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« São Paulo, Brazil: a fascinating visit | Main | Web 2.0/social computing explained, thanks to Common Craft »

August 13, 2007

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 groundswell@forrester.com 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.

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Comments

Maira Fedmyer

Have you reviewed http://www.zooped.com social network yet?

Maira Fedmyer

Have you reviewed http://www.zooped.com social network yet?

seoprousa

I think that you are making a real Impact here and all your readers are too.
I also think that we should look at Helping our Schools and the Environment. Please copy and paste into your Browser at a Great way to do that at http://ubiee.com/enviro/?tag=gewells

Mary Walker

Just found this blog and am catching up....Well, there are lots of sites/orgs that use Web 2.0 participative technologies for social good. Some of the most interesting ones IMO are those where the business model can exist only due to the technical capabilities (i.e., the thing couldn't exist off the web). Organizations like Kiva.org, for example, are not manageable/scalable without online technologies.

However in terms of involving the majority of people, in online social good -- IMO the best chance for widespread participation, is when the mainstream community sites (sites where large numbers of people gather and form social networks -- Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, LiveJournal, Second Life, etc.) develop NFP and social-impact activities *within* that community. (There are numerous examples of this happening already: Second Life denizens do NFP fundraising, some in the Flickr community did a photo donation/print auction for Katrina refugees, etc.).

Why is this interesting to me....because many people/Americans are so completely overloaded in terms of demands on their time -- that the only way that these people will participate in social impact efforts -- is through relationships and groups that they already belong to/use.

(For a detailed view of this dilemma of increasing time demands on Americans, check out the book "Busier Than Ever," a study of American middle class families and how utterly strapped they are for time, and how that impacts their behavior in profound ways.)

Mapper43

Privacy Violations Galore here:

http://streetviewgallery.corank.com

Laptop

ust found this blog and am catching up....Well, there are lots of sites/orgs that use Web 2.0 participative technologies for social good. Some of the most interesting ones IMO are those where the business model can exist only due to the technical capabilities (i.e., the thing couldn't exist off the web).

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