I have had an epiphany in 2008, a year that has witnessed a market meltdown, contracting Western economies, people losing their homes, their jobs, and probably a bit of their confidence in the future. That epiphany came about because of so many circumstances, both local and international.
The market meltdown exposed the weaknesses of “unfettered greed,” capitalism without regulatory oversight. It also illustrated how interconnected this planet is, as the economic disaster of sub-prime mortgages in the
The year 2008 witnessed further remarkable change, a tipping point. Politically Americans elected, to the highest office in their land, a dynamic new leader, firmly planted in the digital generation. As a Canadian watching the unfolding of political events south of the border, it was fascinating to watch the Internet campaign of Barack Obama. Using existing public social network spaces like Facebook, providing video messaging through YouTube, building a cell phone communication network to send out short messages, the Obama campaign created a custom Internet presence that embraced, engaged, and empowered the electorate. It played a considerable part in the campaign strategy. In his article, Obama Election Ushering in First Internet Presidency, posted
Post-election, the Internet continues to play a substantial role in this new Presidency even before he has taken office. The site http://change.gov has become an online expression of direct democracy in action. The implications of this new virtual community presence are enormous. Today the President Elect has the means to appeal daily, directly to every citizen, informing them, gathering feedback, and engaging them in policy creation and implementation at the grassroots level. For the Congress of the
One of those readers was Faith Exeter, President of an Internet software development company, Enable Consultants. For a decade Enable had been building Internet sites for clients in the
This version of social networking isn’t Facebook or MySpace. It protects youth from cyberbullying and inappropriate content. It has a code of conduct. It is policed by all members of the community and monitored by a super user who determines whether flagged content is inappropriate or not. It is built around the school as a community hub. It focuses on students, teachers, classrooms, parents, school and community partners.
The product is called Recess and its website is www.meetatrecess.com. Recess was tested in the spring of 2008 at a
Some students published articles online and made them available to be viewed by their classmates. In many cases these postings were not homework assignments, but personal expressions about subjects that were of particular interest to them. One student, who created a discussion paper on child abuse, when asked if Recess had changed her, responded “Yes, I now know what I want to do when I leave school. I want to write.”
Giving youth a vision of their future and the tools to achieve it – that is the goal of Recess. And that is revolutionary. It is a revolution that can be applied to any organization that seeks to use the Internet to effect change. A charity can enhance its programs and efforts by using a virtual community approach to fund raising, education, program support and delivery, and more. A business can reach out to its employees, suppliers, and customers through the virtual community experience to empower employees to enhance the business, to work with suppliers to improve processes and profitability, and to engage customers in ways never dreamed before.
I call this a revolution, not evolution, because that is what the rise of virtual communities online is. With public social networks we have stepped through an Internet door that has led to all types of new engagement. With virtual community we will move beyond engagement. Virtual community is about empowerment of the individual. It is about breaking down communication barriers, creating new solutions to intractable problems. It is about changing the world.