ve already written about All for Good (a “Craigslist for service”), which lets you easily volunteer for community efforts. (See the widget in the sidebar at the right — enter your zip code to find matching volunteer opportunities in your area.)

United We Serve initially runs from June 22 through September 11, culminating in a National Day of Service and Remembrance on 9/11, but it will grow into a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.

Wicks said the idea is to persuade people that “I can be an agent of change in my community,” and to tap into existing civic engagement efforts by cities, nonprofits, community groups and federal agencies to “create sustained relationships we can all build on.”

Key areas of focus

The United We Serve team helped bring some focus to the countless volunteer opportunities by keying in on four main areas:

  • health care (in fact, this is health week)
  • energy and the environment (eg, weatherizing homes or League of Conservation Voters or the Sierra Club)
  • education (educators are concerned with “summer reading loss,” — the dramatically decreased reading ability of students when they return to school in a few weeks)
  • community renewal

Continue reading

June 22, 2009

YouTube calls for video volunteers to help nonprofits

Amy Sample WardVolunteerism in the 21st century can take a different form than traditional charity work, like YouTube’s Video Volunteers.

The mission of YouTube’s Video Volunteers platform is to connect nonprofit organizations with skilled video makers who can help them broadcast their causes through video, reaching new audiences online and driving action around issues and projects that matter to them. In partnership with allforgood.org, the new platform that connects volunteers with volunteer opportunities, “Video Volunteers” pools video-related volunteer postings and connects YouTubers with these opportunities.

Continue reading

June 14, 2009

All for Good: A Craigslist for service

allforgoodJD LasicaOn Friday I was one of 66 folks who participated in a conference call around the launch of All for Good.

It was fascinating to watch the disparate elements that came together through a single powerful idea: President Obama’s call for Americans to volunteer — for us to give back to our communities — through “a Craigslist for service” and similar efforts. The result is All for Good, a comprehensive Web presence intended to help people across the country find volunteer opportunities.

Here at Socialbrite we love silo-busting initiatives that harness the collective power of seemingly odd bedfellows — social entrepreneurs, nonprofits, political reformers, open source developers and citizen media types — to achieve a social goal.

Among those on the call were Jonathan Greenblatt, a member of the Obama transition team (note: the White House has no official role in the All for Good project); John Lyman, an associate at Google.org (who spoke at NetSquared last year about how social benefit organizations are using Google Apps to collaborate); Peter Deitz of SocialActions, who has been working with his team for more than a year to network nonprofits’ social actions together under a single interface; and representatives from cause organizations big and small (mostly small): FirstGiving, DonorsChoose, Better the World, the Extraordinaries, Network for Social Responsibility, Points of Light Foundation, Causecast, Care2, NGOPost and many others. Craigslist Foundation has been involved in this as well but I didn’t see them in the chat room.

At its simplest level, All for Good is an open source database of causes and opportunities that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a way to gather up thousands of volunteer actions across the social-good ecosystem and put them in one place so that people can volunteer at the community level.

“If we can give more Americans the opportunity to serve in meaningful ways, then it’ll be worth it,” Greenblatt said.

Continue reading