News About Virtual Volunteering


Not every organization engaged in virtual volunteering uses that term; you will note that the volunteers at many of the initiatives talked about in the articles below are never referred to as digital volunteers, online volunteers, etc. - they are called, simply, volunteers. Or counselors. Or mappers. We find some of these articles because we use GoogleAlerts to let us know when there is an online article that uses terms that relate to virtual volunteering, but we also find many articles just because we happen to be reading a magazine, online or in print, and there's an article about virtual volunteering activities that never uses that term.

Also see this page of RSS feeds that automatically link to the latest web pages, blogs, and other online materials that use terms that relate to virtual volunteering. This is automatically-generated content; we do not control what shows up on these RSS feeds or what online materials get linked.

If a link is broken, please type it into archive.org to retrieve an archived version of the article.

Note that these are articles, as opposed to research and academic papers, which can be found here.

Help us keep track of news about virtual volunteering! Here's a form to submit an update to this page. Please submit actual NEWS, not opinion pieces or "how to" blogs.

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Last updated: 3 October 2017

3 October 2017: Digital ambassadors? That's virtual volunteering even if it's not called that. Susan J. Ellis and I note in the Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook that, many times, programs where online volunteers are involved or talked about never mention the phrase "virtual volunteering." Or volunteers. Here's a great example of that: an article by TechSoup Canada about digital ambassadors. It's a very good article, and it *is* tagged with volunteer management, but within the article, ambassadors are never called volunteers. That's NOT a criticism - it's just a great example of how virtual volunteering is all around, even if we don't call it that. And the idea of recruiting digital ambassadors is a very good one for nonprofits.

7 September 2017 Project Common Voice is a Mozilla Foundation effort to build an open-source voice recognition engine that anyone can use to make apps for devices and the web. Voice recognition makes working with and navigating the web more accessible. It also requires thousands of voice samples and data points. Most of the data that drives common voice applications is not open or accessible to those who might want to build useful tech for their communities. The more people who donate recordings of their voice, the more useful the system will be. The Foundation seeks online volunteers willing to donate a recording of their own voices to the project.

22 August 2017: As a part of the company's Global Service Month, Cisco partnered with Missing Maps to provide virtual volunteering projects for employee teams "that can gather around a conference table, dial in via TelePresence, or join from their desks from any location around the world." Missing Maps is a collaboration between multiple humanitarian organizations, including the American Red Cross. People around the globe can use the resulting online resources to identify roads, structures and other key features on maps for use by first responders and aid agencies in some of the world's most remote places where disasters occur. The Cisco Foundation provided early stage support for the development of the Missing Maps platform in 2015 and the American Red Cross has been a longtime strategic partner of Cisco’s, with over US$21 million in donations to local, national, and international Red Cross programs. Now, Several Cisco business functions are conducting “Map-A-Thons” within their own organizations. Cisco is challenging their employees to volunteer one hour with Missing Maps online. To join the Missing Maps “Map-a-Thons,” Cisco employees do not need to be a part of Operations. Multiple Map-a-Thons are planned throughout September, with a number of Virtual Map-a-Thons planned for September 12. Cisco sees Missing Maps participation as a team-building exercise for employees, both within a team and across offices around the world. Cisco employees can visit the corporate online giving and volunteering platform to register for Missing Map Map-a-Thons. Beyond Global Service Month, Cisco provides five calendar days per year of paid volunteer-time-off through its Time2Give employee benefit, a matching gifts program through the Cisco Foundation. More about the Cisco partnership with Missing Maps. from Missing Maps, and more about the partnership from Cisco.

8 August 2017: " How online volunteers bring added value for strengthening peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo" shares one of the projects of Online Volunteering run by United Nations Volunteers.

1 August 2017 GLOBE Observer App: allows you to record environmental observations to compare to NASA satellite observations to help scientists studying Earth and the global environment. The app includes Clouds, which allows you to photograph clouds and record sky observations and compare them with NASA satellite images. Mosquito Habitat Mapper, asks you to identify potential breeding sites for mosquitoes, sample and count mosquito larvae, and with optional equipment, examine and photograph a specimen to identify its genus. Your observations are contributing to a global database that will be used to by scientists to verify predictive models of mosquito population dynamics based on satellite data. In addition, public health authorities have access to this mosquito data for use in managing disease risk in communities. As soon as the eclipse part of the app is released, it will automatically update in GLOBE Observer. Future versions of GLOBE Observer will add additional tools for you to use as a citizen environmental scientist.

