I, and many others, are interested in volunteering our time and skills. So how does that work when your skills are computer stuff – anything from teaching social media to programming or system administration?
There are weekend long events, like the Social Innovation Camp I did in summer 2009 where teams work to make the first version of a social enterprise over a weekend. Just like Launch48 for good causes, basically. And recently I’ve done several Social Media Surgeries in Edinburgh, where volunteers teach local groups about twitter and the like. There are websites where charities and community groups can post requests and get people to work on small projects, like Sparked and it4Communities.
With these, I think the elephant in the room is what happens next – it’s easy to get people to sign up for a fun weekend, but ongoing support or development work is more important and that’s harder to find volunteers for.
For instance, setting up a WordPress blog for someone is one thing but if they don’t keep up to date with security releases they will get hacked eventually (This is true of all software; not picking on WordPress). Fortunately, there is http://wordpress.com/ – if you start a blog there, they will take care of all the system administration for you.
Also, how does a charity who doesn’t really know what is possible decide what they want? And how do they judge the quality of the work? Both seem to require a more general technology consultant to help them, or some kind of feedback loop.
In the mean time, I’ve signed up for more Social Media Surgeries and have volunteered for my first project with it4Communities – so we’ll see how that goes …