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How charities harness social media for a social impact

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“People talk about Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 – older and newer. The key difference is that Web 1.0 was automating transactions. You buy a book online, or you send an e-mail. Web 2.0 explicitly creates new ways to collaborate and participate,” says Sean Stannard-Stockton, a social-media blogger and founder of Tactical Philanthropy Advisers. “In nonprofits in particular, collaboration and participation is the mission of the organization.... Web 2.0 tools are custom-made for social change, as opposed to just being a new way to do old stuff.”

Across a spectrum of issues, nonprofits have taken to those tools. Kiva.org, a microlending organization that matches up lenders and recipients through the Web, sends fellows to villages around the world to blog about loan recipients and about poverty-related issues. The ENOUGH project, an antigenocide organization, started its own YouTube online video channel for users to post videos about the links between ubiquitous electronic devices and mineral-fueled conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Extraordinaires, a new-media nonprofit, uses mobile-phone applications to create microvolunteering opportunities in the United States.

Even retrofitting new-media tools to old-media practices bears fruit for some groups. The Echoing Green Foundation, which gives seed money to entrepreneurs that tackle social, environmental, or economic problems, turned its press release about its newest crop of fellows into a video this year.

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