28 July 2017: The Union volunteers Russia (SDR) / Союз добровольцев России (СДР) is launching a virtual volunteering platform, and actively recruiting celebrities. SDR will call its platform “Volunteer of Russia” / "Добровольцы России". We sent letters of invitation to participate in this project, Diego Maradona, Steven Seagal, Roy Jones, Mila Jovovich, Emir Kusturica, nick Vujcic and others” according to SDR Co-Chairperson Anastasia Korotkova. Story in English. Story in Russian.Story in Russian. And web site where platform may be found once launched.

20 July 2017: Skype a scientist was started at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology by graduate student Sarah McAnulty. The initiative now has scientists from all over the world involved as online volunteers. K-12 teachers can contact the initiative to arrange an informal 30 - 60 minute video chat and discussion with students. There are more than 500 scientists who have volunteered to participate. "What we would talk about is dependent on what your students are interested in (e.g. what’s it like being a scientist, what do scientists do for fun, are GMOs safe, are vaccines safe, is global warming real, do squids fart, whatever). The goal of the program is to have students across the country have positive experiences with scientists and form a personal connection with someone working in a scientific field. If we can teach a little science in the process, that’s an added bonus! You can request a type of scientist, choosing from 20 different categories."

17 July 2017 Online volunteers link a community in Africa with donors, trainers and partners Lake Nokoué is on the southern coast of Benin in West Africa. It is a community threatened by pollution and deforestation, and is also affected by congestion from sediments and the traditional acadja fish farming practice. Online volunteers recruited through the UN's Online Volunteering service played a substantive role in mobilizing a grant of USD 40,000 from the GEF Small Grants Programme for the Benin NGO "Association des Propriétaires d'Acadja de la Commune de Sô Ava" (APACSO). They also helped identify an expert in aquaculture to deliver an onsite ten-day training in fish farming for youth, women and low income fishermen, funded by an NGO from Belgium. APACSO also received three partnership requests from local organizations.

17 July 2017: Distance Teaching and Mobile Learning (DTML) is a nonprofit organization that recruits online volunteer mentors and tutors to help students around the world. They have just expanded their work into Uganda and Ethiopia. "Our portal allows volunteers to share knowledge, teach skills, and encourage students to explore their imaginations," said Dr. Aleksey Sinyagin, Founder of DTML, in a press release about the expansion. The organization pairs students with pre-vetted mentors for a long-term partnership and collaborative relationship meant to support students through adolescence and into adulthood. "The program is designed to deliver more than just an educational service – mentors and tutors are equipped to provide personal support when any student is in need." DTML partners with local institutions and schools for its online mentoring and tutoring program. The Virtual Volunteering wiki provides a comprehensive list of online mentoring programs, both current and defunct, including those that are noted in The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, which also details elements for success in ementoring programs.

7 July 2017 The American College of Rheumatology has microvolunteering and longer-term online volunteering opportunities for members-only. The virtual opportunities range from writing or editing a column regarding ethics or conflict of interest for the ACR/ARHP Ethics Forum to being a peer reviewer and examining proposals for rigor, integrity, and quality, to serving as a mentor to address the needs of early career pediatric rheumatologists. Recruiting online volunteers exclusively from existing onsite, vetted volunteers or members is something recommended in about The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook as a way to reduce the amount of time needed for screening and training online volunteers. The Guidebook is available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc.

29 June 2017, Chicago, Illinois: Online volunteers transcribe rare magical manuscripts. Joseph Peterson is a software engineer by day and rare manuscript enthusiast by night. Peterson is the founder of Esoteric Archives, a website he built 20 years ago that publishes transcripts, translations and other information about rare historical texts. He’s also one of the online volunteers helping Chicago’s Newberry Library transcribe and translate a series of rare religious manuscripts written between the 15th and 19th centuries, including books on magic and witchcraft. In the lead up to the September exhibition, the Newberry is crowdsourcing transcripts of texts with Latin and English. Cathy Hamaker, an exhibit developer at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis and another volunteer transcriber, works on the texts whenever she has a moment during her lunch break. Hamaker heard about the project on social media and decided to apply her background in medieval history and knowledge of Latin to the task. The transcription of antique books on magic will be featured in a September 2017 exhibition alongside more than 150 items including Bibles, poems, maps, music and art. Much like updating a Wikipedia page, anyone can start transcribing and translating.

