Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The Obameter

Encourage community service through online outreach and social networking


Will build on the foundation of sites like USAFreedomCorps.gov and VolunteerMatch.org and leverage technology to increase awareness of and participation in service opportunities. There will be a comprehensive, easily searchable web presence with information about service opportunities, and a full strategy to ensure that people interested in opportunities can find them. This will essentially be a craigslist for service. Best practices from the private sector will be imported, including user ratings and social network features. Users will be able to rate their volunteer experiences, and those requiring service will be able to specify skill sets and time commitments required. Users will also be able to track their hours of service if they choose and perhaps compete for awards from local chambers of commerce or foundations..Will also use technology to make service opportunities available for people who may prefer to work out of their homes or at unusual hours."


Updates

The federal website serve.gov is serving this purpose

The Obama administration has kept up its efforts on the pledge to use social networking and online outreach to encourage community service.

First, we'll note that federal statistics suggest that volunteer work is alive and well under Obama. In 2011, 64.3 million Americans did volunteer work through an organization, up by 1.5 million compared to 2010. In all, Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours, with a majority of Americans volunteering in some fashion and more than one-third actively participating in a civic, religious, or school group.

As we noted in our previous update, the focus for this effort has been the website serve.gov, run by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service. The site includes a blog, a search function to find volunteer opportunities by type and location, and ways to share personal volunteering experiences and to post your own project so other volunteers can join it. The website also directs visitors to a Facebook page and Twitter feed, both of which, like the blog, appear to be updated frequently.

Not every aspect of this lengthy promise is reflected in the website -- we didn't find a way to track individuals" hours of service, for instance -- but serve.gov appears to support the vast bulk of pledge made during the 2008 campaign. We rate it a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Corporation for National and Community Service, serve.govwebsite, accessed Jan. 4, 2013

Corporation for National and Community Service, "Volunteering and Civic Life in America” main page, accessed Jan. 4, 2013

Serve.gov has new features; more to come

During the campaign, President Obama pledged to use social networking and online outreach to encourage community service. When we last looked at this promise in January 2009, we rated it In the Works, since the administration set up a new website to connect people with volunteer opportunities. The website was still in early stages, and was focused primarily on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The website also stated that "details on how to stay active in the future will be coming soon." We're well into the second year of Obama's presidency, so we wanted to check how things have been developing.

Directing our Internet browser to serve.gov, it's clear that the web developers have been keeping busy. The website is now integrated with social networks like Facebook, which allows individuals to create projects and invite their friends to join. There are also "toolkits" that provide step-by-step guides on how to setup and coordinate various volunteering initiatives. To help users find volunteering opportunities, the site is integrated with All For Good, a website that serves as an aggregator of volunteering projects that are posted by various non-profit groups. Just type in a keyword and a zip code and the site will print out a list of opportunities in your area.

Still, Obama also promised that the new website will allow users to rate their experiences, keep track of hours, and even compete for awards from local foundations. We weren't able to find any of those features on the website. We spoke with a representative from Corporation for National and Community Service, a government body that oversees the website, and were told that there are plans under way to implement several of those features.

The new website isn't everything that President Obama promised, but users can now search for volunteering opportunities, the system is integrated with social networks, and there are plans to include additional features. For now, the rating remains In the Works.

Sources:


Corporation for National and Community Service, serve.gov, accessed July 19, 2010

Phone interview, Corporation for National and Community Service representative, July 19, 2010

USAservice.org kicked off

Barack Obama's Presidential Inaugural Committee created USAservice.org, a Web site to connect people with volunteer opportunities. The site's initial focus was on encouraging people to volunteer on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The site, which was unveiled Jan. 9, 2009, allows organizations to post service projects. Volunteers can easily search the projects to find one that meets their time and talents. The volunteers then sign up online and enter their contact information.

The site will continue in some form after the King holiday, according to information on its "Frequently Asked Questions" page.

"The goal is for MLK Day to reignite the American tradition of service and volunteerism and to that end the current call to action is viewed as a starting point. Details on how to stay active in the future will be coming soon," the site said.

While we wait to see what comes next, we're updating this promise to In the Works.

Sources:

USAservice.org, " Frequently Asked Questions ," accessed Jan. 19, 2009

Presidential Inaugural Committee, "President-elect Obama, General Colin L. Powell Call on Americans to 'Renew America Together' with an Ongoing Commitment to National Service," news release, Jan. 9, 2009