Volunteer 2.0

A diverse and growing community of deep thinkers and doers believe that our current institutions for global problem solving are fundamentally and irreparably broken. And like us, they believe there is a short time window in which to build new networks for global cooperation that embody wikinomics principles like openness, interdependence and collaboration. We’re not talking about making some token efforts to widen the scope and scale of citizen participation in international forums. Nor are we proposing some grandiose vision of a representative global government or a new global bureaucracy. We’re talking about ordinary people getting together to create inclusive and participative forums for the generation of ideas and solutions to the most pressing problems facing the world. And ultimately, this means doing away with traditional notions of control and ownership over issues, and going beyond the international silos to create networks of the willing and engaged.

Sparked founders found a new way to innovate the way charities and volunteers connect. While many people think that there is less time to volunteer, the stats prove otherwise: Americans spend almost five hours a week playing video games and 9 billion hours a year playing solitaire. The Extraordinaries was able to harness the way we view spare time as an opportunity for social action through a mobile phone-based micro-volunteering platform. For example, someone with foreign language skills can spend a few minutes to help translate a nonprofit’s Web site into another language, or someone with a passion for birds can help the Cornell Lab of Ornithology identify species in archived photographs. Call it an ideagora for activists.

The NGO sector is exploding in size and influence on the international scene and increasingly setting the agenda in areas such as human rights and the environment. Meanwhile virtual communities linking cultural and ethnic diasporas around the globe are breaking down the boundaries of geography and creating bridges based on values. These worldwide virtual communities not only provide a sense of belonging, they can become a conduit for problem solving by bringing together people who share a heritage or a worldview, but not a physical location.