Technology for Change

What’s your favorite example of technology helping people create positive change in the world? I think there are too many to count, really.  For example, simply review the hundreds of ideas listed in NetSquared‘s Project Gallery and you’ll quickly see that people from around the world are hard at work leveraging all kinds of technologies to create positive change for communities tackling many different issues.

One example that I’ve blogged about before is the annual project from EpicChange: Tweetsgiving.  During the US Thanksgiving holiday, Tweetsgiving asked people around the world to use Twitter to share something they were grateful for and include the link to the Tweetsgiving site (where people could donate to help build a library, classroom and more for the benefiting school in Tanzania).  This year, the Tweetsgiving campaign also asked people to gather in person, offline and have gratitude parties, where people could also donate in person to the project.  You can see the numbers (from tweets, to dollars, to videos and more) on the EpicChange blog here.

Enter the Contest

As part of HP’s Create Change initiative, they want to initiate a dialogue on how technology and individuals create social change – and to do that, they have partnered with bloggers like me that think we know a few folks with ideas on that subject! (Looking at all of you readers, hint hint!)

HP is giving away a new computer and printer bundle to the winner selected in the contest – and we all have the added bonus of learning about ways others have leveraged technology and finding case studies that can help us in our work.  I’m really looking forward to hearing about the projects you find inspiring!

To participate in the contest, follow these easy steps:

1. Answer the same question that I discussed above:

What’s your favorite example of technology helping people create positive change in the world?

2.  Provide your answer in the comments below (if you’d like to blog your answer on your own site, simply leave a comment here with a link to your site to be sure it’s included)

3. You have until February 28th to submit a response to the question

On March 1, I will select a winner at random (all commenters who answer the question will be put into a hat and I’ll draw one at random).  The winner will be announced here in an update at the bottom of the blog post that day.

So, get your submission in and be in the running for a new computer and printer!

(To find out more about HP’s Create Change initiative, visit their website or Facebook page.)

UPDATE: Winner Announced

As promised, I took all those who commented on this post and chose one at random. Actually, I wrote everyone’s name on a slip of paper, put them in a measuring cup, and my husband chose the winner at random. I even took a picture!

So, congratulations to Ryan Long!  You’ve won the contest for a new computer and printer bundle from HP, and will be connected to process your winnings.  Thanks again for sharing your favorite example of technology for social impact: LiveMocha.com, a website where people can learn and teach languages from around the world.

Thanks to all those who submitting comments with your favorite examples of technology for change! I’ve learned about more projects and seen some of my favorites mentioned. I hope you all find more organizations or tools to use, learn from or support, too!

Technology for Change Contest: Win a new computer from HP!
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  • You’re right, Amy, so many amazing examples to choose from (and learn about!). One of my favorites, the Container Project in Jamaica:

    http://www.container-project.net/

    It’s a grassroots community empowerment program disguised as a tech/media lab in an old shipping container. The concept: bring technology to where the people are (phase II puts an entire media lab in a rolling garbage can), and make sure the community knows this belongs to them.

    • Hi Christine-

      Thanks so much for your comment – I hadn’t heard about the Container Project before and what an interesting project! I love the way they’ve zeroed in on the issue – bring people to the technology. Making technology mobile and accessible is really the first step to educated people and helping them understand how it can help in their lives.

      Thanks for sharing this – and you’re now in the running for the free computer from HP!

    • darien.alano.rob

      I’m Jamaican, and I didn’t even know about this project. Thanks for bringing it to my attention; I’ll have to look into getting something like this set up in my community.

  • Wow, Amy! Your question is simple, but not easy. Countless technologies have helped create positive change in the world. How do you define “technology”?

    If technology is defined as any tool that extends our human capabilities, I’ve got to come back to the most basic technology of all: human language and communication. I love technological innovations, but I can’t bring myself to completely buy into a techno-centric perspective that raves about the latest and greatest gizmo or gadget. Those things change and shift regularly.

    The real asset of technology is, and has always been, the people behind the innovative ideas and their ability to transfer ideas into words, words into communication, communication into action, action into products and services, and products and services into measurable social change. At the end of the day, human will, curiosity, imagination, and compassion for others are my favorite technology. In summary, then, you, others on this blog, and concerned and active people the world over are my favorite technology.

