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Online Activism and Social Change

Over on the NetSquared Think Tank Blog (net2thinktank), Britt Bravo is asking the question "Is Online Activism Good for Social Change?" (She will be posting answers from around the net after May 20th.)

My immediate gut reaction is yes, online activism is a useful tool for social change. But then, I quickly waver over to "no," as when I sign a petition on a website, and think I have done something meaningful toward making the world a better place, that's a bit of a problem. Have I actually had an effect, or do I look good on a grant report and like an engaged potential member/donor to a development team?

As Marnie Webb, TechSoup's Co-CEO, asks in the report, "What, if anything, does all of the clicking, blogging, and 'friending' add up to in the end?”

Well, it has added up to networks that were activated to successful, peaceful demonstrations in different places all over the world that have meant policy change on national levels. So, I'm back to "yes."

Now is online activism good for everything and every change effort? Probably not. What is it that we are trying to change? Where? Why? Who is involved? Online activism is a powerful tool in the right context but, like a jackhammer, not right for everything.

You can see answers from other nonprofits and social cause initiatives to this question (and previous questions) after May 20th on the NetSquared ThinkTank Blog.