From every corner of the Web, we can see how Web sites, campaigns, news, and even fundraising are shifting from organizations and corporations at the wheel to individuals taking the driver’s seat. Is it good? It most certainly is!
We are seeing it more and more often. Organizations like The Nature Conservancy have created ways for supporters to contribute photos of nature via the Flickr group and the 2008 Photography contest, engaging long-time supporters who enjoy taking pictures and letting nature photo enthusiasts become supporters through appealing to what they are already interested in.
News organizations have wrapped their arms around the citizen-created content wave as well. Uses of comments on news stories online are abundant. Citizen journalism such as community-based news sites and iReport are inspiring more and more citizen-journalist participation every day. Even citizen-inspired content like Spot.Us invites individuals to jump in.
The citizen-created content isn’t just for news and photos, though. Ushahidi, a platform that enables citizens to use SMS text messages to report incidents of violence in crisis zones to be mapped online, has just released another deployment of its engine—this time for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Twitter Vote Report allowed voters to send messages via Twitter (either through SMS text messages or a Web browser) with information about wait times or even fraud at polling places, to be mapped online. Both platforms let citizens share important information with others in their specific geographic location, as well as with the world, creating a more connected and transparent process.
Even President-elect Obama is channeling the citizen-driven voice. On his Web site, Change.gov, citizens of both the U.S. and the world are invited to share ideas, recommendations, and priorities about policies and issues.
It’s clear that the citizen-powered Web is here. But what about nonprofit organizations working hard to make a difference in the community and world at large—how do they ignite citizens and supporters? Here are some ways to help identify what your community wants to do for you:
- Evaluate what kind of content (stories, videos, pictures, recommendations, etc.) or capabilities (voting, feedback, collaborating, etc.) you think would be useful.
- Share your ideas with the community and see if it agrees! (You can use free online survey tools, your email list, or your Web site.) Be sure to ask what your supporters would like to see; they may have ideas you didn’t think of yet!
- Try: Now that you have heard from your community, put some of the ideas into place (depending on capacity). Invite the supporters to try them out and participate!
- Repeat! Evaluate the new tools, how they are being used, and if there are other things you’d like to try. Share your evaluations and ideas with the community and ask for feedback. With that feedback, tweak the current tools or try new ones. Repeat again! Evaluate, share, and try!
Is your organization enabling supporters, either in your geographic area or around the world, within your sector or outside, to create, share and contribute? What have you found to be most engaging and helpful for your community?
Amy Sample Ward’s passion for nonprofit technology has lead her to involvement with NTEN, NetSquared, and a host of other organizations. She shares many of her thoughts on nonprofit technology news and evolutions on her blog.