SF website offers opportunity to micro-volunteer


People spend a lot of time waiting for the bus, in line, at the corner, etc. But, what if all that wasted time could be put to good use? Now, it can, thanks to "The Extraordinaries."

"It is a platform that allows organizations to reach out to their volunteers and ask them to contribute a few minutes of their spare time at the bus stop, at a cubicle, or on the couch," says Beextra.com co-founder Ben Rigby.

Rigby, Jacob Colker and Sundeep Ahuja came up with the idea in early 2008. Today, their web site Beextra.com allows people to micro-volunteer online or on their iPhone.

"It's really innovative to think that when you have millions of people with two minutes of spare time, that adds up to a tremendous amount of social value," Colker says.

Research done in 2003 shows that people spent 9 billion hours playing solitaire online. "The Extraordinaries" say that time could be used to help others.

"If we could convert just a little bit of that time to doing social good, we could create a world of difference," says Rigby.

Beextra.com has made agreements with organizations that need volunteers to help. It is as easy as writing descriptions of photos for the Smithsonian Institution, translating for another organization or helping to identify the names and location of dog shelters or rescues for Gooddogz.org.

The for-profit company offers the service free to volunteers, but will charge non-profits to use their services.

Nicole Lazzaro and Christine Brumback are using some of their extra time to help out Kaboom!, a national non-profit that helps map and rebuild playgrounds nationwide.

"I can use it anytime anywhere and I get that opportunity to support causes that I love," Lazzaro says.

Open The Extraordinaries app on your iPhone, go to Kaboom!, snap a picture of a playground to upload to the database, and you just volunteered.

"You could fill a task in less than a minute," says volunteer Christine Brumback.

For Adam Griffiths and Pamela Hawley it is the 1Sky campaign over coffee. They are volunteering to get the federal government to address climate change.

"You have the application in your pocket and you literally have the power to change the world in the palm of your hand," Griffiths says.

"For me it's exciting," Hawleys says. "Because I feel like I am the part of a greater movement."

The Extraordinaries hope to eventually roll out their application to other mobile devices. Until then, volunteers can use the online version to give back some time.

"Our goal is that people can take five minutes here and five minutes there and all of a sudden put together hours of not just labor, but skilled labor from doctors or lawyers, and sort of put it towards a variety of causes," Ahuju explains.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

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