Image courtesy of involveMINT.

When involveMINT hit the scene, its concept of a currency system for volunteers seemed pretty ambitious.

“What we’re trying to do is change the culture of volunteerism, which is a difficult task,” says involveMINT Executive Director Daniel Little.

Now, nearly a year after launching a pilot program on the North Side, involveMINT has created a soon-to-release app where users can search for volunteer opportunities in their community and then earn credits for donating their time. Those credits can then be redeemed at participating area businesses or organizations.

“The mobile application will make the trading of these credits a lot easier,” says Little.

To get more partners on board with the program, involveMINT plans to host a series of outreach events called engageMINT in various neighborhoods across Pittsburgh, starting with East Liberty and moving on to Millvale, the North Side, Homewood and Allentown.

The app, which will soon become available in open beta testing form, came from involveMINT joining with programmers at last year’s Codefest, the annual hackathon competition that gathers young tech professionals from all over the region. A Codefest team called Bakery Square Buccaneers took on the app as a challenge. One of the team’s members, Zach Piekut, now works with involveMINT as their chief technology officer.

Since announcing the app, Little says they have attracted a lot of interest from different partners wanting to join the system. Organizations such as Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Allegheny CleanWays and Light of Life Rescue Mission have jumped on board to provide volunteer opportunities. Time credits will go towards goods or services offered by the recreational group Venture Outdoors, the Photo Antiquities Museum, James Street Gastropub, and DECO Resources, which is giving out free water tests and rain barrel discounts.

Little confirms that they’re also in talks with Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Kennywood and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who he hopes will trade admission or tickets for time credits.

He understands that people may have some hesitation about involveMINT’s system, but he believes it encourages people to make volunteering a regular part of their lives.

“A lot of people say to me, ‘Is it really volunteering if you’re getting something in return?’ Maybe, maybe not,” says Little. “But I think some of the work that is most valuable in our communities and our economy is the work that’s the most undervalued. What we’re hoping to do is give value to work in our communities and support people who make positive change.”

An open beta testing version of the involveMINT app will release for Android and iPhone sometime in early April. Check back for details.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.