Sony, which operates the Sony Mobile division after buying out Ericsson in the Sony Ericsson smartphone joint venture, has today launched +U, a mobile app that enables users to take "bite-sized" volunteering opportunities.
The app provides people with access from their Android devices to Do-It.Org, one of Britain's largest databases of volunteering opportunities, but it is also part of Sony's new 'crowd-sourcing' platform Open Planet Ideas.
Crowd-sourcing essentially involves harnessing the power of the online community to generate solutions and ideas for challenges. Sony said that +U was "forged in response to the growing number of charitable, yet time poor, people looking for simple ways to help local communities".
Working with YouthNet, the charity which runs the Do-It database, +U uses social media and mobile technology to tap into the trend of "micro-volunteering", in which people donate small chunks of time to good causes. YouthNet is now working with charities to explore new micro-volunteering opportunities for the app.
YouthNet chief executive Emma Thomas said: "We know from our own research that nearly three quarters of people who undertake volunteer work do so to make more effective use of their spare time and, through +U, people will potentially be able to browse and apply for opportunities wherever and whenever it suits them.
"For those who might be new to volunteering, being able to try short-term or one-off opportunities can be the first step in to undertaking more regular volunteering activity which ultimately benefits local communities.
"We're delighted to have worked with Sony on this project, which we feel has the potential to encourage more people to give their time, explore new opportunities for volunteering and make a really positive contribution to local communities."
Thames21 is one of several charities offering volunteering opportunities. Its chief executive Debbie Leach said: "At Thames21, our aim is to improve all of London's 400 miles of waterways for wildlife and people. We have roughly 300 opportunities a year available for people to volunteer for anything from picking up litter to cutting back vegetation.
"The ability to offer all of these opportunities through the +U mobile volunteering application makes it easier than ever for people to get involved and enables us to connect with a new band of energetic volunteers.
"We're hoping that through +U, people taking part will be enthused to share their experiences and tell their own stories about London's waterways for others to enjoy."
The +U volunteering platform has been developed in partnership with YouthNet, but the application code is open source and will be made available for free to other charities and non-profit organisations across Europe. Charities will be able to access a 'white label' +U solution to cut the upfront costs of launching their own micro-volunteering app.
Magdalena Wasowska, the general manager of technology and software centre at Sony, and a member of the Open Planet Ideas expert panel, said: "The Open Planet Ideas platform provided members of the online community with direct access to Sony and other partners, including WWF and IDEO experts.
"This exciting approach to collaboration meant that a really diverse group of people were able to innovate together to address key social and environmental challenges.
"We hope that the +U application will be of interest to the many hard-working volunteering groups across Europe; we hope that they are able to utilise this back-end solution to create further awareness, support and action for their worthwhile causes."
More information on +U is available from the Sony website. Any charities wishing to add new micro-volunteering opportunities should visit the Do-it database.
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