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Participant Stories

How Volunteer Abroad Reviews Are Supposed To Work, Part 2

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Oct 2, 2012 11:02:00 AM

Volunteer Forever LogoThis Blog post (part 2 of 2 parts) was written by Steve Weddle, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Forever.  Steve Co-Founded Volunteer Forever after his volunteer trip to India.  The experience was life-changing.  Upon returning to the U.S. and realizing there are significant information and financial barriers that keep many people from volunteering abroad, Steve hatched the idea for Volunteer Forever.  There you can create a profile and start fundraising for your trip right away.  Find trips and review your experiences.

In Part 1 of this series, I began to tell a story of how a volunteer organization wanted a bad review from one of their volunteers deleted from Volunteer Forever. In an industry that has been plagued with allegations of fake reviews (see Randy LeGrant’s three-part series here), the deletion of real negative reviews is an analogous problem.

As a volunteer, I had my fair and honest review (6/10 rating) deleted on another volunteer abroad reviews site. I shouldn’t have been surprised - there was a giant banner ad of the organization I was reviewing right on the site. The organization I was reviewing also happened to be a “verified organization.” At the time, being a “verified organization” meant the organization paid $500 to be listed as such and had their email address/phone number verified. I suspected some sort of relationship between this reviews site and the volunteer organization; I assumed being verified meant that organization could request that reviews be deleted. After talking to some of the heads of the major volunteer abroad organizations, it seems the relationship may be much, much closer.

Now back to my story:
Ultimately, the organization decided to refund the program fee of the volunteer and apologize for the misinformation. The volunteer subsequently deleted their review (volunteer’s prerogative) off the organization’s page. Here’s the response I got back from the organization:

“I contacted the volunteers that wrote that and apologized for their experience and offered to refund their enrolment fee back as compensation and it worked!! They have removed the review in return so I am very grateful for your help and in moving forward I will ensure I have better communication with the projects and make sure I'm aware of any changes to the projects for volunteers”

thumbs up to an online reviewWith volunteers having the power to edit/delete their reviews and organizations able to respond to reviews, volunteers are now much more empowered in the marketplace and organizations have an incentive to engage dissatisfied volunteers without resorting to deleting reviews or posting fake reviews to counter a negative review. We hope these features will contribute to greater transparency in the industry and provide a mechanism to resolve complaints.

The simple mechanisms I described above are just the first wave of features Volunteer Forever has developed for volunteer abroad reviews. We’re also developing a patent-pending reviews verification system that leverages our integrated crowdfunding and reviews platform to determine the credibility of a review and weight that review appropriately. The idea is to use crowdfunding, which will help tackle the high costs associated with volunteering abroad (particularly challenging when most participants are under age 25), to provide verifiable data about a user on our site.  The more credible the user is, the more weighting their review will have in the marketplace. And because a user’s review (not just number of reviews) shows up right on their profile page, a user with malicious intent cannot simply “grow” a seemingly credible user to post multiple fake reviews.

I hope my story illustrates that there is a way to resolve bad reviews without resorting to deleting the review without the reviewer’s permission or writing fake reviews to lessen the impact of the negative review. With the right technological features in place on a reviews website and educating volunteer organizations on the proper recourses to take, we can tackle the growing problem of fake and deleted reviews in the volunteer abroad industry.

 

Do you have a comment to make on fake reviews, online reviews or Steve's 2 part series.  We would love to hear from you.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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