The Concept Of ‘Social Change As A Platform’

More recently, another concept has been developed, which links more well-being to technology and connectivity. It is the concept of ‘Social Change as a Platform’, also known as SCaaP. The notion was elaborated by authors Barry Libert, Megan Beck, Brian Komar and Josue Estrada, in an Article published by the Wharton University (Libert et Al, 2017). According to the article, the only way for today’s technology boom to result in a social cooperation (as opposed to mass destruction), is for non-profit entities as well as the social sector to adopt new business models which are more adapted to our world, and to embrace “Social Change as a Platform”. For the authors, arming ‘changemakers’ with digital platforms that would work hand in hand with virtual networks can greatly advance the human condition on a global level. As mentioned by Beth Camper earlier in this paper, the non-profit and philanthropic organizations as well as the academic institutions which are trying to provoke social change are struggling with their adaptation to the new global, technological and virtual landscape, which is still changing day after day. This is where the SCaaP model comes in, defining a major deviation in how things are in a civil society. Its core is about capitalizing on new and upcoming digital technologies, and goes even further than that by deeply analysing how entities think about advancing their principal mission.

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As for the organizations which are already using technology to accomplish change at a pace and scope not already accessible in the physical and digitally disconnected world, they can be considered as early adopters. They reorganize themselves and learn to adapt, slowly but surely. They mainly use technology to inform people, raise awareness, spread messages, allowing promoters to donate and promote in the name of a cause. A large number of studies have been made around this same topic, covering a wide range of different sectors in different parts of the world. Talk about education, for example. Many countries and educational entities are starting to look at connectivity and social platforms to enhance the way knowledge is transmitted to students. And this does not only apply to developed countries: In 2017, the Kenyan government piloted its digital literacy program with more than 10,000 schools in the country. It might still be early to see tangible results, but the first couple of reports indicated important progress in class enrolments, absenteeism, and an increase of the interactivity between students and teachers (according to Patricia Kingori (2018), head of Marketing, Citizenship and PR for Samsung Electronics East Africa).

Another article developed in the Georgetown magazine (Wade, 2018) explores the highly positive effects of social media when it comes to empowering students, parents and teachers to adopt new strategies to share information and raise communities. The study shows that 97% of students that have access to internet use at least one social network, and these social networks are very often a way to spread awareness on important matters and promote useful educational activities. Schools might tend to adopt different positions when it comes to social media, however a lot of platforms such as Moodle and Blackboard are being used as learning management systems, and have been proven to improve the learning process for students, teachers, and even alumni. Research outcomes have proven to be similar for other global challenges, such as healthcare or Public Safety: A recent study by Accenture (Accenture, 2018) deeply elaborates public safety in a digitally disrupted age, and the results are extremely interesting: Within the next 5 years, they predict that machine learning and artificial intelligence will be at the center of all security systems, accessible to all (street police, police patrols, security guards, etc.). They predict that online crime will get even more voluminous and complex and that the workforce will need to be completely transformed to be able to deal with that. This is one of the most radical changes that police departments will have seen in the past 50 years.

Humanitarian technology

What I would like to insist on, however, is the Humanitarian aspect of today’s technological advances, connectivity and digital platforms. In March 2017, the United Nations announced that our world was facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine. There are more refugees on our planet today that there were at the end of World War II. As this issue keeps on growing, more and more researchers and professionals are looking into it with the help of technology, in order to come up with a sustainable solution that can be used on a large scale. The UN is not the only organization that is looking into digitized solutions for issues such as mass displacement or mass casualties. The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), for instance, has a similar role, which is dedicated to advancing innovation and technological excellence for the benefit of humanity. It is one of the world’s largest technical professional organization, and explores how technology advances can be at the service of humanity. Having 423,000 members spread across 160 countries, it is universally recognized for the contributions of technology and of technical professionals in improving global conditions.

Other more known organizations, such as Amnesty international or The World Wildlife Fund, were all part of the ‘digital transformation’. They started experimenting in the digital world in the early 1990s by launching their own websites, and using emails as a mass communication and fundraising tool. In the three decades after that, NGOs have used digital communication as a powerful tool to inspire philanthropy and raise awareness towards their missions and programs. As an example, 68% of the NGOs use ‘.org’, which increases their credibility and inspires trust and hope for humanity. 44% of NGOs worldwide use WordPress, 92% of them have a website and 87% of them are mobile-compatible. Those graphs, extracted from the 2018 NGO global tech support (2018) – a survey of 2,780 NGOs in 133 countries – show roughly the importance of digitalisation for those NGOs, and how technology became a must for them to have an actual impact and spread ideas across to their target audiences. Online fundraisings have grown on average 8% annually for the past 5 years in the US, and are now a fundamental basic to the growth of small and big non-governmental organisations.

According to the same study, 72% of those accept online donations on their websites, 63% encourage their audience to do so through emails and social media and 33% of them use an online peer-to-peer fundraising system. Another extremely powerful tool used by NGOs is social media. Going back to the roots, conventional media was always used as a weapon to influence people’s opinions, whether it is their buying habits, their day to day lives, or their political and social opinions. It started with local newspapers, then escalated with the rise of mass media with TV, ads, billboards, interviews, magazines and finally, the internet. People always based their opinions on the information that they got from those mediums, depending on where they are, who they listen to and the context they live in. The internet then came along and completely changed the rules of the game.

We now have access to all sort of content from across the world. It doesn’t matter where we are, the simple fact of scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or twitter for a couple of minutes will load us with information coming from all 5 continents, written and produced by completely different people and each and every one of us ends up with a general opinion made of bits and pieces from different sources. And then over the past few years, there has been a noticeable shift towards visual social media content online. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have understood this phenomenon and have placed more emphasis on visual content (pictures and more recently, videos). Photo-based posts on Facebook generate 53% more likes than a text-based posts (2017 numbers). Some might call this ‘the rise of snackable content’, which is easily understandable and facilitates user engagement. We are also in the age of ‘storytelling’, a trend that uses a timeline of facts mixed with feelings to transmit messages to their audience, to touch them and to evoke a certain amount of emotions, no matter what the topic is. Studies have proven that compelling content online can not only drive engagement, but it can start conversations and create valuable trends across the world.

03 December 2019

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