GozAround connects people wishing to volunteer with their neighbours in need and local organisations. Users gets points and badges for time spent helping others, and these points can be exchanged for a favour or turned into donations to a charity.
It seems like the gamification of our daily lives is not just a fad. Developers around the world are using game-like interfaces to motivate good behaviour. By now, most of us are probably familiar with Duolingo, the website/app that turns language learning into an interactive game with points and levels that need to be unlocked. Similarly, Ciclogreen encourages sustainable mobility by awarding points for every kilometre biked or walked. Ciclogreen even goes a step further because the points can be redeemed for real life gifts and discounts in local shops.
Now comes the app that encourages users to help their neighbours and volunteer: GozAround.
The website was founded in Edmonton in 2014 based on the well-known principle of karma: what goes around, comes around.
Individuals and volunteering/charity organisations who need a hand can register on the website and post requests for help. The request description includes details such as the type of task, the estimated time required, the location and the number of people required. The number of points awarded for the task is also included.
On the other hand, people wishing to get involved in their community can browse through the requests in the area (as a list or on a map) until they’ve found a task that suits them. They can refine their search with several criteria, such as the category of request (Home and Garden, Seniors, Fundraising, etc.) and the date and time when help is needed. Clicking on “Offer to help” is the final step to get in touch with the individual or organisation, who will then need to approve the volunteer. Users receive points for each completed task, which they can then accumulate to increase their ranking, donate to organisations or use to request help for a task.
The website contains plenty of useful features, such as a “Your impact” page which tracks volunteered hours and completed requests. The user can also see their points and their ranking in comparison to users in their city, in their country, and in the world. Furthermore, GozAround allows users to create groups, which is useful for organisation members or schools/companies wishing to take part in a volunteering challenge.
At the end of every quarter, GozAround donates part of their revenue to the organisations registered on the website. The amount they receive varies in function of the number of hours worked by their helpers. In other words, GozAround not only puts these organisations in touch with volunteers, but they generate donations for every hour of help received via the website. Considering that registering to the website is free of charge, this is a pretty good deal.
As with any networking site, GozAround’s appeal and usefulness is highly dependent on the breadth of its membership. At the moment, all help requests are located in North America (mainly in Alberta, where the website was created). After watching the introductory video, I eagerly created an account and checked for postings around me, in vain. My test account is currently ranked #1 in Germany -- for lack of competition, unfortunately. I later noticed that the homepage stated "Find ways to volunteer in the US and Canada", so it seems that other continents are not part of the target audience at the moment.
GozAround is a fun and positive concept that could benefit communities all around the world by connecting people who need help and people who want to help. Perhaps the user-friendliness of the platform and the promise of virtual points will help GozAround reach critical mass on a global scale in the future.