Saturday 30 August 2014

Microvolunteering Resources

My first experience with microvolunteering was with .impact. .impact is a decentralized network of volunteers working together to work on effective altruist projects. From what I understand, the original idea was that many low hanging fruit in philanthropy could be picked off by motivated volunteers. .impact is a place where individuals with free time can coordinate with each other to get small projects done. At worst, people get the experience of trying new things and discovering what works.

There are also a lot of favours being exchanged between EAs on I once used this platform to receive exercise advice from a stranger in Switzerland.

As far as I knew, these resources were unique. But comparable resources exist for the non-EA world.

Help From Home is a microvolunteering website that allows individuals to contribute small bits of work to pre-existing causes. If you're young, these projects can be an easy way to pad your resume while learning new skills and getting stuff done. The range of projects and jobs one can contribute to is pretty staggering. A quick browse through the site brings me to:

  • A posting to help the FBI catch a murderer by helping decipher a code in 30-minute sessions
  • A call for someone to proofread Slovakian literature in order to preserve it for future generations to enjoy
  • An ad for a 10-minute game you can play online that will help train a robot to move coloured blocks
  • A call to spend 20 minutes emailing members of US congress to ban land mines
  • A million requests to sign a million petitions about a million different causes ranging from animal rights to global warming to war and peace

Although the projects aren't geared toward EA, there is likely a lot of good stuff on there, and there's no reason for SkillShare ads not to be cross-posted on larger websites like this that will receive more views. This is a strange but realistic way to attract volunteer hours from non-EAs toward EA projects.

Koodonation is another service offering the same possibility. Not only can EA volunteers find projects to work on but EA organizations can actually recruit strangers to do unpaid work for them. It's pretty common for EA organizations to receive cheap help from members of the EA community. But websites like these can (1) introduce strangers to EA and (2) get work done while leaving EAs with free time to work on other projects that only they can do.

Other online volunteering resources are SkillsForChange, VolunteerMatch, and BeExtraFor Canadians like myself, there's, which offers more of the same thing but on a smaller scale.

Those in the UK have an interesting resource available to them. vInspired is a website that helps young people contribute to and create social action projects. The "Cashpoint" program allows anyone in the UK between ages 14-25 to pitch a small project with a clear community benefit. If vInspired likes your project, they'll issue a grant of up to £500 to help get it done. Although there are tricky restrictions on what sort of project they're willing to fund, this program seems like it could be really useful to the Oxford contingent of EAs. Importantly, Cashpoint grants can be used to start websites. Brits might also be interested in Do-it, a comprehensive database of volunteering opportunities in the UK. Alternatively, there is the UK-based microvolunteering website Spots of Time.

horsesmouth is like a non-EA Skillshare. It's a place to give and receive informal mentoring on various topics. There's a pretty wide range of things you can receive mentoring for. There are people across the world offering to help you with your depression, eating disorder, alcoholism, nutritional deficiencies, unemployment, budgeting, student housing, etc. The idea is that almost no matter what experience you're going through, whether it's playing football or raising a baby, there are plenty of people out there that have already been through that experience. horsesmouth connects you with those people that have gone through what you're going through and can give you advice.

Microvolunteering seems like a promising area that EA is giving little attention. Although the EA platforms are great, they leave out the possibility of recruiting non-EAs.

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