    • Hi Scott-

      Thanks for drilling down on the fact that “technology” is ever broad! It’s easy to be distracted by the shiny, new tools – but it’s always the people behind them that are most important – whether they are the people building the tools or the people using the tools – because they are the ones driving how, when, where, and why the tools get applied for social change.

      So happy to be part of that process with you!

      Thanks also for entering to be in the running for a new computer 🙂

  • One of my favorite examples is the snuggles project http://www.snugglesproject.org/

    Basically it is handmade (Crocheted, Knitted, Quilted, Sewn blankets) security blankets for shelter animals. The security blankets are called “Snuggles.” Each animal would get a Snuggle to cuddle up with to feel warmth and comfort.

    Animals in Shelters are often the forgotten victims in economic times like these and these blankets are just a small way to provide some much needed comfort.

    It has recently begun social networking through Twitter and it is really helping get the word out there.
    iheartsweeping@aol.com

    • Hi Nadine-

      Thanks for joining the conversation on the blog, and thanks for sharing your example of the Snuggles Project! Per your mention of them using Twitter, I looked them up (http://twitter.com/SnugglesProject/) and see they already have over 80 followers and have just started tweeting! I hope they find the platform to be a great tool and resource for their outreach and storytelling – looks like they are well on their way.

      Thanks also for entering to be in the running for a new computer from HP!

  • Technology today helps so many people stay connected ,to the shut in to the social twitter. So many different forms of social media keep people in the know and up to date on news ,what politicians are putting their foot in their mouth(LOL) or to send a picture to a loved one.
    Time to think about using it to better the world,enrich lives and allow people to work.
    Giving people a hand up not a hand out.
    There is a web site that does just that and its http://www.kiva.org/ . This site is amazing!
    How it works: Donate or loan $100.00, this money is used as a loan for a single Mom ,a Dad trying to feed his family ,allowing them to use the money to grow their business and paid back in installments. Once the money is paid back ,it can used again for another loan if you donated or if you just loaned the money for that person ,you can withdraw to your PayPal . The interest that was made is put in to another fund and grows. You can donate as little as $25. from your PayPal,have emails on how this person is doing and watch their business grow.Its wonderful to see a person take a loan for $100. for seeds and watch them (you can receive reports)make a profit and pay back the loan .
    One of the people that are looking for a small loan today is Fumilayo Abayomi
    Nigeria
    she works in Retail
    and is looking for a $550.00 loan to purchase more planks to sell, raised $50. so far.
    If you are looking to help ,give a loan
    This week on http://www.kiva.org/
    1 loan every 18 seconds.
    $1,105,450.00 lent.
    2,635 entrepreneurs funded.
    15,211 lenders made a loan
    98.27% repayment rate to date.
    743 gift certificates purchased.
    4,217 new lenders joined.

    Donate or loan, the choice is yours,
    Using a social media ,making it work ,its wonderful!
    http://www.kiva.org/

    • Thanks for adding your favorite example, Peggy! You’re in the running for a new computer from HP 🙂

  • My favorite example of how technology is opening up doors for people to connect with good causes, comes right out of Chicago.

    http://www.reasontogive.com

    Reason to Give features needy families in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago (a neighborhood where the creators, Firebelly Design, work out of).

    By highlighting these individuals and families, they itemize their needs and post how donations made through the site affect the progress of the fundraising goals. You can donate towards particular needs, and as they are met, the site updates showing you what’s been a success already.

    I love how innovative the process is. Oftentimes when giving it’s hard to know just how your money affects peoples lives and the world around you. This site is one small step in a direction that really lets you see just how far your dollar (and dollars) can go.

    • Hi Davey-

      Thanks for sharing the Reason To Give example. I think it’s a great example of the power in technology to open up processes, create more transparency and participation.

      You’re in the running for a new computer, too!

