Volunteering is a topic that many find bland and others find exciting. Whatever the case, it's a social activity and civic engagement that is of crucial importance to us, especially since volunteerism has taken a downward turn in the last 50 years. Not only does the act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service benefit the community, but it also benefits the individual. Studies have shown that volunteering improves physical, cognitive, and emotional health. This is particularly valid for the elderly population. It turns out that according to surveys, elderly people are the most inclined to volunteer but encounter the most barriers to doing so. Hence, we wanted to find a way to reduce these barriers for them. However, we also realized that this same problem applies for younger people (Gen Z, millennials), who also want to volunteer but are faced with time management and other challenges. Our idea, Volunteams, is a platform to incentive more volunteering among people of all age groups, by creating partnerships between younger and older volunteers.
What it does
Users are able to upload profiles of themselves on our system, including their name, age, hobbies, location, and hours they're willing to commit volunteering. Users will then be filtered into a "youth" pool of individuals and an "older" pool of individuals based on their age. Then, they will be presented with a match; based on their pool, the match will be a person from the other pool who is most similar in terms of location, interests, and time commitment. Given more time, we would have implemented a robust user interface with an account portal as well as a messaging system to communicate with matches on the platform.
How we built it
We used Pandas and Jupyter notebook to prototype our project.
Challenges we ran into
Time - we had to join the hackathon very late due to extenuating circumstances, however we believe we've come across an important idea which has tremendous future potential.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Being able to conceptualize our idea in the very limited time we had. What we initially thought was a niche problem with respect to civic engagement, we realized is extremely pervasive in society and has ample room for improvement as well as being extremely nuanced – intergenerational relationships are hard to cultivate from a cultural perspective but are fruitful to everyone involved. Volunteams is a clever stepping stone to address this issue which functions by aligning incentives between youth, the elderly, and volunteer-hosting entities.
What we learned
Spending time ideating is super important if you want to find a unique problem-space worth attempting to solve.
What's next for Volunteams
We believe there's a lot in store for Volunteams in the future. For volunteers with established volunteering interests, we can implement functionality for group-based matching. Consistency and mutual interest are key to ensuring that diverse groups get along together and thrive. Also, assuming that a working prototype of this project gets finished, we can market our platform to local school districts, employers, as well as elderly-affiliated organizations such as the AARP. All of these institutions are incentivized to ask their people to volunteer through this app, as it makes it easy, fun, and rewarding to volunteer with a partner-come-mentor. We plan on spending more time into this idea in the future and are looking forward to how it pans out.