Digital Tools For Change

I am starting this article on my BlackBerry, standing among well over one million people in well-below-freezing temperatures. It is Inauguration Day, and the anticipation is palpable. I am making new friends all around me, but even more impressive is how connected I am to people hundreds -- even thousands -- of miles away. In real time I can broadcast to those within my social graph the specific happenings moment-to-moment. I can take a picture with my camera phone and within minutes have the picture up on my Twitter, Facebook and MySpace accounts. I may not be able to feel my toes, but friends in California on the beach can bug me to continue the play-by-play.

One of the questions I was asked, and I heard asked time and again while in D.C. for the inauguration, is, how will the momentum created during the elections continue? There has been a lot of hype around digital tools bringing a new generation into the political process, and the idea that these people offer the greatest opportunity for us to meet the new challenges we face as a country. I for one don't think this is at all wishful thinking. If there is anything I have learned working at a social media company over the past couple of years, it is this: People have an overwhelming desire to make the world a better place. They just need to be given the right direction and the tools to make it happen.



As I went to various balls and breakfasts, what I continued to come across in D.C. was organizations looking to use digital tools to better engage the next generation. I saw and spoke with organizations that included Service Nation, Do Something, CauseCast and Take Part. What these groups and the incoming administration realize is that by using social media tools, they can communicate, organize and empower a new generation to build a better tomorrow.

The common thread between the rhetoric in Obama's inauguration speech and the proliferation of social media tools surrounding the festivities is that causing real-world change will be about creating movements, both online and offline. It won't be about simply telling people what they need to do; instead, it will be about sharing the challenges and collaborating toward a solution. People are anxious to get involved, but it's never before been possible to organize and empower people the way we can when effectively using the Internet -- and social media specifically.

I, for one, am excited to see what we can do when we give people more tools to create change. After these couple of days in D.C., I know I am not alone.

5 comments about "Digital Tools For Change".
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  1. Max Gladwell from Max Gladwell, January 21, 2009 at 2:28 p.m.

    Great post and insight. I think we've entered a new era. We may have already been "in" it, but the inauguration of Obama is the best line of demarcation.

    You are not alone, indeed:

  2. Sara Devine from Sprint Nextel, January 21, 2009 at 3:32 p.m.

    I'm a DC native and I've had some opportunities to talk to various organizations/firms in the area about the lack of use of digital to organize support for their causes. I think it is a true miss on many of their part. I hope that many of the great groups out there who work for our better good learn from the Obama campaign and learn to take advantage of the opportunities that digital offer BEYOND their annoying and repetitive emails.

  3. S. F. from Comcast, January 21, 2009 at 5:13 p.m.

    Honestly, your article and the process of the Obama campaign rekindled my belief in the potential of social media to forster citizenship and motivate social participation.

    I kind of disapprove with some previous commment. Changes cannot be made overnight, and we all know, changes cannot be made just by ONE man. However, for the rest of us, the ordinary, the citizens of this great country, we shall believe in ourselves and we can make the changes happen. Social media has shown great potential and advantage in terms of out reaching and encouraging political participation, espeically in younger generation. Researches have shown that social media are positive in building sense of belongings, supportiveness among patients and their families within health related online communities. This conclusion may also be applicable to this ailing counry. Social media helps to create a postive mindset, which is very important in this critical moment when the whole country, even the whole world is deep in troubles.

    Bottom line, the most dangerous thing is not losing wealth or power, but losing hope and love.

  4. David Knapp from Pinnacle Advertising, January 22, 2009 at 10:21 a.m.

    Everyone talks about change, but never asks if the change is for the better. I agree with Clint. The blocks put in place by President Bush, love him or hate him, has kept us safe for 8 years. Why change that?

    Perhaps this feeling of "hope" and "change" is not as prevalent as you think. Keep in mind President Obama received only 52% of the popular vote.

  5. Wendy Austin, January 29, 2009 at 6:50 a.m.

    Well, now that Obama has bombed Pakistan, I am waiting to see what this world changing is supposed to be all about. With people all abuzz over whether he knocked his wife up, there's almost no media coverage of his war mongering.

    And I think these are completely different puppetmasters. It was foreign Middle Eastern puppet masters that guided his career and got him into Harvard. Don't forget that. Don't ever forget how he got into Harvard, because that is key.

    Listen to the children sing!

    He's gonna change it, and rearrange it, he's gonna change the world.

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