  • Annette D

    I would like to address the young people, especially high school students about the issue of continuing their education. I am a mom of two sons, one age 21 and a junior in College and the other age 16 and a junior in high school. I have been lucky enough to have been able to be a stay at home mom and I have used this opportunity to volunteer in my kids schools. I began volunteering when my kids were in elementary school by helping in a number of different ways including reading to the kids, being a room mom and going on field trips. I continued to help out in middle school and now that my son is in high school, I am helping out in the College Room. We have a room set up with college catalogs, applications, financial aid information and computers to aid the kids in their quest to pick to perfect college, technical school or even armed services. We try to help the kids by answering questions they might have and if we do not know the answer, we find the answer. We currently use the schools web site to post information about college visits and scholarship that are available. I think that it would be a great idea to set up a blog where the kids could interact, ask questions, and post responses. Kids are so attuned to all of the different types of social media and it would be a great opportunity to “talk” to them about one of the most important decisions that they will soon be facing. The youth are truly the future of this country and the better prepared they are through education, the more successful they will become. So my answer is computers and the internet. We are able to find the information quickly via the internet that our students need to help them in making their decisions relating to life after high school.

    • Hi Annette-

      Thanks for sharing your idea about using technology and social media to elevate the amount and kind of engagement students could have with the information about college. Great!

      And, you’re in the running to win the free HP computer 🙂

  • Sun Lee

    It is just incredible how technology has enabled us to accomplish so much without much efforts. One of my favorites is the Freecycle program. It is a grassroot program that set up local groups to give or receive unwanted stuff to each other for free, therefore keeping those things out of landfills. This not only save people money, but also the environment through reusing.

    • Hi Sun-

      Thanks for joining in here. The Freecycle project has often participated in NetSquared Challenges and has a supportive community around it. Thanks for including it in this conversation!

      If you want to check out any of the other Projects that have participated in NetSquared Challenges, you can visit: http://netsquared.org/projects

  • Brady Smith

    There are numerous choices to choose from. The one that I have participated recently is the text message donation system for Haiti. Simply text “Haiti” to the number 90999 to donate $10, which will be added to your next phone bill. Using this technology, people can truly donate no matter where they are. Things couldn’t get any easier than that. I am sure in the future, a lot of nonprofit organizations will add sms to their arsenal as they set up donations for various causes.

    • Hi Brady-

      Thanks for joining the conversation here and adding the Red Cross example for text-based donations to Haiti relief. If you are interested in technologies used in response to Haiti, I have a post that covers the mobile fundraising and much more over on the NTEN blog here:
      http://nten.org/blog/2010/02/17/social-media-response-disaster-haiti

      Thanks also for entering the HP giveaway contest!

  • Hi Amy!

    I have been recently inspired by how technology has empowered individuals to self-organize for helping disaster victims in creative ways. A case in point is the Brighter Way Choir Project: http://www.citizeneffect.org/projects/brighterwaychoir_haitirelief

    I was particularly touched by a blog post written by one of the choir participants, that shares how facebook, youtube, twitter and blogging have all played a role in her journey from discovering to participating to making a commitment to the project’s success. http://joyfulferrets.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/first-post-why-blog/ I just love it that technology can help people unlock their passion to act in ways like this!

    • Hi Christina-

      Thanks so much for sharing this example! I love that it involves different technologies, different communities, and different inspirations – thus a project that opens up many doors for contributions. The various projects and services created or adapted in the wake of the Haiti disaster has really shown the potential for how quickly we can create impact with technology – thanks for shining light on another example!

      You’re also in the running for a new computer!

      • Just a quick thanks for the mention of this project. It was an incredible example of citizen philanthropy that was 100% done on the social media platform. Phenomenal, high energy and impact.

        (And as an aside, Christina is one of the most incredible women I’ve met in a long time!)

        • Hi Amy-

          Thanks so much for joining in here – can I thank you for saying thank you? 🙂

          I completely agree with you that Christina is an incredible person and am happy to have connected with her as well. I’m really happy to have the Brighter Way example in this conversation for just the reasons you noted!

  • I have two examples of really effective, simple campaigns/projects which I think can make a massive difference, the first is the Take Back the Tech initiative:

    http://www.takebackthetech.net/

    Which recognises the tech sphere as a public and private space for women as well as men – promoting tech literacy so you can get help RE domestic violence etc., without being detected, so you can protect your private details, and so you can empower yourself to speak on level terms in a profession and sphere seen as traditionally male-dominated.

