July 22 2015By Nominet Trust
Community engagement is essentially a ‘meta-challenge’ - a means to an end, a powerful tactic to achieve your goal, whatever that might be. The collection of projects highlighted below demonstrate the incredible facility of digital tech for providing tools to bring such communities together, and allow them to work really effectively together to achieve change ‘out there’ in the world.
Justgiving is a household name in the UK, used by tens of thousands of fundraisers, making it easy for millions of people to give to charities: more than £1.5 billion and counting. Founded in 2001, it is a grandee within the now diverse and vibrant online giving ‘scene’. It also sets the tone for all the projects which follow, involving as they do different forms and means of giving.
Catchafire and iprobono both enable those with professional skills in the commercial world to put them to use for the benefit of social organisations. Casserole Club creates a means for people to give home-cooked meals to the elderly in their community, and intriguingly have discovered thus far that it easier to find willing cooks than recipients of their generosity. At the opposite end of the tangibility spectrum, Thunderclap allows people to give a campaign they support access to their social network, amplifying the transmission of their message.
It could be argued that the whole open source development community, exemplified by Mozilla and its ground-breaking Firefox browser, is the most profound example in modern times of what can be achieved with a community of skillful, committed people. There are also a whole stable of organisations dedicated to helping digital technicians give their time and skills directly to support social projects: Datakind and RHOK being two of the most well-regarded.
Those of us without such rare and valuable skills can also make valuable contributions, if we are part of a large enough crowd… since Zooniverse demonstrated that the hive mind can help us expand our knowledge of the cosmos, Cellslider has accelerated research into cancer, and Crowdcrafting now provides a platform for a huge variety of such ‘citizen science’ projects. The approach is also being modified in creative ways, with the wonderful Radwende combining citizen-sourced data and a dynamic exhibit in an art gallery, to guide the development of better cycle paths in the German city of Wiesbaden.
The context of a particular society make some projects all the more impressive: the community using Together within Russia do so despite the lack of an established culture of giving, while UTurn manages somehow to get away with being satirical and iconoclastic within Saudi Arabia, a country whose leadership and institutions appear to lack a sense of humour.
We could go on: Circle of 6, Fora Do Eixo, Trans h4ck, Danger Maps and many others provide us with ample evidence of the impeccable human instinct to share, understand and address common challenges, expressed through and enabled by digital tools.
Image: Community meeting. Girl on cellphone. Aurangabad, India. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank.