USP & iVolntr: Problem Statement

After much research and rework to define and simplify what I'm trying to achieve with the Urban Survival Project, the answer seems to come down to a two step process. To achieve our goal of improving opportunities for inner city kids, I think there needs to be a social and technical infrastructure in place.

First, create a flexible available pool of literate urban volunteers via a volunteering platform ( Second, enable them to connect with and help young people and any one else who needs it, by making it easy to help people immediately and online. In light of that, here's a first draft of some questions and answers I've put together to help outline what I'm thinking. I'd love some feedback :)

What is the aim of the Urban Survival Project?

Revolutionise urban volunteering!

How will we achieve this?

By approaching it from a social-networking and cyber-volunteering perspective - i.e.

What is the opportunity?

There is an increasing sense of social responsibility amongst young professionals, particularly in the corporate space, combined with a need for kudos on a personal level and offset by limited available time. There is thus a keenness for volunteering and particularly helping disadvantaged young people that is not being realized because there are too many barriers to volunteering. This is especially so for a commitment-phobic web-savvy professional generation that takes ease of use, interactive engagement, fun and immediacy for granted.

What do we need to do?

  1. We need to make volunteering easier.

  2. We need to make volunteering immediate and temporary / non-committal.

  3. We need to make some aspects of volunteering possible online and through the use of digital media, online document editors and wiki software. In other words, we need to enable true cyber-volunteering.

Why do we need another volunteering site?

There isn’t one out there specifically dedicated to engaging volunteers and catering for their needs. The volunteering sites out there focus primarily on organizations looking for time or donations, or alternatively provide for people and groups developing ideas or setting up social projects.

Why set this up as a social network?

As I see it, the largest untapped volunteering resource is the commitment-phobic, web- savvy, young professional group that has become accustomed to interpersonal interaction norms set by Facebook. Social networks are proven to be a highly successful way to connect and engage people in the 15 to 35 demographic. There is also a significant amount of social kudos for individuals and groups to be gained by showcasing their good deeds and developing their social ideas in a space where their friends and colleagues have visibility. The network would also contain organizations and projects as individual entities that members can interact with as they do with each other, as well as providing volunteering opportunities as Facebook style updates to members; thus making it easier to volunteer both in terms of usability and also in terms of findability. The combination of the two will create the ease and immediacy that most of us are looking for.

Why do we need another social network?

There isn’t one out there that is designed to achieve anything useful. There are plenty of Web 2.0 sites trying to do this, but they don't recreate our social graph and aren't really social networks. Attempts to achieve this through existing social networks have also not proved successful. Neither Facebook nor MySpace for example, are designed for useful collaboration between individuals, and are primarily fun sites rather than useful platforms. Creating a useful social network creates the opportunity to reuse and scale for a number of other collaborative needs.

Why do we need another website for young people?

There aren’t very many sites specifically for young people, and there isn’t one that covers the breadth of issues they face, at a literacy level that makes sense particularly to young people in the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) category.

Why would non-profits and other volunteering websites support this?

This network would drive traffic to their sites by feeding their volunteering opportunities into the pool of users based on localization information and user preference, and thus increase their possibilities of engaging with and leveraging an audience that they currently struggle to pull in. Being able to create their own organization profiles that could be synchronized with their data feeds will also help create a referral channel at no cost. We could enable donations directly through member profiles like Facebook causes. Finally, and crucially, this project would help them build dedicated and long reaching networks of people that support their cause.

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