THINK! is an international non profit think-tank whose aim is to circulate knowledge on how digital technologies can enable innovation processes and sustainable development
CATEGORY: Quality of life (Show all)
TAGLINE: +U App sets out to deliver real world, bite-size volunteering opportunities to a new, socially motivated audience.
KEYWORDS: Sony, WWF, YouthNet, volunteering, Mobile App
WHERE: United Kingdom
“+U” was the final concept to emerge from Sony’s Open Planet Ideas platform; a crowdsourcing initiative which saw the public creatively develop responses to the environmental and social challenges facing our planet. “+U” is a unique mobile volunteering application which is revolutionary in that it combines real world volunteering opportunities with the power of social networking and digital gaming. Potential volunteers can find local projects through geo-location technologies and the gamification elements enable users to collect badges based on the volunteer opportunities they fulfil, thereby tapping into the ‘social’ lifestyles trend.
With more people and communities sharing goods and services, volunteering organisations are waking up to the fact that there is real potential in harnessing the power of social good. However, many traditional frameworks for volunteer programmes rely on a long term, regular commitment from volunteers. In today’s fast paced, time poor society, it’s unrealistic to expect all volunteers to pledge this kind of time commitment. Bite-sized volunteering opportunities are more accessible and more flexible for people with hectic schedules, but who still want to do some good. These types of volunteering opportunities rely on much smaller time commitments; they might include clearing out the local pond, or painting a community centre for instance. With “+U” the user can search for one-off volunteering opportunities by entering their location, date of opportunity or by choosing an interest area. They can also use geolocation technology to check-in to volunteering opportunities within their vicinity. These opportunities are also likely to involve less volunteer training and therefore take up less of the charity’s precious time too: win win for everyone involved. “+U” capitalises on these bite-size volunteering opportunities and has partnered with the UK’s National Volunteering Database, Do-it, to offer thousands of chances to volunteer for a wide variety of different charitable organisations in the app’s pilot. The app is due to be released in March 2012 in the Android app marketplace and Sony is also releasing the open-source code for anyone to develop further.
As users begin to build their profile and start volunteering, they will quickly begin to feel part of a community atmosphere. This feeling of community is also built around a rewards system which engenders a strong sense of public achievement every time a volunteering action is completed. Rewarding people and acknowledging their time and commitment with a visible ‘thank you’ from the +U community that can be shared on Facebook will drive use, as people challenge themselves and each other to participate in more volunteering opportunities and post them to social networking profiles. Volunteers will be encouraged to give their time again, invite their friends to join their next activity and share their photos on Facebook. The user can also connect through Facebook so that they can share what they do in the application with their friends and invite them to events. The community will reward users for all their positive actions to help build the +U network and to extend the reach of the app itself, as well as for their time actively volunteering. The +U app will feature an interface which enables the community to see activity among other members and understand which activities are most popular and where people are volunteering. The combined elements of competitiveness amongst the community coupled with their tendency to share can help to pull more people into the platform, and ultimately encourage more people to volunteer.
Volunteering is proven to bring its own rewards in terms of meeting new people, developing new skills and generating a personal ‘feel good factor’. With “+U” many more people can benefit from one-off, short volunteering opportunities, and voluntary organisations can achieve even more with their help.