How can I put these skills to best use?
April 16, 2012 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Can you think of volunteer projects that would make good use of the skills of a jack of all (academic) trades?

I have about 15-20 hrs per week that I'd like to put to use for a good cause or organisation that could benefit from some or all of an eclectic collection of skills that falls short of expertise in any particular area.

I am a clear and effective writer (but have never been published);
I have a master's in continental philosophy (but not a Ph.D);
I have a lot of experience creating and delivering presentations (but only in a corporate context rather than public speaking);
I have strong statistical and analytical skills (but no math degree);
I have good reading ability in French, Spanish, and German (but only rudimentary spoken ability in those languages);
I have some programming ability in HTML, Java, Visual Basic, Mathematica (but have never worked on an enterprise-level application)

Any suggestions for an organisation, or even a worthwhile project I could undertake on my own, that would allow me to put some or all of the above to good use would be very welcome. I'm based in the UK if that makes a difference.
posted by muhonnin to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you have a skill-set that would be useful to many of the projects on the UN online volunteering site. Perhaps some of them would pique your interest?
posted by reren at 7:45 AM on April 16, 2012

In general your skill set sounds like a good match for someone doing policy analysis in a campaigning context. Lots of organisations need people who are able to read large complicated government documents (green papers, white papers, guidelines, regulations, consultation documents), produce readable explanations of the issues, and assist people to respond. Languages mean that a European policy focus might be helpful.

The current coalition is making very significant (and often incoherent) policy changes across a wide range of areas. These make policy analysis, linked to action important.

Like any role what's righ for you partly depends on where you are, and part on wehter you are happy to work from home, or if you want to be with other people in a group. It also depends on what social / political issues interest you. What are you interested in? Disability (try the Broken of Britain), mental health (mail me), health, local government?
posted by Gilgongo at 7:50 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a volunteer manager with a charity in the UK.

Start with what interests you, what do you care about? The best volunteers are the ones that are motivated about the cause.

Then find the organisations that work in those areas, visit their web page, find their volunteering section and see what roles they've got. If there's nothing there that interests you, ping them an email with an outline of what your skills are (as much as you've given us here is fine, no need to send a CV unless they ask for it)., Ask nicely if they might be able to make use of your skills. Be nice about it because managing volunteers takes time and resources if it's done properly (and I'll be frank, you don't want to volunteer anywhere where they don't invest in volunteers) so even though you're offering them your time and skills for free, they just might not be able to support you to do what you want to do.

I hate turning down volunteers, but I just don't have the capacity to support everyone and at the end of the day my priority is our service users.

There are several online places you can also go to find roles, here are some you might find useful:

Do-it - online searchable database of 1,000s of opportunities.

Reach - they match skilled people with organisations

Media Trust - link people with media, marketing, communications or digital media skills to organisations and young people

Guardian Volunteer Roles - a lot of organisations put their more specialised roles here as well as general ones.

That should get you off to a good start!
posted by Helga-woo at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Find some open source software you have used and do a good first-pass translation of the docs, or proofread existing docs in order to improve them.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:26 PM on April 16, 2012

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