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There are those who are uninterested in improving the world. There are also those for which sitting idly as the world suffers is unacceptable. However there is this vast swath of people who might take action. We aim to collect those who are undecided, those who would like to aid the world but simply lack that initial spark which sets them alight.
To accomplish this, we will create a community and support materials which serve to invigorate the swing voters. We will connect them to organizations near them. We will guide them in how to create their own. We will construct a database of projects waiting for their attention. And most importantly, we will be there for them, only a userpage away, a flat organization with no leaders and no paperwork. We seek not to force action onto people but to entice them. Make it fun, meaningful, and easy.
Once we have enough people involved, clubs start spontaneously, projects are added/maintained in the database spontaneously, and the support materials evolve spontaneously. The media loves stories about how the internet is changing the social landscape, so once we have 2 or 3 projects completed, we can expect viral marketing.
Each volunteer opportunity will get a page on this wiki with photographs of the project, the location, descriptions, and contact information for those in the community who would host the volunteers and be responsible for the project after the volunteers left.
Potential projects include schools in need of teachers, clinics in need of doctors, farmers in need of training or appropriate technologies, water projects in need of engineers, etc.
These manuals will cover many topics. They might include advice on how to start a chapter, tips on how to travel internationally, advice for teaching internationally, as well as the technical information that is already here on how to build solar cookers and bio digesters. The best part is that as volunteers gain experience, they can include the lessons they learn in the manuals so that they evolve organically
After the project descriptions are created, chapters will be created to adopt individual projects. Once the project is adopted by a chapter, it will be moved from the available projects list to the list of projects currently in progress. Progress updates will be made to the project description and Appropedia will serve as a mechanism for project collaboration. The student chapters will be supported by the manuals, materials and community here on Appropedia,
Chapters would be encouraged to establish unique names. This would reduce branding, organizational and liability issues from Appropedia's point of view while making it easier to bring existing NGO's into the fold because they wouldn't feel like they had to give up their identity. This should also provide the most fertile ground for emergent ideas and technologies.
These independent groups would be individual Appropedia Action Groups informally associated with Appropedia and could collaborate with one another using their user pages.
The development of a well rounded organizational culture is vital. Since we wouldn't have any mandatory training programs before our volunteers went into the field, our manuals and other communications would have to be very well done to ensure that everyone is well prepared. Several best practices that I have recently come across, courtesy of Paul Polak, include learning everything you can about the specific context, and not starting a project if you haven’t had conversations with at least 25 poor people before you start.
College students have summer breaks provide an ideal time to participate in group travel for extended periods. However students have little experience and less money.
Working people have experience and money, but relatively little free time.
Retired people (55+) reportedly have 75% of America's disposable income and a lot of free time.
To the extent that we can create an organizational structure within our groups that takes full advantage of each demographic's strengths, the better off we will be. This area is still very ripe for further improvement.
Establishing that the volunteers and in country partners are trustworthy presents a challenge that we are still thinking hard about. One idea that we are kicking around is to establish an optional certification for volunteers and an e-bay inspired reputation system for in country partners. In this way organization could choose certified volunteers and the volunteers can choose organizations based on their reputation.
Why this will work
We keep this here because there is a lot of doubt when trying out an untested idea, and these are reasons we stand a better chance than proven organizations.
There are international volunteer organizations that charge 2600 for 2 week trips. Only 900 goes to direct in country costs and the other 1700 to overhead. Our idea should accomplish the same final result at zero overhead.
There are print publications that perform a similar function that are limited by their format.
There are several online sites serve as online clearinghouses for volunteer projects, Our idea expands on these by offering support in the form of clubs and manuals, along with an international development focus.
Still other organizations are highly buearocratic our idea has no forms to fill out and you don't have to ask anyone's permission. This means the barrier to entry is minimal which means we can develop interest faster than other organizations.
AAG has zero overhead, this means no membership dues.
AAG has no problem scaling; The faster potential projects are added and groups are started, the better.
Potentially useful Wiki adaptations
Current Wiki technologies aren't perfect for our needs. It would be excellent to have fairly standardized user, group, and project pages. These pages would be similar in organization to current social networking sites. With such pages, users could make searches based on the location of group or the location of the project, the expertise and experience of the users, certifications, reputation etcetera. There are current wiki technologies under development such as semantic media wiki that look like they will close some of these gaps soon. At any rate, these issues are issues that we don't need to think about until after considerable scaling of the Appropedia Action Groups.