The future’s bright – the future’s microvolunteering

Last night I attended the launch of mobile giant Orange’s Mobile Volunteering venture, in London. The concept is simple but also quite revolutionary; a logical and progressive step forwards in their pursuance of community action, following their incredibly successful Orange Rock Corp youth volunteering incentive scheme.

The notion is thus; one smartphone application (only being seriously considered for development for iPhone at present) containing 10 of the best opportunities for microvolunteering for charities – all able to be undertaken via your mobile phone, and all under five minutes. These could be (for example) taking photos using your phone and tagging them for an environmental charity; or taking part in a quick survey to help build a research picture for an NGO. There is literally a galaxy of ideas…

I don’t want to repeat what others are already writing about the scheme, and the ideas they’re exploring – for example Jamie from i-volunteer.co.uk and Hannah Wright at vlabs. There are also some great audioboos from Brian Condon.

But for my twopenneth, I am excited in principle about the idea. At first it wasn’t clear whether the best ideas currently being crowdsourced through the new, dedicated website mobilevolunteering.co.uk would be developed as stand alone apps or integrated into a single piece of tech. Last night, we were treated to a sneak preview of the prototype for the Orange Mobile Volunteeting App and the picture (future?) has started to become clearer.

I would encourage all / any charities to get penning their best ideas, and put them on the site right now for public voting! The top three will be developed and included in the Orange App automatically, and the next seven will be drawn from all entries – judged by a ‘specialist panel’.

A concern I share with JameT is that they don’t forget the growing Android and Blackberry app market, but I can see why they’re choosing Apple to begin with. And as the volunteering opportunities will be encompassed under one Orange-branded app – the danger of them languishing in Apple’s App Store with no interest is very low. Orange used this justification for producing and branding the product to high heaven; because (they’re right) their brand will serve to elevate the app – and the concept of volunteering – to saturation levels through the Orange marketing machine.

Notably, the highest-rating idea so far (at time of writing) is an app version of Cofacio’s Help Engine, which my last blog post discussed.

Final thought – if we’re all to be part of a Big Society now, with little steer from Government on how exactly we do this; it’s going to take the innovation and collaboration of companies like Orange with the third sector, and community-minded developers, to place the tools in our hands to do so.

*applause for Orange*

3 thoughts on “The future’s bright – the future’s microvolunteering

  1. Great! And what about those who don’t have a smart phone viz, those who can’t afford it and those who may have said, I am too old to learn or I am happy with text and talk, those with learning digfficulties? Is this a game for middle class and young folk which will miss the large constituency of those who might benefit greatly. Is this a way of dividing us into those who are e-literate and those who are undeserving?

  2. Fair point you raise, Ian.

    What about those are more marginalised, with no access to the internet or the literacy of technology? Sure, phone contracts & pay-as-you go options can make getting hold of smartphones more accessible, but you’re spot on that they are not used by everyone; just as the web isn’t.

    I’d rather see these tools developed than not, but I agree that we don’t want to further divide those who can engage and those who can’t based on access to technology or technology skills.

    Nice one.

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