TeamKinetic believes that the internet has the potential for transformation in our world comparable to the Gutenberg’s printing press , but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the internet reflects both the very best and very worst of human nature. What do volunteer managers need to know about the internet to keep their volunteers safe?
I’ll provide some useful resources to give some context and understanding of the darker side of the internet and how we have used this to try and inform our policies and procedures as an organisation and what we think you should consider as an organisation as you become more reliant on digital platforms.
The internet provides almost limitless opportunity for grassroots social action, citizen journalism, voluntary engagement and so many other potentially positive outcomes, but we are naive if we do not recognise and consider the risks.
Jon Ronson, journalist and author recently wrote “So you’ve been publicly shamed” on how the networked effect of the internet can lead to individuals being ostracised. His entertaining and occasionally dark work examined some of the difficult issues around user-generated content and how people’s mistakes are amplified and stored for eternity in the memory of cyber-space. Ronson’s storytelling introduces the reader to the inherent risk for normal people to get caught up in exceptional events and how little control they have over these events once a post goes viral.
Sarah Jeong, now of the New York Times Editorial Board, Vice and The Verge has written extensively on the internet’s inherent problems and her book, “The Internet of Garbage” gives informed insights on the risks and unintended consequences of poor policy and practice and how that can impact organisations and their users. Jeong discusses at length some of the nuanced problems the modern internet has created for itself and how copyright law is being misused as a method of content suppression and removal, due in part to lack of other recourse to individuals who find themselves at the centre of a viral internet storm.
I mention these two texts as they are accessible and informed, and for those who are looking to understand the internet, they will help non-technology people appreciate the inherent risks of a highly networked world, the very real risks that can affect everyday users and voluntry organisations alike.
TeamKinetic is aware that our volunteer management platform has the potential to recruit volunteers in almost any situation. It is effective and easy to use and can be administered remotely with high efficiency to deploy individuals or teams of volunteers at short notice. These characteristics are great if you run a charity, an event or a university internship program, but they are equally great if you are recruiting individuals to partake in less positive endeavours. The creators of any platform which allows users to create content and communicate with each other must be aware of the risks as well as the benefits.
Recent legislation such as GDPR, goes some way to help individuals protect their privacy and increase their control over websites and platforms they engage with. It also gives businesses and organisations the chance to audit exactly what information they collect, why they collect it, and what they are going to do with it. This was a revealing process for us and was very worthwhile. All legislation, however well intentioned, runs the risk of “unintended consequence“. As responsible curators of TeamKinetic we have to embrace some basic values by which to manage our site.
What are our ideals and values?
As an organisation, we have put honesty at the centre of our company values. This is a type of statement that is easy to say, but much harder to live by. We aspire to offer honesty in our pricing, in our customer service and our product.
Our role in supporting the organisations that use TeamKinetic to manage their volunteers goes beyond the provision of software. We want to build a community of volunteers and volunteer managers that can share practice and policy, develop professional connections and work to strengthen the sector as a whole through the development of consistent standards in the wider information technology infrastructure of volunteering.
We want to be able to share expert knowledge and insight based on our user data and experience to help the sector become better at recruiting, deploying and recognising their volunteer’s hard work. We commit to making our data available to researchers, and the resulting insights and findings will be freely available to all who have a valid interest in the voluntary sector.
Finally, we want to create an amazing experience for all our users, that means the best technology, built in a way that is easy to use and importantly every user is protected by good policies and excellent support. Our volunteer-centric approach to development will remain the centre of our business operation.
We hope you will join us on our continued mission to be part of the ‘good’ internet and we look forward to your thoughts on how we can do this.