Rolex presents THE YOUNG LAUREATES: Jacob Colker

Jacob Colker

In 2008 Jacob Colker co-founded The Extraordinaries with a simple mission: making volunteerism less daunting to working people.  Colker understood that many people wanted to give their free time but were intimidated by the complexity of finding causes. And through his own experience, he knew that most nonprofits needed all the unpaid help they could get. Along with tech specialist Ben Rigby, Colker devised a way to connect them. Through the organization’s website, nonprofits post calls for action that are forwarded to a corps of over 40,000 volunteers. Anybody with a smartphone or computer can receive challenges for tasks ranging from translating the CVs of new immigrants to examining the shapes of galaxies for NASA. The work is often manageable while volunteers wait for the dentist or commute to work.  Colker even coined a new term to describe what The Extraordinaries do: micro-volunteering. But it doesn’t stop there. Colker has also begun targeting corporations to join The Extraordinaries. The benefit here is multifold: 1) participating companies boost their corporate culture, 2) the corporate volunteers have opportunities to contribute their skills and expertise and 3) the nonprofits can tap into a network of highly skilled volunteers who can help with complex problems.

Colker is among this year’s Rolex Young Laureates in part because of the creative thinking that led him to develop an entirely new model of volunteerism. The Rolex Young Laureates Programme, which supports visionary young men and woman whose projects take on the major issues of our time, also cites his organization’s use of 21st Century technology to solve major problems, as well as its huge potential impact.  Additionally, the judges cited Colker’s “unrelenting spirit of enterprise,” which was instilled in him by his mother, an immigrant from southern Poland. Originally from Chicago himself, Colker now lives and bases his work in San Francisco. “My mother’s story had a huge impact on my life.” he says. “A woman who doesn’t speak any English, alone in a new country, working three jobs, hoping better times are ahead.” As for what he does on his own free time, Colker says, “Free time? What’s that?”

Sundance Channel is proud to partner with Rolex Awards for Enterprise in their support of visionary young men and women tackling the world’s most pressing issues in five areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration, the environment and cultural preservation. Stay tuned for the announcement of the next Awards for Enterprise winner soon.

See the rest of the Rolex Young Laureates here.