Looking for successful cases of "doing good through the web"
November 26, 2008 12:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm presenting a social entrepreneurish talk with case studies on how people are using the web to help improve lives for marginalized communities and empowering social movements. Ie doing good thru the internets. So far only 2 distinct ones come to mind... kiva.org and change.org. Does anybody know any else? Extra points for web2.0-ish examples.
posted by arrowhead to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I mean my critique in the most respectful way possible, so please take no offense.

If you can come up with only two well-known examples, that suggests to me:

1) that people have yet to use the web in this way, perhaps for good reasons, perhaps not for good reasons
2) that there have been many attempts but few successes
3) that there are some minor successes that fly under the radar (which you seem to be looking for)
4) that the topic is one you're deeply invested in and one that you're hoping will take off but that has not developed yet, or is a few years before its time.

If 1, 2, or 4 is the case, perhaps you should consider reframing your talk to consider why kiva and change were anomalies. What made them so successful while others have failed or yet to take off? That would be interesting. Your audience would learn something perhaps unexpected about the strengths of those two cases. If I were in the audience I would be more persuaded by a close look at successes and failures, or at successes and the lack of development in the field, than a "true believer" pulling together cases of varying impact to prove a point.

That's just my critique. Apologies if it came across as severe. Just a thought about how to strengthen your presentation.
posted by vincele at 12:36 PM on November 26, 2008

posted by jrichards at 12:50 PM on November 26, 2008

Yeah, I hate to be unhelpful but I'm with vincele. I just don't think this is happening much (so, reasons 1-4), but a useful way of framing this might be that it isn't happening yet (much), but here are ways in which it has worked, to whatever degree, and here are ways in which it hasn't. In the latter case I would pay particular attention to companies that have touted themselves as helping, but are really just fleecing the venture capitalists. Coat-tailers, you might say. It is these people who cause big problems in social help because they exacerbate the illusion that "my money won't make a difference." Huge overheads, little hands-on work, focussing not on those who need the most help but those who are the easiest to help ("Look, we taught a high-school kid how to use Microsoft Word.").

That said - or ranted - I don't have any specific examples here, but you sound like you're on the ball. Don't underestimate doing research in places like Yahoo and Ask.com where there are people paid to categorize things, possibly in exactly this way.
posted by rhizome at 1:03 PM on November 26, 2008

If you want to emphasize the 2.0 angle, it might be helpful to search for anecdotes of grass-roots efforts organized through Twitter or Facebook. For example, Googling "using twitter to save the world" brought up this list of cases.

For more centralized sites, you might take a look at the UN's Online Volunteering Service, which connects organizations in developing countries with volunteers who work online.

For awhile, the UN volunteering site had frequent requests for help from a site through which people would adopt a specific village. Sorry I don't remember any more than that.
posted by PatoPata at 1:20 PM on November 26, 2008

Following some links from the Twitter discussion brought me to SocialVibe.com, which doesn't float my boat but could be an example of entrepreneurship.
posted by PatoPata at 1:29 PM on November 26, 2008

This is way more interesting than the work I'm supposed to be doing. Here's another site: Zazengo.com
posted by PatoPata at 1:34 PM on November 26, 2008

Get in touch with Beth Kanter - she's an expert in exactly this sort of thing. There's also a whole community on Twitter on non-profit technology. I've seen quite a few social justice actions happen on Facebook and Twitter. Britt from Have Fun Do Good will have ideas too.


The Point
We Are What We Do
posted by divabat at 1:47 PM on November 26, 2008

If you're looking for an organization whose fundraising and giving are centered on the web, check out Modest Needs. Grant requests are vetted and placed online - community members/donors can choose to have their donations automatically allocated or can put their donations towards specific applications.
posted by clerestory at 2:02 PM on November 26, 2008

I'd look for newer ideas by looking for people that have recently gotten grants/fellowships from an organization for their ideas on this topic (knight foundation has journalism/community grants and you can also look up social enterprenurship fellows).
posted by ejaned8 at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2008

Carrotmob and its parent Virgance may be of interest
posted by Z303 at 11:44 PM on November 26, 2008

From your wording and the subsequent answers, I really wanted to ask if you have to find a North-South example? Because there are South-South solutions that might be of interest to you like:
- using cellular phones to connect rural farmers to current market prices, cutting out middle men and increasing the revenue in rural areas
- telemedicine (this is getting bigger in India, in particular, from what I've read)

You can do your own googling, but a lot of the texts will be case studies on small organizations. The web is simple, not flash: this is what your clientele can access! Also, check out Prahalad's Bottom of the Pyramid - I think the farmer case study was in something of his.

Anyway, where I was going with this (sorry, it's late), is that sometimes people use these formats to help improve lives in their own communities.
posted by whatzit at 3:58 AM on November 27, 2008

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