27 June 2017: Mclean, Virginia: Cricket Media, an education media company, has launched CricketTogether, an online mentoring platform for employees from corporations to mentor young people. "Students are paired with employees of partner companies to read intriguing articles and exchange thoughts about the content, and life, building one-on-one Virtual Learning Friendships in a safe, collaborative environment that promotes education equity... Mentors, especially those who come from the business community, provide the catalyst to build student literacy, critical thinking, and real world problem-solving skills, as well as increase student understanding of careers and the world beyond their classroom... CricketTogether is designed specifically to support today’s busy employee, creating a 'micro-volunteering' opportunity with only a commitment of a few hours a month that makes it possible for volunteers to participate remotely working with their schedules." A pilot program to test the platform was recently completed. Regarding that pilot program, "Employees remark that their student pen pals help them be better parents, friends, and aunts and uncles. They are more aware of what kids think and how they express themselves. Employees see their own communications skills enhanced as they think more deeply about what they’re reading and how to best to communicate their ideas... " Students in the CricketTogether pilot said they felt empowered and motivated to push their communication skills to higher levels in order to engage with the program. One student said, “I love that I can be honest with my pen pal and tell him my dreams.” Another commented on the access to remote experts and role models, remarking, “I like that you get to talk to other people, not just classmates, friends or family. Sometimes they are even in other states.” Cricket Media is inviting corporations to engage their employee volunteers as "eMentors" and sponsor CricketTogether classrooms in grades 3-5 during the 2017-2018 school year. Here is their press release about their program. July 20, 2017 update: there are more volunteers than there are opportunities available for them, which does not surprise the authors of //The// Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook (and if you have read the book, you know why)

26 June 2017: From United Nations Volunteers: Shortly after Alisa Niakhai completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration in Canada, she discovered the UN's Online Volunteering service. "Coming from a family of modest means, the unpaid internships in New York or Geneva were no option for her to contribute to the work of the UN. But through online volunteering, other opportunities to do just that presented themselves to her, and Alisa has completed a number of online volunteering assignments for various UN agencies since." Among the projects she's undertaken is synthesizing the United Nation's Conference on Trade and Development 84-page Guide to Empowering Women Entrepreneurs into briefing note. "This was a challenging task, which Alisa handled through weekly Skype calls with the Innovation Team and a Google Doc, and it resulted in a white paper of eight pages that UN OICT uses in briefings throughout the UN Secretariat." Alisa noted, "In our virtual meetings there was plenty of room to ask questions and propose new ideas. Despite the fact that most of us have never met, the atmosphere was very collaborative and supportive." The full UNV newsletter article.

12 June 2017: According to an article in the Hindustan Times, the Uttar Pradesh Police will implement a pilot project that leverages online citizen volunteers to communicate correct information during crisis situations in a city or village and to control rumours during such situations. The pilot will begin in Noida, Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Varanasi, Sitapur and Barabanki in India. “Social media is playing a massive role in mobilising people for any cause. We also want to use this medium to reach out to the maximum number of people. The digital volunteers can help us in multiple ways to combat crime and maintain law and order during a crisis... Rumours can create a lot of havoc in problematic situations such as those we faced during the Saharanpur clashes. These volunteers can help by giving out credible information about the whole situation to people through social media... These digital volunteers, through various social media platforms, can give credible information on missing people and also circulate important contact numbers. These people can work as a link between the force and the public,” Rahul Shrivastav, spokesperson for the UP Police, said in the article, which notes that senior police officers are brainstorming with experts and citizens to come up with a system for digital volunteers.

6 June 2017: A Syrian-Palestinian web developer and online volunteer active in projects like Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia and Creative Commons has been missing for more five years in Syria. Bassel Khartabil, aka Bassel Safadi, has been in the custody of Syrian government authorities since March 2012. In October 2015, Bassel was taken from Adra prison, a civilian facility, to an undisclosed location. His location and condition remain unknown. His supporters and loved ones continue to campaign for his freedom and celebrate his contributions to various online projects.

