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Learning from our Team: Reflections on Prosper's First Six Months

Last week, our founder John Ellison wrote an excellent piece documenting the process of creating RefugeeProjects.com.

This week, Natasha presents some findings from our recent participation survey. If you have yet to respond to this, we'd love you to spare a few minutes and do so:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/11MHykK58zT11M0U7HIzurTAYgBWFl5kco7jVTGEhTio/viewform

Now it's time to turn to our core group of volunteers at Prosper - the wide range of developers, designers, social media experts, and volunteers in the field who have helped build Refugee Projects from the ground up.

We wanted to learn directly from the source how we are meeting our two-fold mission:

  • to build products to directly address the refugee crisis.
  • to learn from our process in order to share knowledge and improve our process.

To that end, we turned to our team, asking them to take a brief survey about their experience volunteering for this technology initiative. The key results are summarized here:

Digital Workers and Volunteers joined Prosper because…

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“I want to connect with people working towards implementing new ideas and platforms to make a positive impact with the humanitarian crisis.”

Prosper volunteers joined the community for two distinct reasons:

  1. Digital workers are looking for a place to make a meaningful contribution to the refugee crisis. They are hoping to apply their skills directly towards the solution of a real problem.

  2. People who have the ability to “contribute virtually” to this effort want to feel part of something---They want to feel part of a team, to find a “virtual home”.

Speaking from my own experience, this second point is essential. While I have been fortunate to find a direct way of working with local asylum seekers, I wanted to apply my digital skills in a meaningful way.

It has been critical for me to feel part of a team, to feel connected to others throughout the world working on a tangible product.

Prosper team members on making a contribution…

“This entire project relates to a very difficult matter. It is not easy, nor will it be. The best we can do is to support each other, commit to our work and share - ideas, problems, tasks, everything.”

All who took our survey felt they were able to make a contribution and on average; felt their contribution valued (4.33 out of 5). Survey takers responded an average 4 out of 5 when asked if they met their goal

Everyone acknowledged the challenges inherent to this sort of volunteer-run organization with a distributed team.

Key Learnings

Surprisingly perhaps, the key learnings did not relate to the refugee crisis itself, or Prosper’s central project “Refugee Projects.com” but rather new online tools that can be used to organise virtual, disparate teams.

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Despite the fact that the majority of Prosper’s volunteers are technology workers, under 20% of people had used Trello before joining Prosper and only one third of the team had used Slack.

These tools, coupled with Google docs and a very transparent decision-making process from our leadership team, allowed for direct communication and facilitated our team's growth.

Team-members felt very positive about about Prosper’s accomplishments to date with an 8.5 out of ten average.

Recommendations and Advice for Volunteers

“Find a specific niche, one specific task or project you can help out on.”

“I think the main benefit would be to join a project with momentum, rather than to create your own.”

In a crisis of this magnitude, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin, how to best plug in.

Volunteers suggested finding one specific project and doing their part. All surveyed indicated that they are very likely to work on this type of initiative in the future.

To that end, perhaps the strongest legacy that Prosper can leave is to ensure the development of http://refugeeprojects.com/

A central repository of projects and ideas will give future technology volunteers an easier way to connect with projects on a long-term, meaningful basis.

Get Involved

Are you a digital worker? Have you had experience volunteering on a technology project for humanitarian reasons?

We'd love to hear from you while we steer a course through our next, exciting phase of development.

Why not join up now and see what a difference you can make?

Natasha Freidus

Natasha Freidus is a consultant and trainer leveraging new media tools for social change. She currently lives in France where she volunteers with a local refugee solidarity effort.

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