Thoughts Sans Boundaries

Use the Internet – Change a life

Posted in musings by Aditya Moorthy on February 11, 2009

I recently discussed an idea with my brother about building a portal that would connect non-profit and voluntary organisations with people willing to volunteer for short periods in a week thereby amassing a significant number of man hours towards a social cause. The way the idea works is like this. The website would dedicate a page for any organisation that requires volunteers or donations for a social cause – could be in nursing, education, animal welfare etc. Each of these organisations would first need to register and they would be invited to write about them in that page which would be sort of a wiki controlled by that registrant. Once they describe enough for someone to get an idea as to what the organisation is involved in, then they can create ‘Events’. Events are those activities conducted by that NPO which calls for external volunteers or donations in order to run it. An example for an Event would be volunteers required to spend time in the old age home entertaining the old people. Every Event would have several attributes which describes the Event, specifies what is required – volunteers, cash etc., what kind of skill set required – nursing, no skill etc, date and time of the Event and so on and so forth.

This portal would also invite Volunteers – any kind of people, non-skilled people to professionals to register themselves and generate a unique identity in the portal, sort of a social networking structure. You could also make friends with other registrants. Each individual who registers would also have a set of attributes – times they can volunteer, skill sets they possess etc.

What the portal does is it enables NPOs to search within the list of Volunteers as to who matches to the Event created by the NPO and access their profile, free times available for volunteering and invite them to participate in the Event. It also allows the Volunteers to search for appropriate Events where there is a match between the times they are available to the times when the Events are conducted and register themselves. It would be a simple process similar to booking a sports hall to play an indoor sport! As this is voluntary and given that many of us could easily spend couple of hours in a week volunteering for a social activity, my gut feeling is that there would be a point of inflection when there are more people actively available to volunteer than there are social projects existing. This would in turn drive a new initiative to create new social projects – A tennis coach could volunteer to teach tennis to under privileged kids for couple of hours in a week etc.

This has to be highly localised given that the volunteers have to be within the same city where the Event is taking place but I don’t see why this can’t be scaled up to large projects as well such as earthquake relief etc. I haven’t seen anything like this on the Internet although there are many sites – more vertical for specific projects such as blood donation sites etc.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this idea and one last thing; the site can support itself with advertisements or donations similar to what Wikipedia is doing thereby releasing any financial commitment on anyone’s part.

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