Not long ago, socially meant to take the streets … literally. Whether the issue was environment, politics or social justice, the plan was to include meetings, marches, and public demonstrations. In fact, the Exploration Center for Senior Plans had a panel discussion about it (read more here).
Today we have new tools that make it possible to make changes to problems worldwide, without leaving your home … or even your place. Some of these tools focus on collection, but not all. After all, social networking gets its name from bringing people, not money, together.
Non-governmental organizations have made innovative use of the web to support global issues. A well-known example is Free Rice, which sends three grain rice to a hungry area in the world for every correct answer to their online quizzes. By working through the World Food Program, Free Rice has donated more than 98 billion grain rice so far.
You Don't Need March to Make a Difference
While many activity sites will ultimately ask for your financial help to maintain their work, many are most interested in building numbers or "clicks" to their petitions.
MoveOn is where everything started. The social networking site was developed in 1998 in response to a trial procedure against President Bill Clinton. The site collected half a million signatures with the word – or rather, the web. This did not prevent the congress from launching impeachment hearings, but the site has been gathering millions for mostly democratic candidates.
Global Zero is a good example of how web-based activism has evolved. Organized to eliminate nuclear weapons, Global Zero resembles many political organizational sites by providing ways for users to contact officials, launch their own local chapters, and host information events.
Some critics deviate from this technique as just "clicktivism" or lazy activism. The best counter-arguments for this criticism are the results. A few years ago, Jay Jaboneta observed school schools that swam from their villages to school with backpacks on their heads while visiting the Philippines. They came naturally to soaking, and more often their books and homework were destroyed. He launched the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation to raise awareness and funds for more than 150 yellow "school boats" to bring children to school.
Getting Up With Your Own Solution
Some websites are organized around a particular issue, but others offer tools that help people increase awareness or make their own solutions.
A number of websites, including Change.org, provide tools for people to start their own representations. Let you think that this kind of work is not going well, consider these examples: Change.org helped activists gather 1.8 million signatures to help force the boys in America to abolish their ban on homosexual members.
Open IDEO poses challenges based on "Big Questions" and invites users to get involved. You can learn about their work and recent fall stories here. It maintains a list of open challenges with a first description and a set of guiding principles for submissions. the ideas are winnowed down to finalists and the best solutions are justified or partnership with a sponsor.
The biggest single event in online charity fundraising remains the overwhelmingly successful US Red Cross after January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross launched a donate-by-text program that raised $ 32 million and redefined the concept of web-based donations.
It's called crowdfunding: When the audience sets up from their laptops or mobile devices, the sky seems to be the limit, or almost. The real power behind this model is all the small successes.
Global Giving was developed by two former World Bank employees. It uses real-time response from potential donors (ie you and me) to control which projects are selected for collection. Everything is public: financing progress and project updates. Continuous efforts include video interviews and context information to explain the power of even a small donation.
Catapult works on a similar model. It provides a platform for small organizations that help girls and women around the world to join potential donors and supporters.
If you prefer to do something a little closer at home, try to give Tuesday a global effort to start the holiday season Tuesday after Thanksgiving – Senior Planet participated and plans to do it again this year, so mark your (digital) calendars.