Digital Technology: The Global Game-Changer for Social Change
Since 2011, we’ve seen the undeniable power of social change in action as individuals and organizations worked together to improve the world around them. Global headlines come to mind, including the Arab Spring, London riots and Occupy Wall Street movement as well as Japan’s earthquake and tsunami relief efforts and the Kony 2012 campaign. Much of the social change that occurred happened with the help of digital technology—social media to be exact.
Certainly social change occurred prior to the advent of social media, but according to Walden University’s 2011 Social Change Impact Report, adults around the world (89%, on average) agree that technology can turn a cause into a movement faster than anything else can.
Social media has made getting involved in social change that much easier, whether it’s a quick tap on a smartphone to make a donation to a charity or a text or tweet to rally a group of people fighting for a cause. Walden’s 2012 Social Change Impact Report found that nearly half of respondents (48%, on average) have engaged in social change through digital technology in the past six months. Adults in China lead the way with the highest use in the past six months (72%), followed by India (58%), Brazil (58%), Mexico (57%) and Jordan (56%), by participating in a social networking site, discussing social change on a blog or other website or texting messages related to positive social change.
While many change-makers act on their own, nonprofit organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continue to play a role in impacting change. Results from Walden’s 2012 survey show that nearly half of adults around the world believe nonprofit organizations make it easy for people to get involved (48%, on average). Although many nonprofits and NGOs are still developing their online and social media strategies, more and more are successfully transitioning from analog to digital technology and strategically using social media for social good to communicate their message and keep the momentum going.
For example, the organization Invisible Children released a film in March 2012 to call attention to Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army who is terrorizing Ugandans. The film raised support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice. Within just a few days, the viral video garnered 75 million views on YouTube alone. At the time of this post, support for this initiative includes more than 3.59 million online pledges and nearly 15,000 photos and videos from people in 204 countries. While this campaign has evoked a variety of responses from people all over the world, the campaign shows just how fast a movement can grow in the age of digital media.
Grassroots social media efforts can lead to the development of armies of volunteers who can hit the ground (and the Internet) and be a voice for change. Although social change issues can differ from place to place, social change is global and social media can help take that message and make it heard around the world.
The Social Change Impact Report was commissioned by Walden University and conducted by Harris Interactive. Designed to provide an annual barometer of social change, including who is engaged, what is important to them and how they work together to advance social change issues of interest now and in the future, the Social Change Impact Report is intended to help spur local, national and global discussions about the advancement of social change. For more information, visit www.WaldenU.edu/impactreport.