Giulia Forsythe @flickr
Giulia Forsythe @flickr

geschrieben von: Eeva E.

The social web and its new tools have enabled the activists, do-gooders, dissidents, and many others to put their plans into action. The social web provides the active people a platform where they can inform the people outside about their actions, to gather the money needed, and to bring together the people with the same interests. For many individuals, groups and organizations this platform of connection and conversation is often all they need for starting the work of social good.

Probably the easiest and most used way to let people know about the new actions, is to write on Facebook or a blog. For instance a movement called ‘Töölö-liike’ has started with an aim to build up the Töölö district in Helsinki by using the help of Facebook (1). The movement uses its Facebook group and page to share ideas, and to tell about their interests and plans to the outside. To attract more people to take part in the social work, they create events and invite all friends and their friends to join. As another example, the movement called ‘Helsinki olemme me’ concentrates in promoting the positive and happy atmosphere in Helsinki (2). The movement is started by Miika Sahamies who writes about the actions and ideas in his blog. He uses the blog as well as Facebook as platforms to inform the other people about the campaigns and events that give life to the city.

Many social activities succeed in gathering active people around a shared idea but their work is slowed down by the lack of finance. According to the Jordan Times, the social networking sites have an important meaning for NGOs and institutions when collecting the finance needed for the actions (3). The findings were based on the E-Mediat programme that tutored over 220 NGOs to make use of the social web for advancing their missions. During the 18-month programme the organisations raised together almost $125,000 with the help of mainly blogs, Twitter, and YouTube.

There are numerous websites that help the active people to collect funding for projects. The most used model for collecting funding is crowdfunding where the project group gives a short pitch or presentation of their plan, and collect the needed money from many individual supporters who donate small amounts of money. For example Inkubato matches projects that need funding with people who want to give their support (4). Inkubato is ment for activists, artists, inventors and anyone who wants to start a project and can provide a non-monetary premium to the people who support the project. The project Häppies is one example of a project where two women want to start a restaurant in Berlin, and promise to create a seasonal dish on the menu list with the name and design of the supporter who donates 200€ to the project. As an other example of crowdfunding, Start Some Good concentrates to gather financial and intellectual capital for social entrepreneurs who want to ”turn the ideas into action and impact” (5). For instance a project called Do Good Bus gathered $100,000 for a bus trip that went through 22 cities in North America and was filled with local do-gooders helping local causes.

Not all social actions necessarily lack money but their weakness can be the low number of participants. Pledge Bank is a website where people can promise to do an action if enough other people promise to do the same (6). The actions become effective only when enough many people attend and repeat the same action. For instance, a volunteer promised bake 50 cakes to raise funds for cancer support if 10 other local people promised to do the same.

The tools of social web can help the citizens to take part in politics and decision making. For example They Work For You is a website that lets people know about the UK’s parliament, and informs what the MP do in the name of the citizens (7). As another example, in Iceland a group of normal citizens volunteered to compile a proposal for a new constitution using the help of crowdsourcing (8). The proposal was built with the help of hundreds of other volunteers on the homepage that the constitution council had created for the project, and in Facebook. Also in Egypt (9) and in Morocco (10) a new formation of a constitution was discussed with the help of crowdsourcing.

Social web provides a lot of tools also for journalism and open discussion. For example Spot.us is a platform for journalists and newsrooms that want to report from important topics but need to collect funding for their work (13). This way the platform makes the journalism more responsive since the supporters can choose the news they want to read by supporting them. Public Insight Network is an example of a platform where people share their own knowledge and experience to help to create a base of knowledge for the reporters (14). Global Voices Online consists of bloggers and translators around the world who report from the blogs and citizen media (15). This helps also those news and conversations to become heard that usually are ignored in the mainstream media.

An example of a social action can also be a helpful software solution. For example Tor Project provides its users an anonymizing network that individuals, military, journalists, officers, activists, NGOs, and many others can use to improve privacy and security on the internet (11). The solution helps the users for example to block tracking sites, and to discuss in forums about sensitive topics, as well as to hide their location, and IP addresses. Random Hacks of Kindness is a community that develops practical open software to help social activism (12). For example SnappyGames is an interactive educational game to be played by teenagers in classrooms. In the game the players explore the complexity of purchase decisions, and how the decisions affect the long-term financial stability.

Many of these social tools not only promote further social actions but they are also actions of social good themselves. These social tools are the actions that provide the platform for the active people to come together, and to start actions that have an impact. There would still be a lot of room on the internet for new actions like these.

References: (1) facebook.com/toololiike, (2) miikasahamies.com, (3) jordantimes.com/social-networks-offer-fundraising-tool-for-civil-society, (4) inkubato.com, (5) startsomegood.com, (6) pledgebank.com, (7) theyworkforyou.com, (8) stjornlagarad.is/english, (9) wathiqah.com, (10) reforme.ma, (11) torproject.org, (12) rhok.org, (13) spot.us, (14) publicinsightnetwork.org, (15) globalvoicesonline.org.