A handful of university students has turned the unexpected curveball thrown by the pandemic into the launch of a new social enterprise.
MeaningfulWork, co-founded by SFU students, including Raaj Chatterjee and Leejoo Hwang, is an effort to connect corporate employees to non-profits for “skilled volunteering.”
“We are creating a web platform that’s going to allow, essentially, non-profits to put up postings to recruit high-skilled volunteers for various tasks to help their organizations succeed, whether it be marketing or accounting or, just kind of anything that they need,” Chatterjee, a South Surrey resident and CEO of MeaningfulWork, explained.
“We’re kind of connecting them with companies that want to give back – especially now, during the pandemic – by volunteering their employees’ time.”
The concept has the support of SFU Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, along with a $90,000 grant from the federal Digital Skills for Youth program. Over the course of just three months, the MeaningfulWork team secured approximately $135,000 in funding, according to a news release issued in mid-October.
Chatterjee, an engineering student, said Monday (Nov. 16) that he is the only one on the team who is in graduate school. The others are undergrads, some of whom had their plans for on-the-job experience stymied by the pandemic.
“A few people on our team were planning to get internships through the summer but they did not because they all fell through because of COVID,” he said.
In developing the platform, the team connected with more than 200 non-profit organizations in an effort “to really understand what their needs are.” As well, they were able to speak with more than 50 companies “and understand their goals in terms of employee-volunteering programs.”
Many companies are “looking for a way to find new non-profits to collaborate with, and also to give their employees more choice,” Chatterjee said.
“Intelligent matching” ensures a good match, and is one of three things that make the platform stand out, Chatterjee said.
Its focus on skilled volunteering and its “measuring impact” aspect are the two other key characteristics. The latter “can inspire others to take action as well,” he said.
Following a pilot project involving 20 non-profits and 30 volunteers, a soft launch of MeaningfulWork’s first community (beta) platform is set for Monday (Nov. 23). A full launch is planned for March, followed by work to expand across Canada by the end of next year.
Chatterjee said “around seven” companies have signed up already, in addition to the 20 non-profits.
For now, the platform is free, but Chatterjee said it will eventually move to a subscription service for the corporations and non-profits that sign on. However, it will always be free for volunteers, he said.
In addition to MeaningfulWork filling a gap, Chatterjee said it has served another purpose over the past several months as well, in terms of coping with the pandemic.
“It’s good to be involved in things like this, because it’s a way to give back, feel more connected to the community as well,” he said. “We really have been able to create a small community through this and I think that’s been really helpful as well.”
To sign up or for more information, visit meaningfulwork.xyz