Friday, January 30, 2009

The proliferation of government volunteer websites

A topic for discussion: there seems to be an over-proliferation of "official" government volunteer websites. I just did a quick tabulation, and came up with the following list:

That's just the ones I could find quickly with .GOV in their name.

Add to that and, and then throw in the site started by the Obama campaign,, which you could say is now at least affiliated with the government, not to mention, and you see my concern. If someone wants to participate as a volunteer in their government, where do they go for information and guidance? At present, there are too many options. And if we want to thoroughly advertise an opportunity at our parks, we need to post an announcement on half a dozen GOVERNMENT websites, not to mention the private ones like

In some ways, we shouldn't complain, I suppose--all of the websites surely reflect a renewed interest in volunteerism, including citizen participation in government, and that's a good thing. But I'm concerned that our message is beginning to get diffused and fractured. Wouldn't a unified and centralized government volunteer program help?

Several years ago, was established in an attempt to do this. But it quickly transformed into, which is why you now have to go to the submenu to get to the original site. And hasn't been universally popular, either, because of some of its technological limitations.

A plaintive plea, then, cast into the ether of the internet: could someone develop one single unified government volunteer website? would be the simplest name for it--no confusing sub-folders, no high-minded phrases including "freedom" and "pride," just simply:, the government volunteer website. Like the current, it should allow individuals to find volunteer opportunities across government agencies and throughout the United States. But unlike the current website, it should have greater flexibility in the way positions are advertised and in the way people apply for them. It should permit advertising short-term or recurring volunteer positions (for example, every Tuesday in June and July), and should have the capacity for people to sign up for them without submitting a full resume or filling out a long government form, in much the way that the Washington Trails Association signs up volunteers. You should be able to register for updates to be sent to you when new opportunities are posted at a particular site, in your area of interest, or within 20 miles of your home--or with a combination of these factors.

While we're at it, and while we're dreaming, the website should have the capacity for interactivity. It should include discussion boards for volunteers, resources for volunteers to share carpooling opportunities, and places for volunteers to share their stories and photos of their experiences.

Like the current, it should interface seamlessly with the National Park Service website, so that volunteer opportunities posted on would automatically appear on the volunteer pages at

It would also be nice if included capabilities for real-time blogging (this one is on purely because no similar capacity exists on a federal server) and social networking (we can't even access sites like from our government computers). But now I'm really dreaming, right? Even the Obama administration ran headlong into the limitations of government computer systems when they took office. Bring the government into the 21st century? That's a huge challenge that would take a radical change of culture in the management of government computer systems.

Yes we can? Someday, I hope.

1 comment:

Katney said...

Hmm, you're not asking for much, are you?