Manufacturing Change: Creating Impact with Skilled Virtual Volunteers
Daniel James Paterson is a social entrepreneur and innovator who founded the recently launched ManufacturingChange.org. ManufacturingChange.org is an NGO that enables volunteers with specific skills to solve problems online for manufactures in developing countries. I have been closely watching the launch of the site and would like to shine a light on the organization’s innovative approach to social change. Take a look at the interview below to learn more about Daniel, ManufacturingChange.org’s activities, and how to support their work.
Q. What is ManufacturingChange.org?
This is my elevator pitch moment, right? ManufacturingChange.org is a website that allows online volunteers to solve problems in developing countries for organisations that use manufacturing to create social change. In others words, our micro-volunteers help manufacturing-driven social organisations to improve their manufacturing capability so that the social benefit they provide grows proportionately too.
Q. So you support organisations that use manufacturing to create social change. What kinds of missions do these organisations have?
There are many amazing and ingenious ways to create social change through manufacturing. Take, for example, an organisation in Kenya that has set up an ethical jewelry assembly plant employing 50 blind people, with all profits being used to house and provide medical care for the workers – a brilliant closed-system manufacturing-driven social enterprise! We also support food processing to fund an AIDS reduction campaign, waste processing to fund sustainability investment and reforestation, and the manufacture of ethical and affordable poverty alleviating products – to name but a small few.
How did you get started with online volunteering and what drove you to set up ManufacturingChange.org?
Manufacturing is, in essence, a force for good – as human development is primarily achieved by the manufacture and assembly of physical objects to improve quality of life. Driven by this goal, the organisation began as a tradition (offline) NGO called Humanitarian Manufacturing Volunteers that sent manufacturing specialists abroad on placements. After visiting 20 organisations that had applied to us, we had our ‘Eureka! moment’. We’d made the all-too-common mistake of giving what we had, not what was needed! The organisations didn’t want a long-term volunteer. Instead, they had ‘bottleneck problems’ – small manufacturing issues, that, once solved, would have a major impact on their manufacturing capability. If we could help to solve these issues remotely, the social good that the organisations were providing would grow too.
Q. Can you describe your micro-volunteering model?
The model is deliciously simple: we focus on what we do best - manufacturing - and don’t do any of the normal and often-destructive ‘who, where, what’ decision-making of Western Aid programs. Instead, social enterprises that have been established by local entrepreneurs working within their local market mechanisms input their problems into our website for our online volunteers to tackle. These include improving processes and products, and as well as helping to locate donated equipment, or new customers, suppliers and funding sources. So, as we grow the manufacturing capability of these organisations so that their social good grows, it happens in a way that has been determined by the local population.
Q. How is ManufacturingChange.org innovating within International Development?
What I love about the micro-volunteering model is that the people we're helping are a part of the organisation too – so we’re moving away from ‘them and us’ towards being all together in an organisation, working collectively for everyone’s benefit. That’s the real power of crowd-sourcing. Many volunteers performing many small tasks means that International Development becomes not a 'sector', but a thing that everybody does a little bit of. As for socially-driven manufacturing organisations, we believe in them so strongly because they’re crucial to poverty elimination, the global economy and our ecosystem, as they deliver sustainable social and economic development through ethical production methods, local decision making and empowering appropriate technology.
Q. ManufacturingChange.org supports organisations in developing countries. How does your work also support the developed nations?
Departing from the usual picture of the developing world as a patient, in this age of an impending global resource shortage, socially-oriented manufacturing organisations in developing countries can instead serve as a model for manufacturing around the world – from the benefits of local ownership and production to the use of appropriate-level technology. In fact the name ManufacturingChange.org is a double entendre… the organisations and volunteers don’t just produce societal change – they’re also helping to change Western manufacturing too. Micro-volunteering speeds this up, as thousands of people each doing small actions means that you get many, many more people in the West exposed to these sorts of ideas as compared to traditional volunteering.
Q. How can the NetSquared audience contribute to and support ManufacturingChange.org?
We’re always on the look out for new connections and supporters and for people to help spread the word about us online, so we’d love it if they’d:
- Like our Facebook fanpage (and share us with friends)
- Follow us on Twitter: @MakeTheChanges (and tweet about us)
- Join our LinkedIn group (and share us with connections)
- Email friends and colleagues about us
- Sign-up to our newsletter
- They’re also welcome to contact Daniel James Paterson
A big thank you for Daniel for agreeing to be interviewed, and for taking time to answer all the questions!
Also: a belated happy birthday!