Using technology to drive social change within your network

Do you remember what the world was like before the internet made shared communication possible?

We certainly did many things differently. To get a message out to a group of people, we could only call them one at a time or post each a letter. We could also use advertising to get our message out there. Occasionally, we could set up a communication chain where each person contacted the next one until everyone was covered.

Emails and fax machines helped us speed these ‘one-to-one’ or ‘one-to-many’ forms of communication up and conference calls allowed small groups of people to join in a single conversation. However, it wasn’t until the advent of social media and other online platforms that we could finally start engaging with anyone in our entire network at any time. We haven’t looked back since!

So far, I haven’t said anything to surprise you but bear with me. I’d like to shed light on some of the many ways shared communication through technology is moulding our patterns of social behaviour en masse.

There are many topics I could cover here but let’s focus on what’s been happing at business, community, and global levels.

Social change and business

At one time, almost every organisation used a ‘top-down’ approach to management and communication. The people at the top made all the decisions and everyone else did what they were told. Sales trends were used to guide product offerings but there was no direct engagement between the head honchos and the end user.

Now, teams can share ideas, information, and resources via cloud platforms. Members are encouraged to participate in decisions which can then inform product development and company policies.

Shared communication platforms such as Slack, Trello, and Salesforce mean that team members can be spread over different sites and even different countries. This functionality alone has led to a major increase in the number of employees now able to work from home.

Consumers can influence the decision-making process, too. In some cases, they may be invited to participate in team communications and provide feedback as products are customised for their needs. A more common way to gather consumer opinions is through online forums, product reviews, and social media campaigns. We now expect to engage with a company online and we dismiss those that haven’t risen to the challenge.

Businesses that have embraced this approach include Australian travel company, Helloworld. Their outstanding online marketing strategy has led to a huge increase in sales, leads, and productivity. The feedback they receive influences the range of holiday deals they offer and their high level of customer engagement sets them well apart from their competitors.

When businesses underestimate the power of public opinion, it can lead to disastrous consequences – as United Airlines learned the hard way earlier this year.

Social change and the community

Like commercial businesses, political and non-profit organisation have also embraced technology as the most effective way to connect with the community.

Many local council meetings are now streamed live and politicians at all levels have their own social media profiles and strategies. Lobbying is done via petition websites like and GetUp!

Community engagement at this level now gives the decision-makers instant and powerful feedback and can often result in major legislation changes.

Other local organisations, such as support groups, can reach out to a wider community by inviting them to join Facebook groups. Health professionals can offer consultations via telehealth portals. Suddenly, isolated and vulnerable people can have access to the same level of support and care as everyone else.

Global change

Large non-profits are, in many ways, the pioneers in using mass communication to bring about significant social change. For example, anti-violence group, One Love, used the campaign platform NationBuilder to spread their message using videos and online workshops.

Organisations like World Vision Australia can now use 3D installations to bring scenes from the third world right into the heart of a busy shopping centre. Other organisations use platforms like YouTube for Nonprofits and GoFundMe to advocate for change and invite people to donate to projects where they can see immediate results and be part of the solution.

Change on multiple levels

The beauty of using technology to bring about social change is that it can be implemented from a local right through to a global level. Even small businesses can create a massive global footprint. The Overflow Coffee Bar in Chicago only serves fair trade coffee. Their vision was not just to serve great coffee, though. They used NationBuilder to help crowdfund their business and establish it as a hub for other local social entrepreneurs to meet. They now actively create networking opportunities and offer coaching services to the entrepreneurs.

How can you initiate social change in your network?

As we’ve discussed, social change is driven by changes in communication methods. Look around you and see if you can spot areas where a lack of effective communication is causing individual needs to not be met.

Are your customers/consumers/employees being listened to?

Can you connect like-minded people over any distance and help them create a new community?

What technologies can you employ to empower people and help their voices to be heard?

All you need to do is start the conversation and invite others to join in.

Call to action…

Would you like to hear from someone who knows how this is done?

Claire Rogers is the CEO of World Vision Australia, the country’s largest not-for-profit organisation - working in partnership across 90 countries to provide short and long term assistance to 100 million people.

Claire, a social innovator, has a proven track record of strategising and delivering major change initiatives, helping organisations adapt to the tech-disrupted economy, and aligning physical and digital execution to maximise opportunities. She has been igniting change at every possible level.

To hear Claire’s story, tune in to her podcast interview on The Mentor List. You’ll be inspired to make a difference, too.


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