Ever do those word puzzles in the newspaper that make you find the prefix to a set of words? Try this one: What’s a prefix for -fiche, -scope, and -volunteering?
Give up? Try “micro”. Maybe some of you don’t remember microfiche, and it’s probably been years since you actually used a microscope, but I’m sure you’re wondering “What the hell is micro-volunteering?”. Enter The Extraordinaries. That’s right – this website is made just for you, oh internet-obsessed blog reader. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first, I mean – what good could I possibly do from my computer? Well, not only could I volunteer from my bed (no judging), but it only takes about 35 seconds to make a difference. Seriously.
I started perusing opportunities on The Extraordinaries after a prompt from AmeriCorps Alums – they’re using the site to map projects for National AmeriCorps Week. So, I searched for “trails”, wondering how the land trust I work for might think about using it (obviously there is some paradox when you’re microvolunteering for an organization based on getting people outside) – I found a similar organization who’d asked people to use gps on their phones to map trails. Now, I was intrigued. Searching the site a little more, I somehow got stuck volunteering for a museum in Australia that needs help tagging its photo archive. It’s almost like playing a slightly boring computer game – but you really are helping out! Heck – how many times have I searched our archives for a photo of a kid on a trail on a bike with a helmet to use for some promotional material? Not the easiest task. If only I had a micro-volunteer, tagging away from the comfort of their own home (or smartphone).
While I see the use for microvolunteering, I am a little concerned. Isn’t part of the benefit of giving back the connections you create with the organization and other volunteers? Is there really a way to build community through this form of volunteerism? Could it be used to recruit volunteers for other positions in an organization once they’ve helped you on the web? The internet constantly astounds me – so I guess we’ll just have to see how far this microvolunteering thing goes. As for me, I’ll probably continue to give a few minutes to random organizations like the Powerhouse Museum…maybe they’ll find out I’m such an amazing image tagger that they’ll hook me up with a trip to the Land Down Under. I’ve been dying to try one of those vegemite sandwiches…