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NY Cares- a volunteer model for paid work

At 28 I quit my full time job to freelance and ideally find a new field of work. I was a graphic designer and interested in fields ranging from journalism and teaching to ecology and even considered becoming a park ranger. I immediately realized I needed 4 things: 1. to try new fields quickly and with minimal commitment 2. a flexible schedule in case freelance work popped up 3. to be around other people (freelancing could be lonely) 4. to be useful NY Cares allowed me to do all four right away. It is a volunteer organization that “ works with partner organizations to identify their most pressing needs, creates projects to bridge the gaps, and recruits, trains, and deploys teams of volunteers to make a difference.”

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Through NY Cares I explored new fields and made professional as well as social connections— all while freelancing. In one year I got to be a writing tutor in a NYC public high school, learn about municipal composting at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, organize an art, writing and technology afterschool class for K-2 graders and create an oral history project with a an elderly woman living in nursing home who became a dear friend.

What I think works well:
Targeted Matching

The N Y Cares model combines several aspects of other research entries like Play2Work, Princeton Alumi Network and others in that it matches employers with employees. 

Flexibility
Once trained, volunteers can select projects based on issue (the elderly, poverty, children, the environment), schedule or location. Volunteers can work on an on-going program or just drop-in for a one-time project.
 
I think it would also be helpful to be searchable by skill — accounting, design etc.


Accounability
NY Cares
works with specific organizations and requires volunteers to complete a simple screeing process and training session- making sure both parties are accountable. They guarentee all events and programs are safe and meaningful (not just stuffing envelopes). 

I think the NY Cares model of offering both one-time and on-going work opportunities, allowing users to search based on interest, skill, time and location, screening and training users and providing group projects opportunities could work just as well for people looking for paid work. 
 

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