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Online Volunteering: A Comhlámh Discussion Paper Launch

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Comhlámh today launched it’s latest discussion paper as part of International Volunteer Day (IVD) along with along with a short video focusing on the key elements of online volunteering.

Online volunteering, also called virtual volunteering, refers to volunteer activities using any online device ranging from a desktop, to tablet or smartphone  in order to undertake or deliver tasks or projects.

The main feature of online volunteering is that it does not require in-person/on-site volunteers, but it does not replace these types of volunteers.

In October 2014, Comhlámh hosted a seminar for volunteer sending agencies (VSAs) with Jayne Cravens. This took place as part of the launch event for Comhlámh’s Survey on International Volunteering from Ireland 2013.

The seminar allowed Irish-based VSAs to engage with Cravens’ extensive international experience and expertise in relation to online volunteering, and to learn how best to incorporate aspects of online functionality into their programmes.

During the seminar, it emerged that volunteers do not classify themselves as online, virtual, remote or on-site, but simply view themselves as volunteers.

Siobán O’Brien Green, the Research and Policy Officer in Comhlámh described how:

“Online volunteering expands the demographics of volunteers by allowing for people with mobility issues or physical disabilities to participate. It also allows members of diaspora communities who cannot travel for visa, legal-status or safety reasons, to participate in and contribute to volunteering programmes in their own or other countries. It provides an opportunity for skills and knowledge exchanges in regions or areas where travel is restricted. For returning volunteers, virtual volunteering provides a route for continuous engagement, contact and ongoing support with their host communities.”

Welcoming this latest discussion paper, the head of Comhlámh, Mark Cumming, said:

“We know from our 2013 survey of VSAs that 11% of respondents are offering online volunteering as part of their programmes, and that this mode of volunteering is likely to grow in the coming years. Online volunteering was also highlighted in a report we commissioned by VOSESA in 2013, which suggested that it offers a more flexible approach to international volunteering, where the willingness to volunteer is not constrained by travel time, mobility, distance and expense. Instead, volunteers can respond to tasks identified anywhere from anywhere.”

For hard copies of the paper, please email Siobán at sioban@comhlamh.org.

Read more about Jayne Cravens’ work and to see her presentation from the October Comhlámh seminar here.

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