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More on Innovation!

December 12, 2010

This is another excerpt from our proposal in the University of Chicago Social Innovation Competition. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please feel free to comment!

Because microvolunteering remains in its infancy there is much space within the field for innovative new concepts and solutions. With current microvolunteering offerings like Sparked or Catchafire, individuals operate almost entirely outside the microvolunteering interface; users complete tasks independently, using their own tools, and return to the website only to post their solutions. Volunteers are separated not only from each other but also from the fruits of their labor and their impact on nonprofits. Volunteers using ChangeMachine, however, are no longer limited to working alone. ChangeMachine introduces an innovative collaborative interface and powerful group management tools to organize and administer volunteer efforts. ChangeMachine encourages volunteers to participate in nonprofit- and user-managed groups, greatly expanding the variety and scope of tasks that nonprofits can outsource. By strengthening users’ connections with the products of their work, ChangeMachine promotes relationships between volunteers and nonprofits, increasing the quality and frequency of contributions.

Instead of individual volunteers completing one-time tasks for nonprofits, organizations and users of ChangeMachine may create groups, or “task forces,” dedicated to a particular cause or task. ChangeMachine’s “task force” model allows volunteers to build meaningful relationships with nonprofits and other volunteers, functionality that simply does not exist in current microvolunteering frameworks. These frameworks, accommodating a wide variety of users, often lack the interest, skill, and feedback necessary for delivering a product. By applying this revolutionary model to universities specifically, however, ChangeMachine leverages the enthusiasm and intelligence of students to produce high-quality results.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2010 12:32 am

    Hi Paul –
    Love to see what you’re working on. Sounds like you’ve given some deep thought to it and like what I’m reading above. Can you give a demo to us at

    Also, don’t think it’s true that you can’t see the fruits of a project while it’s in progress or done. Check out this Badge design challenge in progress You can see there’s very much a creative process alive there.

    And, you can also form what we call “teams” to accomplish a series of challenges together as a group…This is how we earn revenue, in fact – by selling such “teams” to corporations as a way to turn-on their employee volunteering programs ( Sounds similar to your task force… but would love to hear more about what y’all are working on.


  2. December 15, 2010 12:33 am

    Ps. Love your logo.

    • Paul Kaplan permalink*
      December 15, 2010 1:42 pm

      Thanks so much for the comments Ben (may I call you that? You are something of a hero here at ChangeMachine). And our designer thanks you for the logo compliment, if we spent as much time programming as we did on the logo we would probably have launched already!

      Unfortunately we can’t show anything quite yet, we expect a beta to be ready in a little while, hard to say exactly. You know you will be the first ones on our contact list though!

      We know we have some weird ideas being thrown around, and they will make much more sense when our beta comes around and we have more time to explain, if you want some more details feel free to shoot me an email (I can send it to you if it isn’t listed on my profile).

      And that badge help seems to have come along really well. We just have seen quite a few “send me the document, I’ll translate it and send it back to you via email” posts which we think gets in the way of true collaboration.

      If you would like to talk to us personally feel free to email me!

      • December 19, 2010 7:44 pm

        Haha. Yea, the logo is really important – or more – the logo *process* – it’s when you get to answer all of those “But who are we really?” big sweeping questions.

        I know what you mean about those “Just send me the document” comments. One the one hand, I’d like to see everything happening on Sparked. On the other, I think that it’s also important to provide as little structure as possible – to keep the UX simple and easy to understand. So, people will naturally build structure of their own to solve problems in their own unique ways. And our job as system designers to is try to recognize when those patterns are “asking” for a feature. Right now, for example, being able to upload documents directly to a challenge is definitely being “asked” for – and we hope to get that one out the door asap.

        And maybe what you’re talking about when you say “live collaboration” is some kind of integrated chat/file handling (a-la Google wave). That could definitely be cool! Can’t wait to see what y’all come up with.

        Likewise, ping me if you guys want to chat – or stop by if you’re in SF.



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