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January 12, 2007

Welcome to the Groundswell

The world is changing. And we’re not going to sit by and watch. We’re not just going to document what we see. We’re seeking to understand what’s happening, really understand it. And to help you to deal with it.

The change goes by a lot of different names. Forrester Research has called it social computing. Others call it the Social Web, or social networking. In the Valley people talk about Web 2.0, meaning both the technologies emerging on the net and how people use them.

In this blog, and the book that will spring from it, we call it the Groundswell – a spontaneous movement of people connecting, using online tools, taking charge of their own experience, and getting what they need – information, support, ideas, products, and bargaining power – from each other. This groundswell crosses industries – in retail, it looks like eBay; in media, it’s Digg, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Agoravox; in finance, it’s loans from Prosper. Within corporations, employees are redesigning how they work together – management can only hang on for dear life. This groundswell is coming to your industry, your company, your government, your church – at a rapidly increasing pace.

For institutions that have become accustomed to wielding power, the Groundswell is terrifying. Brands spend tens of millions of dollars to define themselves, only to have bloggers and YouTubers eat away at that foundation. Media companies see reporting and creative edifices built over decades supplanted by ill-mannered bloggers, peer-to-peer file sharing, and remixes that treat copyrights like waste paper. Corporations find their employees collaborating in news ways, creatively out of the control of management. Is there a way forward through this chaos?

We believe there is, and we'll prove it. We promise to identify the economics of the Groundswell, defining how it affects businesses and developing metrics you can use. We will look everywhere to identify the strategies that work in the groundswell - collecting them, examining them, classifying them, and making them available to you to use with your companies and your customers. One key role of this blog is to become a meeting place for people developing those strategies, so we can take advantage of our own collective wisdom.

We will help you master the jujitsu of turning the Groundswell to your advantage – giving up power, but in the process gaining customers, loyalty, relevance, and the knowledge to succeed in this new world. Whether you're a marketer or a manager, a media company or an educator, we'll refine for you the strategies that can turn the groundswell to your advantage.

This project is a collaboration between two people, supported by Forrester Research. Charlene Li has, for the last seven years, been Forrester’s analyst dedicated to technologies like blogs, podcasts, wikis, and the whole trend we call social computing. Josh Bernoff is a Forrester analyst who spent the last eleven years analyzing trends like file sharing and digital video recorders that are transforming media. Together we are discovering the entrepreneurs, the technologies, and the ordinary people who make up the groundswell. In this blog, we invite you to join us in this exploration, bring us your insights and your criticism, to make the book we’re building great.

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Brian Mullally

While Prosper.com caters mainly to the US market, there’s another site called GlobeFunder.com which caters to the global crowd, especially those living in the third world.

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