The website couchsurfing.org recently asked how they could improve their service. You can read my response below. I am hoping that you like the idea and that when you approach CS as an organization you will be able to augment the number of volunteers (wordlwide)
World-Changing: How CS + Volunteering = MORE couches
So you want to change, I mean really CHANGE, the world (one couch at a time) ? Here is how I believe CS could make a huge impact:
I'd like to start off from the "volunteering side" and then show how this will result in more places to stay and, so I hope, a paradigm shift.
Caveat: If you have trouble picturing the following suggestions for your own home town, think, for example, of poorer places like like India, Mexico or South Africa - although there is also plenty to be done in any other place.
Say you want to do volunteer work, what do you need?
-Couch/ host/ host family
Concerning the first point of helping people find NGOs, that is where CS could take its mission as a B-Corp Company to the next level by showing members where and how they can lend a hand. Local CS members could not only act as guides by proudly presenting their home town, but they could help their home town by directing those travelers who are interested to local NGOs - I am sure this database could grow rapidly. For me, volunteering has given me insight into the countries I traveled like nothing else. Perhaps a partnership with "NetworkForGood" would make sense. For now however, I would like to focus on the second point.
What do you do when you can't find a host? You pay for a hotel (or hostel etc.). Or, in some cases, what do you do when you get fed up with having to switch couches every couple of days? You go out and pay for a hotel.
What if you could pay a local host family instead? - For those who don't want anything around CS to cost money, please let me finish -
So why pay? It costs money to host you. For a family in a developing nation, it might not be easy to provide food and water (showers, washing, drinking) for an additional person. What does this mean?
You have the opportunity to pay less than you would for a hotel and, more importantly, you have the opportunity to help the local economy by supporting a local family.
I am consciously writing "host family" and not just "host" because, generally speaking, hosts tend to be young people living alone.
I realize that the same argument, paying for what you cost the host, could be put forward for any host. But in comparing the young, energetic CS hosts I have met with host families affiliated with NGOs I worked for, I don't think this would endanger the CS culture. If the worry still persists that this may hurt the feel of CS, perhaps we could explore the idea of launching this as a interlinked side-service with a different branding. Or if that also is not an option, I am sure that NGOs would find accommodation for those willing to volunteer. This however, does seem a lot more tricky to me, and in turn making it harder to attract support for many NGOs.
UNDERSTANDING THE SCOPE:
Currently, there aren't many not-for-profit volunteering organizations. Most of them are for-profit and cost approximately 2000 US Dollars a month. Due to the lack of alternatives, these organizations are expanding as many people are willing to pay that sum just to find the NGO and host in another country. Couchsurfing, with its huge network of millions of users, could make volunteering affordable and a lot more popular.
My vision is that it will soon be possible to log onto the CS site and find NGOs and hosts (or host families) easily! We can figure out a way to make that work - all whilst changing the world (one couch at a time) !
I look forward to hearing your opinions.
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