Online volunteering: Special times require creative digital skills

As a provider of international youth work, KulturLife thrives on travel and exchange between people of different cultures. This year will probably remain in our memories for a long time, especially for those who had to return home early from their stays abroad. Especially for our participants in our voluntary services, we have been thinking about how we can maintain their commitment to development policy and thus came across the topic of online volunteering. 

We think that online volunteering stands for a modern engagement that is adapted to today's world. In addition to your own skills, which you use and develop in your commitment, you also expand your digital competencies and enhance your own soft skills.

Regardless of whether your interests lie in the area of the environment, human rights, anti-racism or somewhere else entirely: You can also make a contribution online! Online volunteering is the term used to describe the voluntary and social engagement of people who use the internet and digital technologies to carry out voluntary work and thus contribute to the good of the community.

The concept of online volunteering originated in the US and has been practised there since the 1990s.

However, it is also gaining in importance here, because it opens up new approaches.  Above all, it makes it easier for people to get involved in volunteering for whom traditional volunteering is not suitable due to their life situation (age, place of residence, lack of time). Whether from the living room, on the road or the library, supporting a campaign, writing texts, or consulting by email does not play a central role.

There are many ways online engagement can look like. Whether individually or as a volunteer in the framework of an association.

You can teach refugees and migrants the language of their host country online in language tandems, language cafés or cooking classes, or support the online communication of certain topics, such as fake news or cyberbullying.

A nice example of young people getting involved is the German platform Juuport, a nationwide online counselling service where young people help each other when they have problems on or with the internet. Whether cyberbullying, rip-offs, data security or technology - young people can ask questions about all these topics on the platform and find tips and tricks for dealing with the web.

In addition, there are many more opportunities to enhance your digital skills by engaging yourselves on a volunteer basis, e.g. produce digital content for websites and social media, such as research work, writing or translating texts, creating graphics to support text content, editing videos etc..

Participating in an online petition or campaigns and casting a vote in an online poll is particularly low-threshold.

If we have aroused your interest, then the following ideas might be a possible start for you in international online volunteering:

TeachSurfing gives refugees, migrants and local people the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with schools, non-profit organisations and communities, while gaining social and cultural experience and creating local networks.

The way it works is that young adults who want to share knowledge can indicate their skills and location. On the other hand, schools or clubs can indicate their learning needs and interests. Through the TeachSurfing platform, both sides are connected and can organise knowledge-sharing events together. Then they can share their success stories online to inspire more people.

Translators Without Borders provide both translation and language assistance to a variety of humanitarian organisations. They also aim to raise awareness about translation barriers.  

Zooniverse is a citizen web portal that allows volunteers to participate in scientific research.

Become a UN Volunteer and get involved with the United Nations on various projects: