PHASE: Pilot
CATEGORY: Technology
Roam
North America
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Roam is an online community where visitors read or write reviews on volunteer opportunities around the world.
Issue areas:

Standings & Awards

out of 85 in North America
out of 8 in Technology
out of 23 in Pilot
out of 34 in For-Profit
out of 118 Overall
Connecting motivated volunteers to communities in need, one review at a time

Roam is a website to posts reviews on unique volunteer opportunities around the world. Whether its users come to share their experiences or simply browse the directory, Roam is bound to make the search for volunteer opportunities abroad much more effective, connecting motivated people to committees in need and  improving the outcomes of volunteering around the world.

The problem with many volunteering directories on the internet today is that they fail to address the opinions of experienced volunteers. Popular sites such as Idealist.org offer a convenient platform for organizations to advertise their volunteer openings, yet there is no emphasis on the feedback of people who actually go on these trips. Many volunteers blog their experiences already - Roam allows them to offer their story and advice to the public.

Prospective volunteers will be able to use Roam's search filters to find the opportunity that best suits their needs. In Roam's current prototype, there are multiple quantitative and qualitative categories for users to elaborate on their experience and offer specific advice. Reviews will consist of an affiliated organization and its contact information, so prospective volunteers will be connected directly to an organization, complete with a set of useful feedback from the reviewer. Each review will consist of a comments section, so even the organizations themselves may be able to offer a response to the reviewers.

As Roam is currently constructed, users search for an opportunity by location and type - not by organization. Roam's primary emphasis is on the experience of the individual, and in Roam's early stages we want to emphasize people's own stories, pictures, and opinions. As the quantity of Roam's reviews increase over time, organizations that have been reviewed multiple times will be granted their own page with a basic summary and links to all of its reviews.

Roam is about the exchange between people. It's not simply designed to advertise organizations and review them, much like one would review a restaruant on Yelp. Rather, it combines the more personal aspects of individual travel blogging with the practicality of a business directory. It allows prospective and motivated volunteers to be connected to the useful, shared experiences of others.

The prototype/demo site can be found at:

www.connorlind.wix.com/roam

Roadmap to Success

Roadmap to Success: 

FIVE PROJECT QUESTIONS

What is your innovation? 
Roam allows volunteers to share and review their experiences. These reviews guide the decisions of prospective volunteers who otherwise would be unable to deduce the credibility and potential value of online opportunities. Multiple quantitative and qualitative review components will allow people to filter the directory to their specific needs. This exchange of useful information will connect motivated people to committees in need, thus improving the outcomes of volunteering around the world.
Who gains the most? 
Volunteers - prospective and experienced - gain an online community and open discussion of some of the world's greatest opportunities. Credible organizations and communities in need will be provided a continuous flow of volunteers as a result of positive reviews. Poorly organized and costly volunteer opportunities will be avoided or improved as a result of poor feedback. Small NGOs and low-cost options can be highlighted. Experienced volunteers will be able to share advice for future volunteers.
Who pays? 
Roam is currently operational on a free, generic web address. The SIC grant will pay for a domain name (www.roamreviews.org), premium web design features, and advertising on Facebook and Google. Eventually, Roam will charge organizations interested in sponsoring themselves on the site. Airlines and hotels may also pay for advertising relevant to the location of the reviewed opportunity. Roam may also be able to sell its quantitative data as market research.
What is your success? 
12 months from now, Roam will have over 100 reviews and will be completely functional on a premium web platform. Roam will primarily serve as a community forum for discussion and several trips will have been repeated based on positive reviews. Three years from now, Roam will have over 1,000 reviews and over 100 trips will have been repeated. Five years from now, volunteers everywhere will use Roam as their primary research tool to search for and discuss opportunities around the globe.
How will you do it? 
I decided to design and publish Roam independently, and it is currently functional on a free URL address. I thought it was most prudent to build it myself rather than require a webmaster. Further professional consultation may be required as the demands of the site increase, however the basic functions of the site are fairly straightforward and already in place. Users submit reviews through the site, I process these reviews for quality control, and they are published shortly thereafter.

Badges & Awards

Finalist 2013
USD SIC Finalist Project 2013
Semifinalist 2013
USD SIC Semi-finalist Project 2013
Project 2013
USD SIC Project 2013