Who’s a virtual volunteer: an online volunteer profile

I think of the potential online volunteer as the eternal excluded from cooperation for development, as a kind of “market” yet to be discovered.

When I say “eternal excluded” I dont’ mean he or she never took part in any project or organization in the field of cooperation for development, he surely did. What I mean is that he surely had to abandon because of other (most important) social commitments.

Lets take three main factors: age, time and space.

Age factor

There’re four main age groups in volunteering:

0 to 16: too young to have a real engagement with anything. Can be a volunteer, but yet too immature to carry the weight of real responsibilities

16 to 25: quite an adult. Can carry on with volunteering responsibilities and, most important: (usually) has plenty of time to “waste” with others, as he is normally an student or apprentice and has not a lot of other responsibilities

25-65: married or with formal engagement; sons or family duties; work, work and more work. Not a lot of time to spend with others, specially time to “give away”. Would volunteer, but how and when? What a pity: he’s got training and he’s got experience. He’s got knowledge but a difficult way to share it with others. The potential online volunteer?

65-over: he’s got plenty of time and a lot of experience. He’s surely the new cluster of (“real”) volunteering and, why not, virtual volunteering. But he’d maybe prefer personal contact. Besides, it’s possible his experience is a little bit out of date if he did not keep a long life learning/training in his expertise field.

It seems to me that groups 2 and 4 make up the normal “real” volunteers while the third group is the natural virtual volunteer.

Time factor

Having familiar responsibilities shortens our disposal of time.
Having professional responsibilities shortens our disposal of time.
Our preferred NGO is open when at work.
When home, no time to volunteer because it’s time to be with his or her children, couple, do some housework, etc.
And when he or she, at last, can spare some time to volunteer, where to? Whom with?

Space factor

Same happens with the question “where to volunteer” in the preceding example.

But there are other reasons besides family and work not to be able to go where you can volunteer: crossing the ocean or the continent is, besides a matter of time, a matter of money. And sometimes it is even a matter of infrastructures: no road, no trip.

Adding up:

  • The online volunteer is a knowledge centred volunteer
  • The online volunteer is a volunteer with independence of time
  • The online volunteer is a volunteer with independence of space


[This is part of what I said at the First International Congress about E-Learning and social inclusion. I’ll try and gather all up and put it in the form of an article. In the meanwhile, I’ll publish it as a normal post by little pieces :P ]


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

Peña-López, I. (2004) “Who’s a virtual volunteer: an online volunteer profile” In ICTlogy, #7, April 2004. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from https://ictlogy.net/review/?p=114

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