Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits
Type of work: Article (academic)
Categories:ICT4D | Knowledge Management | Nonprofits | Online Volunteering
Online volunteering is as old as the World Wide Web… or as the Internet itself. It is, notwithstanding, with the growing use of the WWW circa end of 1994 that it starts to become popular. Nevertheless, we believe that neither the concept nor the tasks that can be carried along by online volunteers are clear at all or, in any case, are the result of a wide consensus.
The research we here present analyzed 17 websites devoted to fostering volunteering to find out (a) if there was a broadly accepted definition of the concept of online volunteering and (b) if there was a list of tasks thus designed as the core or ideal competences of online volunteers. According to our findings, in this paper we will, first of all, describe all the different denominations for online volunteers and, closely related to them, try and see what are the profiles and tasks that, tied to these denominations, are usually performed or asked for in those main 17 volunteering websites.
To end, we will take some distance from the object of research and, in a more theoretical level, we will then suggest what the online volunteer profile could be and the main tasks he or she could really carry on related to this profile, the nature of the Information Society and the possibilities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
In this aspect, our thesis will be that, just like distance and/or online education changed formal education, ICTs are opening volunteering to some people usually excluded from nonprofits because of personal and professional obligations. On the other hand, it seems that these newcoming people enrolled through and thanks to ICTs do come with a brand new profile, a profile whose main added value is knowledge. It will be stated, then, that the online volunteer is a perfect knowledge management actor and that knowledge transmission seems to be is his or her main role in solidarity.
Peña-López, I. (2007). “Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits”. In The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition - April 2007, (1), 136-152. Vashon: The Gilbert Center.