A sleepless night, an early morning flight and a sore throat cannot dampen Gul Panag’s enthusiasm. Nursing a warm cuppa, she settles down for an interview, and talks about her recent initiative, SOAP Online.
“I’ve been running this foundation for over a year now. Social Outreach Accreditation Programme or SOAP India is a pan-Indian initiative that works like a social networking platform, much like Facebook, reaching out to people who want to be part of the social sector. SOAP brings together volunteers, corporates and NGOs where volunteering work is assessed by a credit-based system.”
On the credit system, she explains, “All the voluntary work undertaken will be awarded credits based on efforts, skill and time required. These points will be recognised by corporates and NGOs. A fresh recruit with SOAP credits will have an advantage over applicants who don’t. Even mid-level executives who volunteer during weekends can earn credits.”
Once a candidate registers on the SOAP platform, he/she will be regularly posted with updates of openings for volunteering work on their ‘wall’, similar to Facebook. The candidate can apply for work that he is interested in. “We are still gathering more corporates and NGOs. Volunteering is more than teaching in schools or physically cleaning up slums. Nearly 90 per cent of volunteers who’ve registered with us are techies. A techie can help by designing websites for a cause. Since he will be working on this beyond his office hours and putting his technical skills to use, he will be assessed accordingly and awarded credits,” she adds.
From afforestation programmes to designing websites, SOAP offers volunteers a host of work areas to choose from. Gul has ideas up her sleeve to popularise SOAP. She hopes to rope in the band U2 to perform in India as part of the initiative.