Tag: volunteering

Bike light giveaway event

I’ve volunteered for three different organizations this year for approximately 43 hours. I feel my record keeping is falling a little short, though.

Last night was my favorite time. I took photos for the Active Transportation Alliance during a bike light giveaway (or “distribution”). I also helped attach a few lights to the hundreds of people riding bikes through Wicker Park without headlights. I spent most of my time in front of Bank of America at 1585 N Milwaukee, in the northbound direction.

All of the volunteers, including two staff members from ActiveTrans, and lawyer Jim Freeman (who donated the lights), made a lot of people happy.

Most states have laws requiring people riding bikes at night to have a front white headlight and a rear red reflector, although I, and many others, including ActiveTrans, suggest that you also ride with a rear red light. I’ll help you find a local bike shop if you’re in need of a light.

Can we use location-based services to make urban planning “rise”?

Facebook launched a feature called Places that allows its users to “check in” to Places and to see where their friends are. People can also see where the most popular venue is at any given time (provided they have friends there).

SeeClickFix has mobile apps (and a website) that enables users (in participating locales) to report issues (like graffiti and potholes) in their neighborhoods.

Augmented reality apps for smartphones overlay the virtual world (of yellow pages and restaurant reviews) on the physical world depending on where you point your phone’s camera.

Is there something (an app, a concept, a teaching) that we can develop that uses these apps or the same technology to raise awareness of “urban planning” in all of our cities’ citizens? Such a scheme would attempt to educate and involve more people into the city’s social, cultural and built environments, the urban fabric (buzzword alert!), as well as the history of their surroundings.

Possible scenarios

1. While riding the train through a neighborhood, the new location-based service that encompasses everything about urban planning might aggregate information relevant to the location and activity. Perhaps the application would display to the user information about the history of this particular elevated train’s construction on this branch as well as pull up information on upcoming schedule changes. Lastly, the transit operator may ask the user to take a survey about this particular trip, looking for information on how the user accessed the station (via bike, walking, car, or bus?).

2. My friend Brandon Souba created a proof-of-concept app called Handshake that tells you about nearby app users with similar interests. But this hardly raises civic or urban awareness. Maybe non-profit organizations who need volunteers could create profiles in Handshake and when you’re near a staff member or the headquarters, your phone alerts you to a possible volunteer opportunity.

3. What are your ideas?

Volunteering is up

For 8 weeks within December, January and February, I was without employment.

I was temporarily laid off. So I volunteered. As did millions of other people. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released on January 26, 2010, puts the overall number of volunteers in September 2009 at 63.4 million people. So far in 2010, I’ve put in 27 hours at a social services organization. Last year, I volunteered 9 hours at two organizations*. My goal last year was to do 20 hours by Labor Day. That didn’t happen so I guess I’m finishing that goal now.

A volunteer at Sunday Parkways (now called Open Streets) in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Eric Rogers.

Who is the most likely person to volunteer: A white, married woman with a college degree, without children under 18. The number one volunteer category: religious organizations, leading the second category, educational and youth services, by 8 percentage points.

Have you volunteered recently? Do you prefer that your volunteer work benefit you in some way? For example, do you want your time spent volunteering to teach you a new skill, or are you satisfied with just helping out?

Fast Company shows this information on an infographic.

By the way, as this photo makes evident, I am back at work!

*Two of these hours were spent talking to people at Millennium Park about the Burnham Pavilion designed by Ben van Berkel. The people were annoying – a lady asking me why she might want go to Grant Park prompted by “resignation.”