Future of Social Networks – What it Means for Community Change
13 April 2011 at 1:11 pm
A new US report aims to help funders consider how to use social networks to foster community change.
The US report looks at the rapidly changing way people use technology and the proliferation of networks on-and-offline, and examines what this means for people working for social change.
The report Connected Citizens: The Power, Peril and Potential of Networks looks at how an increasingly connected world – where social networks are proliferating – will affect the way people push for social change.
The report by the Knight Foundation and Monitor Institute draws from more than 70 examples of how networks are being used to build better and more engaged communities – by pushing for open government, caring for the elderly and assisting disaster victims.
The Knight Foundation says they asked the think-tank Monitor Institute to take a critical look at the role of networks in community life – to take an apolitical look at the potential of networks to crease stronger bonds or to split communities apart.
The report looks at the year 2015, and shows three scenarios of how society may change as a result of the changing ways people connect to information and each other.
One of the 2015 projections shows a world of distrust where concerns about privacy dominate and people retreat from the public space; another shows a more trusting environment were residents connect to improve their communities at a local level; and the third depicts a mobile society shaped by more personal experience than by place.
The report also considers the role philanthropy can play in harnessing the best network-centric practices, that the report says might unleash individual interactivity to achieve social impact at a scale and speed never before possible.
The report says the findings point to the critical role technology and communications play in empowering advocates and funders with tools that enable them to harness the power of networks dispersed leadership.
Knight Foundation’s VP for Strategy and Assessment Mayur Patel says in order to be effective, change makers, community leaders and funders all need to understand the potential of networks, and how they can be used for community change.
Monitor Institute senior consultant Diana Scearce says networks are nothing new, they are all about people, relationships and trust. She says technology is amplifying the ability for people to connect and coordinate and funders have an opportunity to channel this potential for good.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation works to advance journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Their partner on this report, the Monitor Institute, is a social enterprise that describes itself as part consulting firm, part “think tank,” and part incubator of new approaches, which works with innovative leaders to develop sustainable solutions to social and environmental problems.
Knight and Monitor will host a webinar discussion of the report at 2 p.m. EDT April 20. Sign up at www.knightfoundation.org/webinar.
Download the full report here : http://www.knightfoundation.org/connected_citizens/index.dot