    The second is the Living Newspaper – a theatre in education project by the excellent @C_and_T theatre company, using traditional TIE techniques they explore social and political issues of the day with kids, allowing them to literally see things from others’ points of view, and seeing they can change minds/outcomes, and then, crucially, forming them into a ‘Living Newspaper’ full of proactive, investigative, and thoughtful content created by the kids themselves. It takes the basic theory of TIE – you have a voice, you can change the world – and provides them with a platform from which to do so – something only tech could easily manage.

    http://www.livingnewspaper.net/

    Such a pleasure to think of all the wonderful projects out there 🙂

    • Hi Hannah-

      Thanks for contributing here! I was aware of Take Back the Tech but hadn’t heard of the Living Newspaper- thanks for getting both into the conversation. What I really like about both of these examples is that the technology is really just a side note in their work towards empowerment and education. Often, I think, people forget that technology – whether it’s facebook or a phone – is simply the tool, and not the product or the service or the community. None of the tools work unless we put them to use towards our missions and goals. These two both really showcase the innovative ways we can use the tools, but are great examples of programs making change not focused on the tech.

      • Oh, and you’re also in the running for the free computer from HP! 🙂

  • Hey Hannah, we have the same favorite example, http://www.takebackthetech.net. Just to add that I love TBTT because it’s a great mix of women from all over the world – south africa, brazil, mexico, pakistan, uganda, etc. taking technology that is relevant in their countries and putting it to use to fight violence against women – ie sms campaigns, GPS tracking of abuse, just publishing about VAW, such a forbidden topic for so many, in local languages like khmer in Cambodia…I like that TBTT gets people informed about how VAW is being carried out on line and how to be safe, and reminds us that women have a long history in technology development. At the same time, for women who have less experience using new technologies (because access throughout the world is so incredibly varied) there is a lot of how-to information and ideas to support women in using technology strategically.

    One project I just love, that also collaborates with Take Back the Tech!, is “Keep your chats exactly that!” in South Africa – young women working with other young women on how to have fun and be social with your cell phone and be safe smart at the same time – especially since internet chatting via cell phone is so popular in South Africa. Cell phones have opened up a whole new arena for harrassment, or for easy and unexpected sharing of intimate images and thoughts. The project really responds to a pressing concern for many young women, but does it from their point of view and isn’t moralistic at all. With so many young women going missing or getting attacked, or having their lives shattered because intimate photos got circulated, Keep your chats exactly that! can really make a difference. http://www.womensnet.org.za/campaign/keep-your-chats-exactly

    • Hi Erika-

      Thanks so much for sharing here and joining in the competition for a new computer!

      I really appreciate the points you’ve added about TBTT – successful uses of technology for social impact have 1. ability to be localized and 2. resources for people at any level. This is true in your example and so many others.

      Your second recommendation is a campaign that I think many readers will be interested in because of it’s success driving a message from the audience’s perspective instead from the “campaign” or organizational perspective. It’s great to see campaigns around young people and safety get it right, and really connect and make a difference!

      Thanks so much for sharing, again.

  • Kathryn Peck

    I believe that almost anything can answer this question.

    There’s all the new energy star electronics that help people cut back on their energy use, thus reducing the overall energy use of the world and decreasing the amount of pollution let out into the air. People have always been concerned with the high output of pollution, and this helps them do better for the world without really having to do anything.

    The internet, itself, has helped people realize a lot of things that they might not have known before. It educates people in ways that allow them to live safer and more productive lives. With that productivity increase, people are able to do more positive things for the world, whatever those things may be.

    I’m a college student, and a lot of groups/clubs on campus have been able to reach out to a broader audience via facebook. I know of one, SAFE-Student Action for the Earth, that added me and invited me to several events. Facebook has made it easier for these clubs to raise money for the environment and other charities. That’s probably my current favorite view of what facebook can do.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Kathryn-

      Thanks for sharing here. I like the personal example you included of SAFE using a popular student space (facebook) to connect with students and promote events. Plus, you’re in the competition to win a new computer!

  • David K.

    Like Peck aforementioned, I would say the biggest way that technology has helped people create positive changes is the creation of internet.This advancement brings us to the information age, where people can attain and share information much faster and easier than before. With cheap hosting offered by companies like GoDady.com, everybody can afford to set up a blog to spread their message. And the audience is millions strong! It also offers different ways for people to promote and contribute to their causes. Want to donate to a non-profit? With a few clicks, and it is done. And people can also easily find and join those groups that share their passions. Want to help others avoid scams and ripoffs? There is a site for that: ripoffreport.com.

