Recently I discovered a pile of orange flyers at our Happy Thinking office in Berlin. There was a note saying ‘For all the people who want to get active and want to make themselves useful’. It happened that Sebastian Prassek, one of our colleagues, had dropped them there. The flyers are from the local NGO vostel.de that connects organisations needing support with people that would like to get involved in their social environment. A great initiative! You can be a host at an emergency shelter for refugees, do construction work at an adventure playground, or volunteer at a home for people with special care needs.
It makes me happy to see that there is an ever increasing wave of local initiatives, volunteering organisations and NGOs that want to actively go out into the world to make it a bit a better place.
I can’t really tell what unleashed this wave of wanting to connect with real people in real life, beyond the safe circle of your contacts in social media networks. For sure there is the direct confrontation with people in need, which gets to us through TV, social media and on the streets and train stations all over Europe.
What definitely plays a role too is the connecting character of social media, enabling people to easily find ways to get in-touch and in-volved both online and offline. There also seems a broader need in society for more ‘depth’ and meaning, away from the shallowness of the world of selfies, Instagram and Snapchat.
Is this maybe the dialectic of social media networking – the more you are linked with others through virtual bonds and ‘online friends’, the more you feel the need to also connect in a more tangible way? Even though you may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, you still feel a need to build genuine connections with the people around you. Hence initiatives like Meetup (24 million members in 181 countries) and nachbarschaft.net (30.000 new members in the first few months after start-up) that facilitate people to meet offline in real life are booming – to meet your neighbours or people with common interests, to undertake something together.
So next time you like to connect with a real person in the real world, why not join Vostel for an afternoon of volunteering? It’s for a good cause, is good fun, and makes you and others happy!
If you’re interested in reading more about this virtuous circle – check out Professor Paul Dolan’s Book ‘Happiness By Design’ (http://amzn.to/WGfgVF) or read an interview he gave quite recently (http://bit.ly/1LQK1Ll).
And by the way, they do Corporate Volunteering as well!