By giving up some of your time and volunteering, your IT skills can offer gains all round, says Simon Davey.
IT4Communities, the national IT volunteering programme, celebrated its first birthday this week, having recruited over 1,200 volunteers and initiated more than 250 projects.
This unique partnership, led by the IT sector, aims to entice more IT professionals into volunteering their technical and strategic skills to communities and has been hailed as a great success. But it is not just about warm and fluffy feelings for volunteers, the programme can give real economic and developmental benefits.
Volunteering IT expertise can improve soft skills (de-geeking we call it) and many techies return to the business happier, more motivated and with better team skills. Every project is defined before a volunteer is matched to it and the projects can vary from strategy to databases or website development. Multinationals can enhance their local credibility and small businesses can improve their marketing and popularity.
Volunteer Steve Moore stressed the mutual benefits of the programme, "I acted as an additional source of information for the Royal School for the Deaf, meaning that the staff were able to spend more time with the children, rather than searching for policies and forms. I also used the project to brush up on my Visual Basic skills and to get to know Filemakerpro."
IT professionals approach IT4Communities looking for a new challenge and wanting to try their skills in a different environment alongside their existing job.
These experiences feed back to in-house projects - working with a voluntary organisation with a small budget can increase motivation, challenge thinking processes and give professionals a new perspective.
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Simon Davey is the national director of IT4Communities.