    • Hi David-

      Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree that the introduction of the internet, especially via the world wide web as the main interface that most of us experience the internet, has created world-changing opportunities including knowledge sharing, education and information access, actions for social causes and much more. Plus, you’re in the running for a new computer!

  • Ryan Long

    One of my favorite examples is livemocha. It is a social networkservice that allows people, from all over the world, to learn anotherlanguage at their convenient time and pace by connecting them to thosewho are proficient at the language they wish to acquire. In theprocess, it also enables people to learn other culture throughconversing with other participants as they learn the language. GoLivemocha!!! http://www.livemocha.com/

    • Hi Ryan-

      Thanks for adding LiveMocha to the list of examples here! I think this is a great example of the way the internet is helping strengthen the global community online, creating a common meeting place for people from any country, background, industry, etc.

      You’re also in the running for a new computer!

  • Dan Bailan

    My ultimate favorite example on how technology has helped people create positive change in the world is micro-lending, pioneered by Muhammad Yunus. He even won multiple awards, including The Nobel Peace prize for 2006. It not exaggerating to say that it improves the lives of millions living in poor countries by creating a platform that allows people to make small loans to them. And thanks to it’s success, many people have adopted that strategy and extended it to help all those in need of small loans in every corner of the world, dollar by dollar.

    • Hi Dan-

      I’ve recently read Yunus’ book documenting his work building the Grameen Bank and the other Grameen projects, as well as his ideas for changing the face of industry and eradicating poverty. It’s really a very interesting, inspiring book.

      And you make a great point, too – it’s the way that his work and sharing his knowledge as opened the door for many others to iterate and grow the micro-lending and mico-philanthropy sectors to change how people give, how people become entrepreneurs, and so on, that has made such a change in our world.

      Thanks again – and you’re in the running for a new computer!

  • Liz G

    So many to choose from. The one that has impressed me the most is howtechnology is helping visually and hearing impaired go mainstream.Before advancement in these fields, their activities were verylimited, relying heavily on others for help. But now, they can performtasks that people from a generation ago thought were nearlyimpossible. And while in college, I had a professor who was blind. Yethe was able to walk to class thanks to a guiding stick and coupledevices that he wore without the assistance of a dog (of course, hecan’t drive), and grade essays thanks to a special computer that readthe texts to him. Here is an overview of available technology inhelping visually impaired. http://www.tsbvi.edu/technology/overview.htm

    • Thanks for joining in, Elizabeth!

      Another example of a way that people are using technology for assistance is EnabledByDesign – a website where people can share requests or ideas and designers can get inspired by or share designs of products designed to both be aesthetically pleasing (as in not medical and ugly) and utilitarian for those with various disabilities. Another example of a community-driven approach to change.

      Thanks for your comment, and you’re now in the running for a new computer.

  • My favourite example? I HAVE to talk about one that has affected me almost directly; the e-Learning Jamaica Project (Even if you think big, you have to start small). It is a joint effort by the Ministry of Education and Youth and the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce here in Jamaica.

    For both high schools and colleges, they donate various types of technological equipment such as printers and desktop PCs. They also help schools to create an internal network, or Intra-Net in order to maximize connectivity between different departments. They also develop and provide learning material using CD’s, videotaped lectures and internet resources to students, as well as assisting with the training of over 11,000 teachers in basic Information and Communication Technology skills.

    Even though I am now at the University of Technology, Jamaica, this was one of the initiatives that really helped out my old high school, as well as many others. With the help of the e-Learning Project, many students, myself included, have been inspired in various ways; and with this inspiration, who knows what the future may hold for us in the world of technology?

    • Hi Darien-

      Thanks so much for sharing the case study about the e-Learning Jamaica Project! It isn’t something I new about before and it sounds like they are doing a very successful job leveraging technology to network all those involved in education system across schools, departments and subjects. What a great example of the power of technology to help inspire, education, and strengthen communities!

      Thanks again – plus, you’re in the contest for a new computer!

  • I just realized that we are in different time zones! Am I still eligible? Please?

    • No worries, Darien – you’re comment still counts 🙂

  • Angela Elder

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