Understanding online volunteering: microvoluntarios.org

In a research I made some years ago (see more info below) I described a taxonomy and a typology for online volunteers. The typology had four types of online volunteering:

  • Type I: Online Advocacy
  • Type II: Online Assessment & Consultancy
  • Type III: Onlined Offline Volunteers
  • Type IV: Pure Online Volunteers

These types of online volunteering where based on the kind of tasks that an online volunteer could perform, especially by looking at what made different (beyond the obvious) an online volunteer from a traditional, onsite volunteer.

These differences can be summed up like this:

  • Knowledge intensive — not workload intensive
  • Able to use small amount of spared times between other tasks, or in the impasse from one task to another one — e.g. at workplace, at home, on the way from workplace to home, etc.
  • Can quickly perform multiple, small and short run tasks
  • Can work in a decentralized way
  • Can network

One of the main conclusions was that online volunteering could help nonprofits regain “lost” volunteers that could not go ahead with all of their daily duties plus onsite volunteering engagement, or just access an unexploited cluster of goodwill people that could not volunteer because they were too busy or too aged to do some tasks (e.g. build a school in an overseas country).

I’m happy to see that this is exactly what Fundación Bip-Bip has done with their new project Microvoluntarios.org.

The site is a network where nonprofits can upload requirements for help that enrolled volunteers can help achieving. The difference is that the focus is put in microtasks. Microtasks are:

* The ones that do not need more than 120 minutes to be achieved
* Can be fully performed online
* Can be done by people not necessarily connected in a formal way to one organization, be it staff or volunteer
Some examples can be: looking for information on the Internet, translating some pages, transcripting some short documents, brainstorming for the creation of a logo, writing a short story, designing a campaign, recommending some bibliography, doing surveys, photo editing, viral marketing, recruiting members, etc.

The site, really at a beta stage, does need some tweaking — like how being noticed of new microtasks in your area of expertise — but the idea is excellent. Kudos to Fundación Bip-Bip!

More info

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Understanding online volunteering: microvoluntarios.org” In ICTlogy, #55, April 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=704

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6 Comments to “Understanding online volunteering: microvoluntarios.org” »

  1. Estupendo post!!!
    Gracias por tu claridad de ideas. Algunos habíamos pensado en cosas similares pero seguro no lo habíamos puesto sobre el papel de forma tan clara.
    Me alegra mucho que te guste nuestra iniciativa y…….. seguimos hablando en Málaga. Buen Viaje!

  2. En mi lógica personal ;) onlined offline volunteers sería el voluntariado tradicional “virtualizado”, sin más adaptación ni conceptual ni estructural que el hecho de hacer lo mismo que hacían antes pero ordenador mediante.

    P.ej. si somos Amnistía Internacional y teníamos a los voluntarios en la sede con la máquina de escribir, ahora están en casa y nos lo mandan por correo electrónico.

    O alguien que nos lleva la contabilidad de forma remota.

    O alguien que nos diseña un tríptico o póster para una campaña.

    A diferencia de un voluntario virtual “puro”, si desaparece la red ese voluntariado no desaparece: vuelve a trabajar en la sede.

    En cambio, el voluntariado virtual “puro”, si desaparece la red, también desaparece su participación: ciberactivismo, formación en línea, coordinación de comunidades de práctica distribuídas, trabajo en red, etc.

    ¿Mejor?

  3. Madre… no es ninguna investigación científica, es sólo un experimento que se me ha ocurrido… todavía dudo si lanzarlo desde el blog de la Plataforma por lo que tiene de improvisado y porque el Observatorio del Voluntariado ni lo ha diseñado ni tiene recursos para analizar los resultados…

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