Introduction: How Tech-Driven Humanity is Changing the Way We Volunteer and How to Address the Challenges
The terms “volunteer” or “volunteering” have traditionally connoted a person who provides service for the common good without any sense of obligation. With technology driving humanity in ways we never could have foreseen before, there are three waves of volunteers and one of them is coming to the forefront now. This shift represents an enormous change in our culture and how we volunteer. These three waves are: “The first wave of volunteers was frontline crisis response. The second wave was the rise of social enterprise, brand advocacy and peer-to-peer volunteering in the world’s aid and development sector. The third wave is the next generation of transactive technologies that are now at scale. This third wave is a large step forward, but it still hasn’t been fully integrated into the way we work or volunteer.”
The term “volunteer” is not limited to volunteering for crisis response or community development. This is just one of its definitions. It is also a term that now encompasses a diverse range of services, including translation, translation instruction, etc., as well as other services previously thought to be solely in the sole domain of professional platforms and providers. As such it currently appears that there are no volunteers who “volunteer” in the traditional sense – i.e. without a sense of obligation. This does not mean, however, that the concept of volunteering is lost for good. After all, most volunteers continue to provide services for the common good, even if they are employed.
Transactive networks and the most recent wave of volunteerism
The 3 Ways Tech-Driven Humanity is Changing the Way We Volunteer
With technology driving humanity in ways we never could have foreseen before, there are three waves of volunteers and one of them is coming to the forefront now. This shift represents an enormous change in our culture and how we volunteer. These three waves are: “The first wave of volunteers was frontline crisis response. The second wave was the rise of social enterprise, brand advocacy and peer-to-peer volunteering in the world’s aid and development sector. The third wave is the next generation of transactive technologies that are now at scale. This third wave is a large step forward, but it still hasn’t been fully integrated into the way we work or volunteer. This wave is social media, but not in its current form.”
The third wave
This third wave may be the most significant one yet, as it creates an environment where all participants in the giving and volunteering process are linked to one another. Social media allows for greater transparency and real-time feedback across the board, which can greatly benefit both sides of the equation. New technologies will help humanity work more efficiently together towards a common goal, allowing for more effective fundraising and greater proliferation of opportunities to volunteer.
“It’s not just about the money. It’s about making it easier for people to find and connect with the things they care most about.”
#1. Technology making labor more skilled and efficient
Technology is accelerating the shift to a more data-driven world and a global workforce. As traditional labor declines, humans are being empowered across the globe by smart technology to analyze big data and discover insights that can be used to improve our societies. Today’s volunteers are becoming more efficient and knowledgeable than ever thanks to technology. The skills these new volunteers develop include:
• Big data analysis:
Big data refers to a high volume, high velocity, and high variety of information measured in terabytes or petabytes in size. The Hadoop framework helps volunteers analyze big data using algorithms by reducing data across thousands of servers and storing it on cheap flash drives using a distributed file system. Once stored, volunteers can then use MapReduce to move this information into HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) where they can then use special software like Apache Spark to analyze the data.
• Artificial intelligence:
#2. Technology democratizing access to community building opportunities for everyone
Technology is also enabling people to belong to communities they might not necessarily have access to before. With more and more highly skilled people entering the volunteering space, we are all now in a better position than ever before to be a part of our communities. This means that everyone has the opportunity to discover what they want to do in life and volunteer within the community, cohorts or even a charity. Traditional barriers to volunteering have lessened and people are able to progress in the way that was best for them. Many people have a passion for something, but just haven’t discovered it yet.
Technology is helping charities achieve their goals too. For example, the National Trust for Scotland was looking to increase the number of schools that visited their properties, however, they were unable to do so because of the lack of capacity in their volunteer force to deliver the experience and manage it effectively.
With more people using technology more often than not in this day and age, charities are beginning to realize that technology could actually be a great solution to this problem. This is because volunteers are now able to visit the properties of the trust and access high quality, real-time online content. This allows volunteers to better target their communities and engage with them in a meaningful way. The technology allows volunteers to manage the experience themselves, while they still have the basics covered. Technology also allows charity trustees to work together much more easily, which can lead to a greater level of trust and understanding between the two parties.
#3. Technology facilitating a global community of individuals who are passionate about similar values and concerns
The third wave of technology is the emergence of “transactive” or “peer-to-peer” volunteering. This means that we are no longer being led by big charities and companies, but rather by individuals or groups of people who have an idea for a program and want to run it themselves. These volunteers form a community that wants to achieve something together and use technology as a tool to do so. It takes time to develop and grow, but once it has its roots it can become a meaningful community for many years to come.
This type of volunteering is different from the “crisis volunteering” and “voluntourism” often seen in communities where large numbers of volunteers come together over a short period of time. These volunteers are often led by an organization to do a specific activity and then leave once the activity is complete. This usually makes for quick impact and little sustainability, as well as many volunteers not knowing how to deal with the issues they encounter.