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United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS):
A Legacy

Using Instant Messaging to Work With Volunteers: Benefits and Suggestions

version: November 2002

This information was compiled in 2002 by Jayne Cravens when she was part of United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), an initiative of the Secretary General at the United Nations Development Programme and UN Volunteers.

Volunteer managers already have phones and email to work with offsite volunteers. What is the advantage of using Instant Messaging (IM) with these volunteers as well?

UNITeS, a global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) volunteering initiative managed by the United Nations Volunteers programme, posted requests for information on various online discussion groups for people to share their experiences regarding IM in working with volunteers. Based on their feedback, as well the experience of UNITeS staff and selected documents, this article has been prepared to help illustrate the advantages for using IM to work with volunteers.

Please note that, when we say "IM" in this article, we mean a text-only exchange among two or more people that is via computer and the Internet, is private, and is live. IM is very similar to "chat." Both are synchronous communications, meaning users communicate with each other at exactly the same time. IM is generally used by just two people at once, however, and is private. A chat usually takes place in a virtual "room" online, often via a web site, and usually involves more than two people.

This article is dedicated in loving memory of Zainub Ashraf of Girard, Ohio, an outstanding online volunteer whose encouragement helped UNV's e-volunteering staff learn the joys of IM.

To see the complete, original UNITeS web site and its resources, including its extensive knowledge base, look up unites.org at archive.org

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This archived version of the UNITeS web site is hosted by Jayne Cravens