App idea to capture a new breed of volunteer

App idea to capture a new breed of volunteer

Social entrepreneur Sam Rye is on a mission to attract young, tech-savvy volunteers for environmental projects and is planning an app to make it happen.

Rye founded the venture, Volunteer Impact, last month after his own volunteer efforts planted the seeds of the idea.

He's currently a communications strategist at Wellington social enterprise co-working space and development house Enspiral and community builder for youth mental health organisation Lifehack. But it was while coordinating projects and volunteers for UK-based Raleigh International in Borneo, which organises youth into projects to combat poverty, that he got insight into what it takes to keep volunteers interested and the part technology could play in that.

"One of the most important things for repeat volunteering was the experience people had while they were there. You have to cater to their motivations for why they've joined up.

"The research we've been doing has really reinforced the importance of the collective. Giving people a sense of the bigger picture was really important."

And there's a younger, tech-savvy group of volunteers waiting to be captured, says Rye. "There's a different class of volunteers that isn't traditionally tapped into. It's the younger generation from 16 to 35 or 40. They may not work on a project day to day or week to week, they're out there to socialise and to exercise and to see new places.

"I want to capture those people and keep them doing environmental volunteering. There are great ways to use technology to capture their interest and keep them involved."

Volunteer Impact has had nearly 50 responses to a survey asking what kind of app people would want, and found an even split between iOS and Android users.

The app could also be web based or there could be an email service, Rye says.

He likens his concept to the running app Strava, which keeps users motivated by showing them their fitness milestones. Rye's idea is to take users' data and analyse it to show them their contribution to environmental projects.

In the longer term it could also benefit volunteer organisations with a marketplace of opportunities.

He hopes to have a proof of concept next April and might crowdfund in the new year.

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