The Challenges of an Online Global Platform that Virtual Volunteering will Overcome
According to UNESCO’s Estimate of Language Content on the Web, no less than 72% of the content available on-line globally is written in English and, as a consequence, 90% of the world’s languages are not substantially represented on the Internet. Languages, however, are at the heart of an individual’s culture, identity and social context and for this reason play a pivotal role in preserving diversity, promoting personal expression and encouraging intercultural exchange. When promoting important issues like youth empowerment, and when raising awareness on global issues, it is therefore important to recognize the value and the role multilingualism plays in facilitating change and in ensuring that policies aimed at promoting social justice are inclusive and reflective of this diversity.
With members in over 200 countries, TakingITGlobal understands the importance of developing a multilingual platform that is accessible to all users and of providing a resource to showcase local opportunities, expressions and perspectives that truly reflect the diversity of our network. For thousands of young people around the world, TakingITGlobal’s on-line community (www.takingitglobal.org) provides a gateway to youth resources and opportunities as well as collaborative tools to support social action and community development. With a mission to inspire, inform and involve young people, TakingITGlobal uses cutting-edge technology to connect youth around the world to find inspiration, information and get involved in improving their local and global communities.
It is precisely our multilingual capacity, combined with the use of ICTs, that makes our community different from its numerous global counterparts. However, we also understand that programmes and opportunities offered by participation are only relevant to young people if they are in local languages and reflect what is going on in their community. The development of TakingITGlobal’s multilingual capacity represents an incredible opportunity for our members to gain a unique perspective on any given country and helps foster a sense of global awareness, collaboration, cultural understanding, leadership and initiative among youth in local communities and around the world. All of this would not be possible if it wasn’t for the support of our many dedicated volunteers, language Coordinators and “Community Connectors”.
At TakingITGlobal, we strive to offer a unique space for our members to promote their culture or language on our international platform. Community Connectors work in three continents to strengthen both on-line and off-line youth networks, providing opportunities for skill development and promoting culturally-relevant content on our site. Our language coordinators and volunteers work tirelessly to make sure that our latest content is available in TakingITGlobnal’s 12 languages, and many more work ‘behind the scenes’ to translate the site in even more languages.
TakingITGlobal has grown a lot in the last few years. Back on December 2nd 2005 the 100,000th member joined the Online Community and now three years later that number has more than doubled, with over 220,000 members. This kind of growth would not have been possible without the support of our volunteers, because although our membership has grown significantly the number of full-time TIG staff has remained fairly small, especially when one considers the reach and involvement of our organization in all regions of the world. TakingITGlobal remains an international organization whose presence is continually growing, and at the same time a non-profit that is reliant on the generosity of volunteers to support that growth now and into the future.
The international presence of our organization and the nature of TakingITGlobal's work means that very few of our volunteers work in our headquarters in downtown Toronto, or in our sister office in New York City. The overwhelming majority of our volunteers work from their homes, from computer labs at their schools, from busy internet cafes, or from their offices during breaks from their regular jobs. They are students, young professionals, activists and often have multiple volunteer positions. They moderate, review, give feedback, support and encourage TakingITGlobal members to participate within our online community, share their ideas, initiatives and inspirations with other members, and make TakingITGlobal's online community a dynamic and supportive environment. All of this is done virtually - our virtual volunteer teams work and collaborate through e-mail, chat programs, Skype, wikis, etc. The growth of virtual volunteering is opening up opportunities to ever more people to get involved and support organizations they feel a connection to despite the kinds of barriers that affect classic ‘in-person’ volunteering positions: time zones, geographical distances, work and school schedules, etc. TakingITGlobal will continue to seek virtual volunteers to support our growth, and continue to rely on their knowledge and experiences to support our membership. The future impact of our organization depends on both of these things.
Chiara Camponeschi and Laura Kenyon *Both Coordinators of great volunteer teams TakingITGlobal