Volunteering By Phone

MicrovolunteeringBy Cheryl Mahoney

Have you ever looked up the bus schedule, while standing at a bus stop?  Or sat in a restaurant and looked up the difference between “sate” and “satiate”?  If so, odds are good you have a smart phone.  In that case, this post is for you, because I’ve found a resource to do something really smart on your phone–and not only smart, but giving, too.

I’m talking about microvolunteering.  We’re all busy–that’s pretty much a given.  If you don’t have time to spend two weeks in Costa Rica, or even a Saturday afternoon at Glide Memorial but still want to give back, what do you do?  Well, duly noted that I’m a big believer in priorities and that you can make space for most things if you really try…but we’re busy, and quick and easy ways to give back can be very appealing.  That’s why I do all my searching with GoodSearch, and why I click every day to feed the hungry.  Real ways to give that just take a minute or two.  And now there’s a way to volunteer that just takes a minute or two as well–that’s the idea of microvolunteering.  If you’re sitting at a bus stop–killing time before meeting a friend–waiting in a long line at the store–you can use that time to volunteer.

You can go to The Extraordinaries.org and download their iPhone app, to have microvolunteering opportunities sent right to your phone.  You can translate a website, tag images for the Smithsonian, or classify images for NASA (who didn’t want to work for NASA at some point?  Even if it was at the age of six).  Small things, sure, but that’s the whole idea.  The Extraordinaries describe it as “crowdsourcing”–divide up a task and send it out to a crowd, each individual does a tiny part, and see how much gets done.  Think about Wikipedia–imagine if one person had to write all those articles!  So with the power of the crowd, with everyone doing a little, those spare five minutes spent staring into space, just waiting around, can turn into opportunities for world change.

I have a small confession now.  My cell phone is over four years old.  It makes calls, it texts, it takes pictures…and that’s pretty much it.  Second confession: I rather like it that way.  My cell phone is small, rounded, flippy, the same one that Orlando Bloom had in Elizabethtown, and it does pretty much everything that I need it to do.  I don’t need my phone to play music or check my email or clean the kitchen sink.  But I do rather regret that I can’t use it for microvolunteering.  That won’t make me run out and buy an iPhone, but I will keep an eye out for a good way to microvolunteer that can be done despite my old phone–and when I find something I’ll let you know (and if you see something, let me know!)

And in the meantime, I just really enjoy the fact that this concept even exists.  I love all the cool new ways people find to change the world.


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