10 May 2017: A volunteer from Columbia, based in China, was recruited via the UN's Online Volunteering service to design the World Migratory Bird Day 2017 poster. The UN Environment CMS/AEWA communications team recruited the volunteer, a professional graphic designer. The team decided upon a final draft that integrated traditional Australian aboriginal, Central American Kuna, and Native American art forms. World Migratory Bird Day is

27 April 2017: This All-Virtual Volunteer Group Is Revolutionizing The Way We Respond To Crisis. A profile by VolunteerMatch of Crisis Text Line, a nationwide text line for people experiencing pain and trauma, that utilizes online volunteers for response.

17 April 2017: We've created this listing of 300 tweets celebrating & promoting microvolunteering, from April 10 to April 17, 2017, via Storify. These tweets used the tag #microday. Microvolunteering Day is April 15 and was founded by Mike Bright. Not all microvolunteering is regarding online tasks, but much of it is. Looking through these tweets is a great way to see examples of online microvolunteering (it's how we found out about the Home Front Legacy project, listed below).

17 April 2017: Using an app, Flickr & tags to map WWI sites across the UK. The Home Front Legacy project, based at the Council for British Archaeology, mobilizes remote volunteers in British communities identify and map the remains of local First World War (WW1) sites across the United Kingdom. Volunteers document and preserve stories and vulnerable remains for future generations using the project's recording toolkit app and the project's Flickr gallery. Volunteers use the app to find and document forgotten camps and practice trenches, they search local archives to discover WW1 sites, such as a local factory was turned over to munitions manufacture or local buildings that were used as drill halls, hospitals or prisoner of war camps, etc. The project also identifies sites associated with events, such as air crashes, bombings, naval raids and strikes. In addition to the recording toolkit app, there's also online trainings for volunteers. The project posted this tweet on Microvolunteering Day 2017, to show a map with all of the various sites across the UK that the project's remote volunteers have mapped.

13 April 2017: 96 Online Volunteers , recruited through the UN's Online Volunteering service, collaborated with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs to process research surveys carried out across UN Member States for the UN E-Government Survey. The project underpinned the role of volunteerism as a valuable solution to sustainable development, and is the second time online volunteers have been mobilized for this effort. The survey, done every two years, assesses the use of information technology to provide public services to citizens. During the four-month long intense collaboration, online volunteers contributed to the data collection of 386 research surveys and the analysis of national-level government portals. Anush Kocharyan, UN Online Volunteer from Armenia says, “Coordinators were always available to answer questions and clarify ambiguous situations. A platform for communication among the online volunteers was created as well, which ensured effective communication and knowledge sharing among the whole team. Volunteers asked and answered each other's questions.”

6 March 2017 How Many Online Volunteers Does It Take to Transcribe Phyllis Diller’s 53,000 Jokes? When it comes to transcribing historical texts as a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer, some projects can be more entertaining than others. Not that transcribing specimen labels for 44,000 bumblebees or variations of tropical pollen can’t be interesting, in their way. But what about the joke files of Phyllis Diller? The Smithsonian Transcription Center began in 2013, relying on volunteers to help transcribe field notes, diaries, levers, logbooks and specimen labels from eight various Smithsonian museums and archives, some 7,500 volunteers have signed up to transcribe more than 225,000 pages. But when Diller’s jokes came up for transcription last week, “they are going like gangbusters,” says Meghan Ferriter, project coordinator. “I think we actually gained about 115 new volunteers in one day.”

25 February 2017. Online volunteers aren't always remote; hackathons and Wikipedia edit-a-thons bring together people in the same physical space, at the same time, to volunteer online, to code for good, to create content for the arts or under-represented groups or science topics on WIkipedia, and more. From Why Trump's election scares data scientists, a story on CNN: Data Refuge was founded after the election, with a goal of tracking and safeguarding government data. The volunteer group of hackers, writers, scientists and students collects federal data about climate change in order to preserve the information and keep it publicly accessible. In the past three months, Data Refuge has hosted 17 events where hundreds of volunteers figure out how to copy and publish research-quality data. The group, which grew out of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, also monitors scientific research that depends on government funding because there's concern this could dry up. These fears are stoked by the fact that some content has already been removed from agencies' websites. For instance, ProPublica found that the Trump administration edited an educational website for kids to significantly downplay the negative impacts of coal. The White House also removed all of the data from its portal of searchable federal data. The site previously included data on everything from budgets to climate change to LGBT issues. It now displays a message telling people to: "Check back soon for new data." To gear up for potential data droughts, groups are organizing through traditional social tools like Twitter and Facebook. One platform, data.world, is a social network exclusively for people who want to find and collaborate on building data sets, much like how programming site GitHub lets coders collaborate on building apps. It already has tens of thousands of open government data sets available. See the Feb. 13 story below as well.

