“Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time”
This is the slogan of an online hospitality exchange service that I joined in the year 2006. The name of this service is CouchSurfing and many of my fellow students will have used its services or at least have heard of it. When I joined, it was still a small community of people who were open-minded, loved travelling and wanted to discover the world. It is amazing to see how fast this community grew over the recent years. By now, CouchSurfing counts more than 2.7 million members in over 246 countries.
The website gives people the opportunity to get free accommodation and to experience local cultures in a realistic environment. Most people I know use this network for private purposes but I was wondering how it can also be used for your business. In that context I don’t refer to profit seeking businesses but more to the nonprofit sector like NGOs, NPOs or other institutions.
Sure, there are other networks that have a greater number of members like Facebook. But I think what distinguishes Couchsurfing from Facebook is, that you have a specific target group. Basically everyone is on Facebook, but who participates in CouchSurfing are mostly young people between 20 and 35, who are interested in different cultures, internationally orientated, love travelling and usually have a high level of (social) education. Most of whom I got to know are very helpful and love to explore new things. Organizations can highly benefit from that platform.
I give an example: I was looking for a place to volunteer in China last year but I only found websites where they charged high prizes for their services. Then, when I was looking for a place to stay in that one village I got aware of this English School which had a profile on CouchSurfing and which offered free accommodation and food in exchange for voluntary English lessons at their school. This was exactly what I was looking for and I thought that this was a very clever idea of that school to sign up on CouchSurfing. They welcome many volunteers every week, from all over the world. Travelers have a place to stay for free and food and the Chinese students benefit by getting to know international people, who are all so different and have many interesting stories to tell. Word spread that there is a steady flow of international volunteers, so the school acquired a very positive reputation and has a rising number of students.
I noticed that very few organizations have profiles on CouchSurfing, but you can find some volunteer opportunities in the ‘groups’ section. I’d suggest that more institutions make use of this platform. That way, one hand washes the other, and at the same time it can contribute to mutual understanding and the broadening of every participant’s horizon.
Explore these related websites for more information on the topic: