A new website allows Ashlanders to track their good deeds and earn points for actions such as volunteering and shopping locally.
Project A President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Teece created the website with his team at the Ashland-based high-tech company.
A mobile app that will allow people to track their good deeds while on the go will debut shortly, Teece said.
So far, dozens of residents have signed up at Be.ALocalHero.com to publicly proclaim their commitment to shop locally, tout their connections to nonprofit groups and log their volunteer activities. Registration is simple, and people can use their real names or pick a nickname.
"When people go on a run or a bike ride, they use Facebook to say, 'I ran nine miles,' or 'I biked 25 miles.' They're sharing what they're doing," Teece said. "I wanted to create a website so people could volunteer and track their time and get those same bragging rights."
Not surprisingly, uber volunteer Teece is at the top of the leader board when it comes to points racked up by the community do-gooders.
But other volunteers are not far behind. The order of people nipping at Teece's heels changes almost daily as residents log new activities and gain points.
Resident Ginny Auer has earned points for shopping locally at businesses like Tree House Books downtown and volunteering for organizations that include the Ashland Schools Foundation, Ashland Food Project, Southern Oregon Film and Television and Peace for Pets.
Auer said she signed up for the website immediately after hearing about it from Teece.
"It's made me more aware of when I'm involved in the community. It's allowed me to feel good. It's raised my consciousness about where I'm purchasing things. I do my best to shop locally," she said, noting the website also helped her think more about her connections to local nonprofits.
Just as parents can encourage good behavior by acknowledging their children's positive actions, the website could encourage adults to help the community, Auer said.
"When we track being good, that makes us want to do more. It's made me say, 'How can I do more of it?' " she said.
The good deeds website and an upcoming app are focused on Ashland, but Teece said other communities, including Bend, have expressed interest in launching technology that can track positive actions.
Once released, the Be A Local Hero app will join a smattering of other apps related to volunteering that already are out there.
Many apps are designed to help nonprofit, school and government organizations track the hours of their volunteers. Having accurate measurements of volunteer hours can help organizations win grants or show how tax-funded programs are augmented by volunteer work.
Other apps are geared more toward the volunteers themselves.
The PayItForward app gives weekly suggestions for good deeds, such as helping out a neighbor. People who do the good deeds then encourage others to "pay it forward" by doing something for someone else.
The Catalista app helps people find places to volunteer. They can write about their volunteer experiences on Facebook and track their volunteer hours.
Environmentally conscious users of the Trensy app earn points for actions like using a market tote bag instead of a plastic shopping bag, riding the bus or buying sustainable products. News about users' good deeds is posted to their Facebook pages. To encourage competition, users can work individually or team up with friends and family to earn points.
Dustin Poland, a user of the Ashland Be A Local Hero website, said there's always a place for healthy competition, but he doesn't take part to try and beat other users.
"I've never felt the desire to rack my brains to remember, 'What have I done? I've got to get more points!' " he said.
Poland has earned points for shopping locally and for his involvement with Ashland Little League, a local chapter of the Oregon Society of CPAs and Bee Girl, a beekeeping and bee conservation group.
"It's neat to see all the things people are doing in the community. Especially when the mobile app is launched, people who are active in the community can take action and update their activities on their phone or other mobile device," Poland said. "As word spreads, people can be even more involved. People are always looking for volunteers, and people are looking to volunteer."
Teece said while users are currently earning points for their own personal satisfaction, he's recently been approached by local businesses who want to find a way to reward people for their good deeds. The businesses have suggested offering discounts on products or other rewards.
"Now businesses are saying, 'This is great! How do we give back to people who are giving?' " he said.
Teece said he is hopeful the website and app can help build a stronger local economy and community — all while people are earning points in a fun, game-like way.
And in a social-media era where people are over-sharing information about everything from personal relationships to what they ate for breakfast, Teece said updates about good deeds might be refreshing.
"It's another thing to over-share," he said.