20 February 2017 "Cyber volunteer" asked to disseminate msgs of misogyny, Islamophobia and hate on behalf of the government political party she supports. In her new book, I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army, broadcast journalist Swati Chaturvedi contends that the ruling party in India is orchestrating online campaigns to intimidate perceived government critics through its social media online volunteers.

13 February 2017 Diehard Coders Just Rescued NASA’s Earth Science Data. Online volunteers aren't always remote; hackathons and Wikipedia edit-a-thons bring together people in the same physical space, at the same time, to volunteer online, to code for good, to create content for the arts or under-represented groups or science topics on WIkipedia, and more. This Wired.com article talks about volunteers coming together across the USA to preserve online scientific information and other info they fear will be permanently removed from government web sites under the Trump administration, and building systems to monitor ongoing changes to government websites. By the end of the day, one group had collectively loaded 8,404 NASA and DOE webpages onto the Internet Archive, effectively covering the entirety of NASA’s earth science efforts. They’d also built backdoors in to download 25 gigabytes from 101 public datasets, and were expecting even more to come in as scripts on some of the larger dataset finished running. But there is still much work to do. “Climate change data is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Eric Kansa, an anthropologist who manages archaeological data archiving for the non-profit group Open Context. “There are a huge number of other datasets being threatened with cultural, historical, sociological information.” A panicked friend at the National Parks Service had tipped him off to a huge data portal that contains everything from park visitation stats to GIS boundaries to inventories of species.

5 February 2017. WorldHacks, a podcast from the BBC World News service, did a 23-minute piece on Be My Eyes, an app that allows online volunteers to assist people that are sight-impaired. At about the 8 minute mark, they talk to an online volunteer about why she helps, and discover what's common among all virtual volunteering initiatives, something Jayne and Susan point out frequently: there are far more people that want to volunteer online than there are opportunities for them to undertake. At about 11:25, they start talking about microvolunteering by name. Producers aren't aware of just how well established the practice is, the research to date , etc.

24 January 2017: Mike Bright, microvolunteering's #1 promoter, has passed away. Mike launched the Help From Home initiative, http://helpfromhome.org/ , entirely on his own and leveraged the Internet brilliantly to promote this form of episodic virtual volunteering, giving it more attention than it has ever had before. Because of his extensive work, we link to him on this wiki and we have a photo of Mike on page 31 of The //Last// Virtual Volunteering Guidebook//, in the section about microvolunteering (of course). Jayne featured Mike prominently in a report for the European Commission, the government of the EU, regarding the prevalence and potential of virtual volunteering in Europe. From Jayne: "I would say that it’s because of Mike’s efforts to track microvolunteering in the UK that I am able to say the UK is #2, behind Spain and, perhaps, tied with Poland, for having the greatest amount of virtual volunteering in Europe." Mike’s contributions and promotions regarding microvolunteering have been invaluable to nonprofits, NGOs, charities, and other organizations all over the world – and his legacy will be all that he wrote and researched on the subject. More on Jayne's blog.

24 January 2017: Digital campaigning: Couch potatoes or mouse-armed warriors? "Several civil society organizations are promoting slacktivism, or clicktivism campaigns if you prefer a more positive term, as a fast way to engage users in supporting social causes exclusively through digital channels.Its supporters highlight its viral properties and the easy way to quantify campaign results. Their detractors criticize poor engagement level from recipients."

24 January 2017: The Internet, and Facebook in particular, were used to organize both participants in the January 21, 2017 Women's Marches, the largest day of protests in USA history, and to recruit and manage the volunteers supporting these events. This blog looks at lessons learned, from using Facebook to organize and support March Day volunteers and activists, and shows just how onsite volunteers often start off as online volunteers.

Note that these are articles, as opposed to research and academic papers, which can be found here.

See 2016 articles.

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See 2013 articles.

See Articles earlier than 2013 (going back to 1996)

Also see: **Authors and Book Title in the News*