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News - 20th January 2022

Virtual volunteering


The Virtual Volunteer app has revolutionised timekeeping and barcode scanning at parkrun. 


The first country to be entirely app only was Germany, five years ago. And now, post pandemic, the rest of the parkrun world has followed.


Here’s why we love the app.


In 2017, Germany became the first country to launch parkrun with an app-only approach, removing the requirement for events to be provided with the traditional and expensive laptop, scanners and stopwatches, like those pictured here.




The move was embraced by volunteers across Germany and laid the foundations for a smarter, leaner approach to launching in new territories.


Many participants may remember the old devices, like the scanner below, that were used to record and report results. Devices that required connection to a computer, installation of drivers and additional software, and charging before the next event.




With the introduction of the Virtual Volunteer app, events witnessed a huge revolution. Since then, all parkrun events around the world have gradually adopted the use of the app, which eventually became compulsory last year.


James Kemp, Global Operations Manager at parkrun explains the reasons behind it, “some time ago we noticed that there were a few homemade apps around that were being used at events for timing and scanning. We looked at a few and really liked an app made by a small company in Australia, for their local parkrun. We decided that it would be great for us to have an official app that we could offer to all events, so we got in touch with them and the Virtual Volunteer was born”.




The introduction of the app has reduced barriers to launching new events.


It’s made the process of timing easier and quicker, and also removed more barriers to volunteering, with people who had previously been daunted by the old equipment now feeling confident to take up the roles using their phones. Here’s the first ever parkrun stopwatch.




It’s also sped up the recording of results, and transformed the way results are processed post event. All that’s needed is a simple scan of a QR code.




The app has also become an important element of delivering parkrun during the pandemic ensuring safety of our events and mitigating the risk of virus transmission. The additional requirements for the events to ensure extra barcode scanning volunteers, thanks to the app, could be easily met.


We can’t wait to see the future of the Virtual Volunteer app. For the time being, if you have not done it yet, why not take a look at the app, add it to your phone and become a volunteer next Saturday or at the first opportunity? It’s simple!



Keen to lend a hand at parkrun? We’d love to welcome you. The simplest way to sign up to volunteer is to send an email to your local parkrun. You can find your local event here, and you can locate their email address on your event’s home page, under the ‘volunteer’ tab.

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