Issues with current volunteering process: 1. Often inflexible time options (e.g. lots of opportunities throughout the working day, or minimum time commitments); 2. Often not accessible/inclusive (e.g. travel); 3. Opportunity cost to society when not everyone can afford to volunteer; 4. Slow to achieve impact (manual matching/application process, hard to gather group of volunteers). Solution: UK Crowd-Resourcing Platform – volunteering for all! Centralised repository for requests: Charities often need donations e.g. laptops/coats – it’s difficult for individuals to find these across multiple sites. A centralised platform allows more people to search, donate and volunteer! Instead of a ‘crowdfunding’ platform, this becomes the UK ‘crowd-resourcing’ platform – charities and those in need can be more flexible and creative with their requests, with a bigger audience, opportunity to tailor alerts locally, and skills-match, will mean more impact quicker! E.g. town flooding, the local council can use the platform to issue an alert for immediate volunteers to help or request donations of clothing to those displaced. Improve efficiency and reduce costs: Creating a database of UK volunteers where volunteers register with one profile and one application process (screening can be largely automated) saves charities searching for volunteers in multiple places and saves volunteers having to do several applications each time they want to volunteer. Qualifications and skills can be verified on the system (e.g. DBS, degrees) and charities and volunteers can provide feedback/references after volunteering to build trusted network. More inclusive and flexible opportunities: As well as traditional volunteering requests, the platform should take inspiration from NHS/GoodSAM in enabling ‘volunteer now’ opportunities, sending alerts to local volunteers who opt in and set status as ‘on call’ when available. This is great for e.g. those with care responsibilities or chronic illnesses who may struggle to commit in advance but can often be available last minute e.g. a food bank may find they are short on volunteers one Saturday, they send an alert and anyone available at the time can come volunteer. Charities could get extra support by providing more remote opportunities – e.g. helplines, administrative activities, remote social groups (e.g. online choirs/drawing classes/exercise classes etc.) I have a disability that can make travelling to volunteer difficult, but I have plenty of time to spend writing reports, analysing data, updating social media, or mentoring/listening/advising on zoom/phone/email etc. but I rarely see such opportunities. Charities should capitalise on the increase in remote collaboration tools available. More remote opportunities increases inclusivity in volunteering and therefore increases impact! Peer to peer volunteering and community building: Calls/messaging and forums provided through the platform will allow volunteers to build a community and uniquely provides opportunity for communities to ‘self/peer-to-peer’ volunteer! E.g. those receiving mentoring or those who normally receive calls to help loneliness could connect with each other and support each other, with the ‘volunteer now’ and online messaging this means more people can get help at the time it’s needed instead of having to wait for a weekly volunteer time. It is also empowering for communities to have opportunities to support each-other, as well as with volunteers to assist. The platform should allow volunteers to skill-share too. E.g. volunteers can opt in to ‘volunteer mentoring’ whilst volunteering they train a volunteer in this area. E.g. a volunteer needing marketing experience matches with a volunteer with these skills, they complete a volunteer activity together so the individual learning can then go on to volunteer for more of these kinds of activities! The volunteers have increased the volunteer skillset! Skills based profiles = project based opportunities: Volunteer opportunities are not always tailored to skills this misses opportunities for impact and societal good. E.g. many charity processes are manual and could be automated yet these kinds of opportunities aren’t usually offered. The profiles allow volunteers to update their skills and share what they can offer/donate. E.g. a website developer might be willing to build a charity’s website, or an academic researcher might be able to support a charity through their research. Charities can therefore be more creative and create ‘project’ requests and also search for volunteers offering services (projects like this can easily be remote/flexible) e.g. ‘data analysis’ or ‘website build’, matching volunteers based on their skills and availability. This also allows those with less work experience to volunteer in a way that builds their job potential. Care would need to be taken to ensure volunteers aren’t exploited through demanding projects so projects should clearly be volunteer appropriate/short term and equivalent in required demand to existing appropriate and accepted volunteer opportunities. This leads to a huge and innovative opportunity that could be capitalised through this platform: ‘National Voluntary Service’. Many have suggested universal basic income (and I think Covid shows the value of such a scheme) however many have reservations about ‘income for nothing’. Therefore a compromise and ‘win-win’ is using this platform to support a ‘volunteering basic income scheme’. Jobseekers/those receiving benefits can choose national voluntary service and record hours volunteered weekly through the platform. Volunteering provides far more flexible opportunities than work (e.g. ‘volunteer now’ would supplement low-income gig-economy workers) as well as a lower entry requirements and opportunities to learn (volunteer skill-share). Those who opt in should receive an additional ‘volunteer-based income’ in line with minimum wage and funded by government or sponsors (paid additional to jobseekers/universal income and could also be funded jointly like apprenticeship levy). This allows people to build their skills and contribute, without losing time/money. People struggling to find work but having to demonstrate a certain number of hours searching per week – instead replace some of these hours with volunteering so they build the skills and experience for their CV, are provided additional funds to support themselves and gain wellbeing and confidence through volunteering (research proves). This should hugely increase their chances of finding employment therefore reducing overall cost to government through increased employment and by creating a more engaged, skilled and inclusive society! More volunteers, more opportunities, more diversity, more inclusion = greater communities, greater wellbeing, greater social good and reduced economic costs!!
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