Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Collaborative Technologies and Social Change

The (Canadian) International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has published its Strategic Framework for 2010-2015, which you can find here (and in French and Spanish, near here). One section (para.115) starts with the title Collaborative Technologies and Social Change: "Collaborative technologies, which harness the power of social networks, are transforming the ways in which social change takes place. For example, health workers and communities in Sri Lanka can monitor and report the emergence of infectious diseases; taxi drivers in Accra have carbon sensors in their cars and can track levels of pollution in different parts of the city at different moments of the day; Twitter-enabled flash mobs in Iran highlight how individuals can mobilize collective action in unprecedented ways."

Interesting to read this after a stimulating three-day meeting with people involved in the We Can (End All Violence against Women) Campaign! We Can is about empowering individuals to promote gender equity and reduce violence against women within their own social networks. One could see the campaign as a new social network or safe social space which enables individuals to take a fresh look at gender-based inequalities and violence within their societies, and do something about it, in their own daily lives. Web-based collaborative technologies can play a role in that (see, for example, the British Columbia We Can site), but in many places, the We Can campaign is driven by real life person-to-person interaction. Maybe not an unprecedented way to mobilise collective action, but certainly one of the most effective ones. (Photograph: Janine Ngungu from DRC discussing the campaign with a Nairobi activist)