The Internet has often been criticized as a Mass Medium. Lack of accountability, credibility and content control have been cited as its greatest shortcomings. But, as is the case with any medium, the effectiveness of any medium lies in how well or badly it is used. January 12, unfortunately, gave the Internet an opportunity to come under the spotlight as a truly social medium.
After the 7.0 quake hit the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti. The Internet came together for a cause – To provide relief to the Haiti Earthquake victims. With the nation’s capital, Port Au Prince being practically destroyed, Social Media was quick to jump into action and do whatever it could. Social Networking sites were quick, not only to spread images of the wreckage, they were also quick to spread awareness about ways to help. The news of mobile networks allowing people to donate via text/sms was primarily spread on the internet. Google’s Search homepage carried a link offering information to those willing to lend a helping hand. The Hope for Haiti Telethon organized by MTV and George Clooney was webcast giving it a much larger reach. iPhone and Mac developers contributed part of their sales proceeds to Haiti via Project IndieRelief. Crisis Commons, a group of volunteers, is organizing weekend development camps to develop software that could play a part in the relief efforts as well.
These are just a few examples of how the web 2.0 can be used as a vehicle for philanthropy. Now that this utility of the Internet has had some mainstream exposure, it is very important that it is taken further.
Jaagore – A unique social initiative
There are many of us who feel the need to lend some of our time and efforts to places where they can really make a difference, but the biggest problem we often face is not knowing where or how to start. The good people from JaagoRe (Im sure everyone remembers their tireless voter awareness campaign during the 2009 elections) have to given us JaagoRe Social Exchange.
A portal where NGOs in different cities have listed their various initiatives. People who want to volunteer or help can look for a cause that interests them and offer their services. You can search by Issue – (Health, Child Rights, Women’s Rights, Voting, Education, Corruption and Global Warming) or City or both to zero in on the project you would like to contribute to.
In most cases, social work is wrongly associated with teaching and raising funds, however on JaagoRe there are plenty of avenues to help. Presently, their main page even lists requirements for volunteers in varied applications like website design, communication design, spreading awareness through short films.
The only thing that disappoints me about the site is that only a shade under 4000 people have signed up for it to date. I hope to see this number, along with active contributors rise steadily in the coming months.
Another interesting avenue that is slowly but surely gaining popularity (largely in the US and UK) is the ‘Charity Challenge’. Volunteers from across the world sign up with a charity organization and pledge to raise a certain amount of money for the cause, after which they qualify for the challenge. Some of the well known ones include the Everest Base Camp Track and the Kilimanjaro Trek. I even came across a Cycling Challenge in Rajasthan here and here.
Volunteers normally organize fund raising events in order to meet their targets. A lot of communication is done online through Facebook and JustGiving pages. A sizeable amount of the donations are also collected online – through pages associated with the Charity/Cause as they lend authenticity to the Volunteer’s claims and give that sense of security to the donor that their money will definitely be used for a good cause.
For those interested in more information : Just google Charity Challenge.
The Internet makes Giving and Volunteering easy. We just need to fill in the blanks.
(If you know more/other ways to use the web for a good cause, feel free to add them in the comments section)