Everything has changed. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. Every time a new technology comes along, its success is largely governed by the level to which it helps us to do what weâ€™ve always wanted to do, but have previously been unable to do properly – or at least as well – because the tools didnâ€™t exist to do it.
For charities and campaigners, the opportunities afforded by â€˜the social webâ€™ are so massively game-changing that itâ€™s hard to even consider the possibilities without throwing all the cards up in the air and starting again.
Previously, campaign information was distributed via either broadcast OR conversation – conversations were constrained by location, and broadcast brings with it the same problems it does anywhere else – itâ€™s
- impossible to track
- difficult to nuance
- platform specific
and all in all a MASSIVE gamble.
But now we have an entire way of thinking about the internet thatâ€™s built around â€˜shared sociabilityâ€™ – this â€˜Web 2.0â€™ thing everyoneâ€™s been banging on about for the last few years.
So campaigners and charity organisers have the chance to
- re-engage those amazing minds they were previously shouting at via a newletter
- let the subject of the campaign speak for itself via video, photos and audio
- update interested parties hourly rather than monthly or quarterly
- let your supporters BE the campaign rather than just fund it
- track ACTUAL engagement statistics, and follow the progress of any element of the campaign.
- share information, strategy, materials and supporters amongst a network of connected campaigns.
How does that sound? Awesome, thatâ€™s how it sounds.
The cost of paper mail-outs is astronomical, adverts in magazines and on TV are an horrific waste of charity money in an age when there are alternatives, and being able to document every face-to-face event you hold and share it FOR FREE with those outside the charity increases the impact of those events by a factor of 10.
So whatâ€™s the problem?
The problem is just how huge a shift this is for most organisations – if your entire infrastructure and methodology is about justifying then implementing a marketing strategy that will hopefully fund whatever your campaign is, inform people and motivate them, but which is very expensive and has no guarantees, then suddenly discovering that thereâ€™s a world of interested, connected, motivated and resourced people out there happy to talk about what you do and share your information freely with their friends, as well as DO the stuff of the campaign requires a pretty cataclysmic volte face.
Which is where Louder.org.uk comes in.
The social web is such a massive area now, that coming to it late can seem hugely daunting. So the NCVO have put together a site thatâ€™s designed to make co-ordinating the web-side of a campaign easier.
- help aggregate all the content
- keep supporters and activists up to date
- pull other peopleâ€™s campaign ideas and content into one central place,
- and – crucially – provide instruction, tips, help and support in how all this works, both from the NCVO themselves and fellow travelers on the journey to a better world.
The site is currently in Beta testing stage – itâ€™s launched this Friday, but will still be developing for a long time yet – but itâ€™s there, itâ€™s growing, and itâ€™s available to you to use and play with from Friday.
Possibly the single biggest global impact of the social web is what itâ€™s done to charitable and political engagement. We can stay informed, we can be heard, we can be a part of something bigger. Because, as the site strap-line says, â€˜Together Weâ€™re Louder.â€™
Whatâ€™s my involvement, you ask? I was invited to the pre-launch event some months ago, at which the idea was put out there for the site. I asked a lot of questions, made a lot of comments and was then hired for a few days to help plan the site and define the range of tools. If 50% of what weâ€™re hoping for ends up being possible, itâ€™s going to be a truly awesome resource.