Volunteer Alliance is a non-profit organisation started by Atomic Search employee, Cameron West, that connects international volunteers directly with community basedorganisations in developing countries through a social networking platform and searchable database.NGOs and volunteers from around the world can create a profile on Volunteer Alliance. Profiles include important information such as interests, skills and needs. With advanced search functionality, Volunteer Alliance matches volunteer skills with NGO needs.
Already in the first few months since launch 50 CBO’s profiles and 500 volunteer sign ups have been achieved.
If you were to volunteer through a volunteer placement organisation, you would have a pay a large fee to that organisation, similar to a recruiter, and very little of that fee would go to the actual community based organisation that you are working for. On Volunteer Alliance, because these connections are made without an intermediary, the cost to both the NGO and volunteer is significantly reduced, making volunteering more accessible.
We know from our research that online is the primary resource being used by international volunteers to find volunteer abroad opportunities. Through our digital marketing strategy we have been able to capture a large part of this search interest. This will only continue to increase as we develop our brand awareness.
However the community basedorganisations are more difficult. These organisations typically have a lower level of computer literacy and are not actively seeking opportunities to attract international volunteers. This is the purpose of my community based organisation outreach in Africa. To meet with these organisations, build them a profile and teach them how to manage their profile.
There is a very strong emphasis on computer literacy. This is because all higher paying jobs require a basic understanding of how to use a computer. As a result nearly every organisation that I have visited offers some form of computer training. Because of these courses, the younger generation in these communities are now on par with developed countries like Australia.
Internet adoption is also very high. I have found this even in communities where the access to computers is poor. As an example, Vrygrond is an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa where I was working with an organisation called Where Rainbows Meet. The youth at this organisation were more active on Facebook and Twitter than me! This was despite the fact that the only computers were at the local library (1 between 5) and at the organisation (where they were only allowed to be online for 2 hours per day).
The way that most people get around the poor access to computers is by using smartphones. Because the infrastructure has not been developed in these communities or is too expensive for most people, everyone has a smartphone and uses this to access the internet.
I believe that access to computers and the internet can empower these communities. The wealth of knowledge and information online gives these communities the capacity to improve their own situation. The steps being taken by these organisations to improve computer literacy and access to computers is an opportunity to bridge the gap between these communities and places like Australia!
I am only 2 months into my trip and we have already exceeded our expectations. I am very confident in what we are doing and I would like to say thanks to James Dixon and Atomic Search for supporting us. To James, I promise I will get you a photo on top of a mountain with the Atomic Search logo!
Ps. and yes, Google is still dominant throughout Africa!