Helping the helpers: “e-volunteering” platform supports Athens’ altruists and their causes
Without volunteers and donations, many activities that make the world a better place would simply cease to exist. A digital platform deployed by the Archdiocese of Athens is encouraging and channelling community support for a wide variety of social projects in Greece.
" The project is a fine example of a traditional structure ‘going digital’. It was launched to boost and organise the huge amount of voluntary and charitable work coordinated by the Archdiocese of Athens in support of its region, which is deeply impacted by the financial crisis and its social implications. "
Food, clothes, time, expertise, equipment, money… citizens find many ways to give, and there is no shortage of organisations that can put this help to good use. In the Athens area, the public can now refer to an online platform to get details of activities backed by the Church of Greece where they can lend a helping hand.
This platform is used to reach out to the community, highlight needs, support volunteers, coordinate their work and manage donated resources. It also contributes to closer integration throughout the participating network of social and humanitarian institutions.
An investment in social capital
The network serves a variety of vulnerable groups, whose needs differ depending on the challenges they face — poverty, unemployment or social exclusion, for example, the ravages of addiction, or the difficulties of life as a refugee. Its work relies heavily on community support, which is channelled towards activities as diverse as providing hot meals and clean clothes, dispensing health care and offering psychological support.
These projects and services are part of a wider drive to alleviate poverty, foster social inclusion and advance community regeneration. The Archdiocese of Athens views the platform as a significant asset in this respect, as it is designed to take the coordination of these activities another step ahead. The distribution of perishable food, for example, has been improved.
The platform is also expected to help to ensure transparency in the use of resources, and an equitable allocation across the various projects. In addition, it will aggregate valuable information about the supported activities.
Building a stronger community
Volunteers are crucial to the success of the initiatives encompassed by the platform. This new portal is thus also used to raise awareness of their work, disseminate the ideals that motivate them, and encourage others to follow their example. Care is taken to offer prospective candidates a wide range of options.
Citizens willing to lend a hand can enlist online, using a module that also allows donors to pledge contributions. Other functionalities supported by the system include project planning and the registration of beneficiaries. An input management module keeps track of the inventory of donated goods, supports the management of donated funds, and streamlines capacity planning and the scheduling of work performed by volunteers.
The platform also includes a module matching supply and demand, along with a number of mobile applications. It is coupled with a call centre that collects and dispatches information. Initial results reported by the Archdiocese of Athens indicate that it has prompted far greater numbers of volunteers to sign up.
Some of them may well find themselves working on the platform itself. The platform is part of the integrated information system of the Archdiocese of Athens, and as such is maintained by this institution’s technical teams. However, there are a number of tasks that have been taken on by volunteers.
Built initially for the region of Athens, the platform’s coverage may soon be extended. Partnerships with three other metropolitan areas have been initiated, and there are plans to widen the scope to encompass the entire country.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Digital smart e-volunteering platform for the management of volunteering and welfare activities” is EUR 3 064 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 3 064 000 through the “Digital Convergence” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.