How the project could work

There are two major benefits this project can offer

  • Better information and support for inner city youth
  • An open pool of volunteers for social organisations to tap into

Networking Volunteers

In both cases the dependency is a network of skilled volunteers. I’d imagine the sensible demographic for the volunteers needed is probably young ‘professionals’ in their early 20’s to early 30’s. I’d argue this is because for the most part they are financially liquid, responsibility free, looking for personal validation and socially inclined to help; particularly if it doesn’t involve significant or repetitive time commitment. By ‘professional’ I mean people in jobs requiring reasonable to high literacy, rather than simply people performing jobs traditionally described as professional like lawyers, accountants etc.

Given the number of social networks out there, setting up another one to compete for attention makes no sense. Better I think to use existing ones as a platform to make it easy for people to get involved.


Facebook is an obvious choice to focus on because of the way it is set up with groups, causes, and applications that can be added to profile pages, with standardised reusable platforms to build these on. All these are easy to push updates and information out into. It is also the sensible option because of how many of us are already on it. It has the largest audience and the right demographic for volunteers with high literacy and professional skill sets. MySpace, Bebo etc are possible options but they target and subsequently are populated by a much younger demographic, which is more likely to fall into the category that can use support rather being able to offer support.

With the trend towards the importance of social responsibility, there is a lot of social kudos to be gained from voluntary work, particularly in helping vulnerable young people. A Facebook application could provide volunteers with this by maybe incrementing points for time, help or content contributions, while also keeping them updated of help wanted and projects to get involved in. It could similarly highlight to profile visitors where they could get involved; and to the project it would be a way of pulling people into the site, and finding the skills and support needed to evolve and keep things running. For the more self-effacing, there could easily be private vs public options that lets them choose how much they want their friends to know about what they’re giving back to their communities.

Finally as suggested by a friend of mine (Vik) maybe there’s a way of improving career opportunities for people who volunteer for and through this project, by formalising the points into some kind of national recognition or awards scheme run through the Government or Prince’s Trust. This should be scalable across industry too. I’ll run this past the Prince’s Trust when I speak with them. Watch this space : )

Very simplistically, the application would link back into the urban survival project website which would hopefully populate basic information straight out of Facebook to save user effort, and then extend the information linked to it in terms of the work the volunteer has done, content they’ve contributed or articles they’ve written. The website itself may or may not function as a social networking site, but probably more of a portal to link volunteers and those who need help instead.

Supporting young people and organisations who need help

In terms of social networking and personal profiles, I can see why an individual would get personal value from volunteering if it could be made easier for them, and probably also from being able to tell the world and their friends about the good work they’re doing, but there probably isn’t a high likelihood that someone would want to flag on their social friend space profile that they’re struggling and need help.

Using that as a basis, I’m not expecting the project to interact with people looking for help via a social networking site, or similarly for volunteers to communicate with young people through their profile applications. If nothing else it increases the interaction risks that we’ll need to worry about. Rather I’m expecting to create a website where people who need help can search for the information they need, or log-on and request support. It is only the volunteer group that I think we can build and motivate through sites like Facebook.

In the long term, the same would apply to non-profit organisations that need volunteers. We could have a section for them to create profiles and update the help and skills they need on a running basis. This content could then flag up in volunteers’ Facebook profile applications as open for help.

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