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Jayne Cravens, www.coyotecommunications.com


Lessons from onlinevolunteering.org
2001 - 2005


From February 2001 to February 2005, I had the honor of directing the United Nations Online Volunteering service. It was originally hosted at NetAid and was co-managed by Netaid staff in New York City and staff at the UN Volunteers program in Germany. After joining UNV in Germany, I worked to move the service entirely to the ownership and management of UNV, which happened at last in early 2004.

When I took over directing UNV's support of the Online Volunteering service, it
was getting lots of people signing up to volunteer, but not many organizations were using the service. Therefore, online volunteering wasn't really happening. I knew, per my experience directing the Virtual Volunteering Project, that recruiting people that want to volunteer online is oh-so-easy, but that getting organizations to create assignments for online volunteers, and then for those organizations to provide appropriate guidance and support for those online volunteers, was a substantial and ongoing challenge. Therefore, I first focused on developing support materials for organizations that would host online volunteers, and stopped doing any outreach to potential volunteers. As UNV progressed in taking over all management of the service, and working towards hosting the site outside of the NetAid systems, I kept the focus on building the capacities of organizations using the service, through the emerging new web site and through our email communications with users.

Did it work? Yes. During my time at UNV, we saw a substantial increase in the number of online volunteering assignments posted to the service. We also saw a substantial increase in the number of organizations based in the developing world that were using the service to recruit online volunteers, and a substantial increase in the number of online volunteers based in the developing world.

I did screen captures of some of the key pages of the UN's Online Volunteering service as of December 2004, archived at archive.org, presented here as PDF files (note that most of the links within these files will NOT work):


Online event in October 2001

On Saturday, 27 October and Sunday, October 28, 2001, UN Volunteers joined CERN in Geneva and online to celebrate UN Day and the increasing role of online technologies in humanitarian work, including virtual volunteering. I was the remote host from Bonn, Germany. My event was on Saturday, and I interviewed Nicolas Fleuri, Sean Osner and others involved in UNITeS initiative in Jordan. On Sunday, the event featured a broadcast of live events in Geneva, including the head of UNV,
Sharon Capling­-Alakija in Geneva interviewing World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners­-Lee in Boston. The host was Paola Catapano and featured a rollicking performance of the song "Surfing on the Web" by Les Horribles Cernettes. During the event, Berners-Lee talked about the key role online volunteers played in the development of the web. During the two-day event, three online volunteers recruited via the UN's Online Volunteering service facilitated an online discussion about the Global Digital Divide, "Tech for Humanity", and ICT4D. Note that most of the links in these PDF files, which I downloaded from archive.org, will NOT work. The videos are, unfortunately, long-gone; according to CERN, they outsourced the video web hosting in 2001, and the company, the Orbigate.net streaming portal/Orbital & Cie, went under.
 
As of 2016, UNV has removed support materials for the OV service, or at least made them unavailable for unregistered users. I really wanted this information preserved and easy to access, because even though it's several years old and was written for users of the OV service, the information is, IMO, applicable to using just about any online tool to post volunteering assignments and recruit online volunteers, and can help an organization decide what it needs to do BEFORE it registers on a service and starts recruiting online volunteers.

If you want detailed information on how to work with online volunteers, and how to fully integrate virtual volunteering in to all of your community engagement, see:


 The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

available for purchase as a paperback & an ebook

from Energize, Inc.
Completely revised and updated, & includes lots more advice about microvolunteering!
Published January 2014.



Also see:

  • United Nations ICT4D Initiatives
    Various United Nations offices have launched initiatives to promote the use of computers, feature phones, smart phones and various networked devices in development and humanitarian activities, to promote digital literacy and equitable access to the "information society," and to bridge the digital divide. This web page is my effort to track UN Tech4Good / ICT4D programs, from the oldest through 2016. My goal is to primarily to help researchers, as well as to remind current UN initiatives that much work regarding ICT4D has been done by various UN employees, consultants and volunteers for more than 15 years (and perhaps longer?).
     
  • Studies and Research Regarding Online Volunteering / Virtual Volunteering
    While there is a plethora of articles and information about online volunteering, there has been very little research published regarding the subject. This is a compilation of publicly-available research regarding online volunteering, and a list of suggested possible angles for researching online volunteering. New contributions to this page are welcomed, including regarding online mentoring programs.
     
  • Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program (a resource for businesses / for-profit companies)
    Virtual volunteering - volunteers providing service via a computer, smart phone, tablet or other networked advice - presents a great opportunity for companies to expand their employee philanthropic offerings. Through virtual volunteering, some employees will choose to help organizations online that they are already helping onsite. Other employees who are unable to volunteer onsite at a nonprofit or school will choose to volunteer online because of the convenience.
     
  • Al Gore Campaign Pioneered Virtual Volunteering
    Back in 2000, when Al Gore ran for president, his campaign championed virtual volunteering by recruiting online volunteers to help online with his election efforts. I've tried to present some of what his campaign did - this pioneering effort deserves to be remembered, as do some of the lessons from such.
     
  • Using Third Party Web Sites Like VolunteerMatch to Recruit Volunteers
    There are lots and lots of web sites out there to help your organization recruit volunteers. You don't have to use them all, but you do need to make sure you use them correctly in order to get the maximum response to your posts.