Social technology and civil society

I’ve just started a research project for Carnegie UK Trust looking at the way in which civil society associations are using social technology to communicate, collaborate and organise. This is a three month project during which we will cover three main areas:

  • An examination of the current use of social technology by civil society organisations
  • An exploration of what the future may hold, how social technology might evolve over the next fifteen years
  • A set of ideas and recommendations for civil society organisations to help them make the most of social technology

I will be writing about as much of this research as I can and hope that by doing so, we can collectively explore some of the ideas, assumptions and issues that I uncover.

My first question for you is this:

Which civil society organisations are doing the best job of using social and/or new media to fulfil their remit?

To dig a little deeper into what we mean by “civil society organisations”, Carnegie UK Trust have provided this as part of their definition of “civil society”:

Civil Society as associational life. Civil society is the ‘space’ of organised activity not undertaken by either the government or for-private-profit business. It includes formal and informal associations such as: voluntary and community organisations, trade unions, faith-based organisations, co-operatives and mutuals, political parties, professional and business associations, philanthropic organisations, informal citizen groups and social movements. Participation in or membership of such organisations is voluntary in nature.

If we take that as a working definition, it’s pretty broad, so we can be very inclusive. As for the definition of “social and/or new media”, I think at a minimum we should be looking at organisations that are utilising any of these tools:

  • Social networking sites (third party or bespoke)
  • Blogs
  • Twitter, Identica or other micro-conversation tools
  • Wikis
  • Social bookmarking
  • Forums, bulletin boards, or other thread-based communications tools
  • Audio, whether stand-alone streams/downloads, podcasts, or other digital formats
  • Video, whether stand-alone streams/downloads, videocasts or on video sharing sites
  • Photo sharing sites
  • Virtual worlds
  • Multimedia, whether online or CD-ROMs
  • Interactive television
  • The mobile web in any way

That’s a pretty long list, so there should be plenty of organisations and individuals out there who are doing good work in this arena. So, who are they? And what are they doing? Although the main focus of this research is UK organisations, we are interested in exemplars from around the world, so if someone abroad is doing something amazingly stunning, then they count!

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