New category for Groundswell Awards - Social Impact
by Charlene Li
We're getting some great entries for the Groundswell Awards so please keep them coming. But we also decided to add a seventh category, which is for "Social Impact", where social technologies improve society.
We wanted to do this for a number of reasons. First, while social technologies are clearly having an impact on the way people communicate and work with each other, as well as how businesses operate, it's also having a profound impact on our civic and social involvement -- just witness the investment political candidates are making in social technologies.
Second, the press and buzz frequently point out the more nefarious sides of social technologies, such as online stalkers on social networking sites, or potential privacy violations of services like Google Street View. While valid concerns, I'd like attention also to focus on the unsung examples where social technologies can do good.
Third, I hope this award category will inspire others to develop technologies that solve pressing societal problems. One of the biggest problems I see happening is technology being developed in a vacuum, rather than developed to solve a specific problem. Nico MacDonald put it well in a recent post about the social impact of the Web:
What we are seeing at present is people with solutions looking for problems: they believe that in some ways computing and the Internet were almost consciously created as appropriate solutions to the lack of democratic and civic engagement. This won't work, and this instrumentalist approach will tend to undermine the perception of the real value of these tools by ordinary people, as they see these projects (such as e-voting and e-democracy) fail.
There are plenty of examples of thinking out there -- and we would love to recognize some of them for innovation and impact. Here are a few sites to fuel your interest:
NetSquared: "Remixing the Web for social change". A portal for social change with technology.
SixDegress.org: Started by Kevin Bacon in January 2007, it's "social networking with a social conscience" The site creates badges that, when placed on your social network profile, solicits donations from your friends for your favorite charities.
Carebadges.com: Similar to sixdegrees.org, Carebadges are like the ubiquitous yellow "Live Strong" bracelets -- you declare your cause on your profile pages and potentially raise money for it along the way.
Widgets of the world unite: A nice post that aggregates several examples of widgets being used for social change.
Causes on Facebook: This is a Facebook application that allows you to champion your favorite causes, recruit members, and raise money.
CoolHunting also has a nice post on social networking for a cause. Examples include FrictionTV (videos on issues where users can engage in a debate); nabuur.com which matches people with skills to virtual jobs; and kiva.org, which allows individuals to participate in microlending.
If you know of other examples, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share in the comments.
And if you'd like to submit an example for the awards, please see the details in the original awards post.