Uber for Volunteering

Uber for Volunteering

There are loads of apps and software platforms out there to help potential volunteers find opportunities, or to help voluntary organisations recruit volunteers.

But no-one (so far) seems to have seized the opportunity to create an "Uber for Volunteering" - an on-demand person-to-person (or person-to-group) local help marketplace that enables people to offer and receive local help, directly, casually, without commitment. Just like on Uber, volunteers could be rated by those who directly use them, and could earn verification and trust over time.

At every voluntary sector conference I've been to, people in the sector talk about this mythical "Uber for Volunteering" as if it's inevitably going to happen, yet no-one appears to be working on it. Maybe that's because it would be very disruptive to the sector. Ultimately it might dispense of the need for organisations (except for the app itself of course) to sit in between individuals volunteering and individuals needing help, so maybe that's why no-one in the sector seems to be pushing this.

Even the current Nesta ShareLab competition, which has attracted over 150 video applications, has not (as far as I can see) attracted any entries which are well on the way to creating an "Uber for Volunteering".

Even though I didn't find what I thought should exist, I thought I'd make a list of interesting platforms, apps and ideas in this space, to pick out some interesting approaches and ideas. Let me know of any others I've missed.

  • JoeVolunteer.com - American website, and the closest we've found to the "Uber for volunteering" model, but still connecting people with organisations rather than people directly with people. Still in development, it would seem, but they raised some money on Indiegogo in 2015.

  • Ami - Oxford-based aggregator of person-to-person volunteering opportunities from a few different voluntary organisations, but linking volunteers to the local organisations rather than individuals, and not allowing people to sign up directly requesting help.

  • Good Company - London-based befriending app, focused on getting relatives to put forward their elderly relatives for a befriending service, but also asking volunteers. Not very open or searchable, as you have to register your interest to volunteer before seeing any opportunities. Not an aggregator of other organisations' volunteering opportunities.

  • Do-It - The largest volunteering opportunities platform, featuring opportunities from multiple organisations. Mostly 'traditional' volunteering roles which require commitment, as opposed to casual or micro-volunteering. Certainly not an "Uber for Volunteering" the way it stands.

  • Vinspired - helps young people find volunteering opportunities locally, not just directly helping individuals - submitted a Nesta Sharelab application to develop their central digital hub for volunteering, still focused on young people, still connecting them with organisations, but adding functionality such as rating of volunteer experiences.

  • GoodHQ- Wide-ranging volunteering matching platform which aggregates data (including volunteering opportunities, but also other web-based content) and presents itself more as a social network for people who want to do good, and voluntary organisations. Currently only available in Scotland. They are bidding to "shake up" volunteering and get more people volunteering, by creating "smarter matches" based on skills needed and time available.

  • MadeOpen - an existing "social network for social good" based in Bristol, who have put in a Nesta application to build a community exchange and volunteer bank.

  • BeyondMe - Currently a network, targeted at professionals who want to do good, encouraging them to form teams for skilled volunteering or fundraising for projects. They submitted a Nesta Sharelab application to create a professional micro-volunteering platform.
Timebanking and similar concepts get some of the way towards an "Uber for Volunteering" but in my opinion their technology isn't up to the job, and they don't fulfil on the promise, as they are too focused on the time-based credit economy model.

  • Spice - a platform focused on encouraging the individual to volunteer in lots of small ways, in return for time credits. Funded quite extensively by Nesta in the past. Very very difficult to actually sign up online, and not really encouraging person-to-person volunteering.

  • Timebanking - a platform similar to Spice, giving volunteers opportunities to volunteer in return for timebank credits. An open source software project was funded by Nesta in the past, but their platform solution is not very strong or easy to engage with.

  • Streetbank - Neighbourhood sharing of things, skills, time, funded by Nesta.

  • Echo - Also known as Economy of Hours, another time bank network, focused on business exchange as well as volunteering, also funded by Nesta.
The following ventures are also worth a mention:

  • Local Help - Just an idea submitted to Nesta Sharelab by Ella Wiggans for the creation of a local market for low-level help in the community. Although this is just an idea I think it hits the nail on the head about the need and opportunity for on-demand local people-to-people matching in the voluntary sector.

  • Comoodle - The team from YooMee have been working on a sharing platform for local individuals and organisations, allowing them to share time and skills as well as things, currently only available in Kirklees (Huddersfield). They are bidding to expand this to enable direct organisational co-operation and sharing of volunteers and volunteers' skills.

  • Norwich City Council's team submitted a Nesta bid about a platform they'd like to build to help VCSE organisations to share resources/skills etc, which sounds like they should get together with Comoodle.

  • Woof Woof Walkies - an idea submitted to Nesta for a dog-walking based local casual volunteering platform matching those who want to walk their dog with those who'd just like to accompany them on the walk, to combat loneliness and isolation. Certainly not a full-blown "Uber for Volunteering" but using some of the principles.

  • Happy CT - A rather nice Nesta funding proposal for a Community Transport sharing economy solution to aggregate community transport need and capacity (perhaps it could serve to allow individuals to volunteer on the platform) and to act as a marketplace for community transport.

  • MyLocalHelper - On-demand platform for local help, focusing on flexible and emergency childcare, but also other local services (mostly paid, rather than volunteering). Focuses on verified helpers and rating of helpers (very much like Uber) but not so focused on volunteering.

  • Royal Voluntary Service - Worth a mention because they have a lot of befriending/volunteering opportunities available but they are all their own opportunities (they are not an aggregator of opportunities from other organisations) and they make it (relatively) straightforward to volunteer, albeit not to pick out individual people to help.
So, why is no-one developing the "Uber for Volunteering"? Are you developing it? What am I missing?

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Postscript: To avoid confusion, at interests.me we are NOT building an "Uber for Volunteering", nor are we intending to. However as a software builder in the sector we are interested in whether anyone is, and we'd be interested in collaborating or helping.

We've also been contacted by some of the ventures mentioned above, so wish to clarify:

  • MadeOpen got in touch to say they are definitely working on this and that this is in their Nesta bid.

  • The Way Ahead Data theme group are interested in this, and I believe hoping to be an enabler through data - See their blog. You can sign up to hear more.
Ellie Hale from Cast also told me about the following initiatives:

  • Helpful Peeps - a Bristol-based social network where members can exchange items, time and skills with each other

  • Richard Barton is working on a beta app proof of concept to move towards open-source volunteering opportunities.
We at interests.me are building a super-useful online tool for community groups, and a linked open platform for community information. Information that our platform collates and distributes will include volunteering opportunities, usually sourced from third parties online, but this doesn't make us an "Uber for Volunteering". Get in touch at helen@interests.me or @helencammack to find out more.

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