Technology can spur social change

By Marnie Webb

If nonprofits want to be a locus for social change they have to change.

As the popular saying goes, change, or die.

And I don’t even think I’m being dramatic.

Change is happening all around us. Just take the critical mass of people using new tools to help them connect and collaborate around the issues they care about.

Do you know about meetup?

It’s an Internet tool that helps individuals to connect, in person, and share topics of interest and concern. Maybe knitting or pugs. Maybe gay rights or a host of other issues.

How about flickr?

It’s a site that helps people post photos and connect with groups the photos speak to.

This can be about personal productivity, newborns, or, you know, pugs.

It can also be images of homelessness, pollution, or genocide; be careful on that last link. Some of those images are tough.

People aren’t waiting for the next environmental fundraiser to involve them.

They are snapping pictures of pollution problems in their neighborhood, sharing them with others, and discussing how they can create solutions.

They aren’t waiting for nonprofits to point the way.

And we should not ask them to wait.

We should join them.

Share information and images that they can use and reuse.

Show up at the meetup.

Encourage them—like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life—to share their powerful images.

Do you know about Worldchanging? The Electronic Frontier Foundation? Or Moveon?

They’re small, nimble nonprofits using web-based tools to tap the networks of like-minded supporters in innovative ways.

Change, or die. Tap the existing enthusiasm of users.

This is easy to say, but what does it take to implement?

We’re trying to figure that out with TechSoup’s NetSquared project.

We created a platform—and a variety of ways to participate—so that everybody working to change the world can share stories about how web-based technologies are impacting people’s lives, and build toolkits for nonprofits around the globe to help extend their good work

It’s easy to join us. Start by subscribing to Marshall Kirkpatrick’s blog. (Don’t know what I meant by that? Check out this TechSoup article, RSS for Nonprofits.)

Prowl through the gallery of nonprofit innovators in Net2 in Action.

Tell us about your challenges in thinking about these tools.

Join the discussion, join NetSquared and hold on tightly: It’s going to be an exciting ride.

Marnie Webb is vice president of knowledge services at CompuMentor in San Francisco.

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