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June 02, 2017
The rise of the micro-volunteer
By: Mohini Rao

As discussed in our recent report, the workplace is transforming. Much of this change is driven by demographics. Millennials will make up an astonishing 75 percent of the workforce in just 10 years. With this generation comes a new value system: Millennials want their workplace to reflect their passions and, significantly, to be focused on achieving social good—53 percent of the under 35s want to volunteer more than they do, up to 60 percent in the youngest 18-24 age-group. As employers, businesses recognise the need to change their approach if they’re to attract the brightest and the best new talent.

That’s why Accenture’s focused on helping our employees realise their wider ambitions, particularly when it comes to volunteering. We realise that many employees want to do more to help social and environmental causes through volunteering, but in our time-poor society, struggle to commit time. At Accenture, we’re using digital technology to overcome this challenge; enabling meaningful and impactful volunteering opportunities that employees can fit around other priorities.

"Micro-volunteering", as it’s known, allows employees to dedicate as little or as much time as they like to support their cause, and at a time that suits them. This approach helps society, empowers our employees and enhances our ability to attract and retain the next generation of talent.

I’d like to tell you about two exciting volunteering projects that have taken on a life of their own with our employees.

Missing Maps

The first is an initiative called Missing Maps, which is an online tool that helps volunteers to trace satellite images of buildings and roads onto a digital map to provide a humanitarian open street map.

Missing Maps aims to build digital maps of the world’s "forgotten places": areas, mostly in developing countries, where good maps are lacking. The goal is help humanitarian organisations, like Red Cross and Medicins Sans Frontieres, in these areas as they react to natural disasters, disease outbreaks and conflicts by providing them with detailed maps. We’ve given employees access to Missing Maps and encouraged them to take part. The results have been great. Since 2015, over 3,200 Accenture and client volunteers spent over 6,500 hours, putting over hundreds of thousands of houses on the map. Check out our epic global "mapathon" effort where you can see everything in action.

Zooniverse

Another project we’re encouraging our employees contribute to is the Zooniverse project, the world’s largest platform for people-powered research. The project’s focus is on understanding how the plants and animals that inhabit our globe behave, to understand, amongst other things, the impact of climate change. As protecting the environment is one of Accenture’s key Corporate Citizenship goals, the Zooniverse project helps employees play an active role in driving this forward.

By making this tool available to staff, we’re able to help speed up critical research that informs environmental innovation and will help protect the Earth for future generations.

Looking ahead

At Accenture, we believe digitally enabled micro-volunteering is the future of volunteering. By empowering volunteers to help on their own terms, charities and NGOs will find they have a much wider pool of volunteers who are keen to use whatever time they can spare, no matter how small. We have taken great care to ensure we make use of our volunteers’ individual skills and provide projects that are aligned to Accenture’s business strategy. The power of micro-volunteering lies in its cumulative effect. When all the discreet elements of volunteering are brought together using Digital, micro-volunteering can achieve great things.

These include:

  • Skills based volunteering: The Charity IT Association will provide digital and technology projects submitted by charities through an online skills matching platform. Our staff can then support with varying degrees of commitment, from advising on cloud based applications to supporting a website build

  • Aligned micro volunteering to our core strategy: We’re also asking for volunteers to help with our global Skills to Succeed training programme, which aims to support 3 million people into work by 2020.

    • Young People who’ve learnt how to build a LinkedIn profile within our online employability skills platform, the Skills to Succeed Academy, will be able to submit their profile to an Accenture volunteer, to provide feedback

    • Collaborating with our partner, The Prince’s Trust, where employees can remotely mentor a young person online to help them get a job or start a business

These projects are just the beginning. We plan to continue to innovate in this area to help employees give back to society in exciting new ways.

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