Posts Tagged ‘crowdsourcing’

Change agents versus change networks

7 October 2009

The first session of this year’s Socialcamp in Berlin kept me busy thinking for the whole weekend. Coming from the challenging experience of reaching sustainable change when working with organisations in Africa, Tobias Eigen from Kabissa was looking at questions of the drivers of change, and how to identify these “Change Agents”.

This let me to remember one of the principles of the power of internet, which is that everybody, from Kinshasa, to Berlin, to Port Moresby, can make a difference, can engage and has the opportunity to be an agent of change. While this was true before the internet as well, and limitations of connectivity still exist, the opportunity to scale this engagement has increased exponentially.

Go change the world. Now.

Go change the world. Now.

Now this obviously doesn’t mean that every idea will change the world, but what I find most interesting and exciting is that by simply doing something such as sending a text message, posting an idea or a comment, taking a picture and sharing it, he can be part of a changing world.

In short, this is citizen engagement. How this can be a key factor for influencing the fight against corruption in the future, I have described on this blog and also here.

The concept that was floated during the discussion is the one of a Change Network, in a way taking the concept that every one can be a change agent and planting this person into a societal context. I think the concept of one person driving change is, on a general level, somewhat of a myth. The person is always embedded in a network that reflects, adapts and catalyses the ideas and concepts of change. This does not limit itself to its immediate group, but also to the community or society surrounding.

And without this networks, the change will not happen.

While preparing this text, Patrick Meier from iRevolution did a great summary on the discussion on crowdsourcing and I would like to quote his words which fit quite well here:

We credit the crowd because no one person lives in a vacuum and comes up with innovative ideas that are completely independent from their interaction with the outside world.

This is also true when you think of how dependent change becomes if it is only focussed on one person, rather than a network. It is a challenge the fight against corruption has experienced much to often when having to rely on political will to change the status quo. Once a government changes, all advancements may stop, just because this change was based on only one person.

The question is whether a Change Network can be institutionalised.

I am split on this with my thoughts, but I believe that there needs to be the liberty to engage and create a culture of engagement and action without having to organise everything (and this coming from a German), and let allow that even from slactivism eventually comes true engagement and activism. I like the idea of a possibility for change at every movement. Providing space for the individual to do something and let the network surrounding it create the change. Not everything will be, or want to be NGOised.

What do you think? Is this concept useful?

IACC conference started today

31 October 2008

The 13th IACC conference started with a panel on corruption, peace and security. Let me reflect on a couple of issues mentioned during the session.

13th IACC

13th IACC

One of the panellists that got me thinking was Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. She highlighted that a Transparency International list of countries with high levels of corruption would look very similar to an Amnesty International list of countries with high levels of human rights violations. Human Rights can be important tools fighting corruption, especially the right for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and are an underutilized legal framework to fight corruption.

Already in this opening plenary it becomes clear that it there is an essential need for the right of citizens to be involved, the right of victims for a voice.

Khan said, and here I see a link to this blog: “The best tool to fight corruption is an empowered citizen.” As I had argued earlier, social media is about empowering people.

This “social transparency”, being accountable towards the citizens, demanding leaders, politicians, to account to what they do, can be supported by the use of social media.

Another issue raised was on stolen money that, as Mark Pieth, Chairman of the OECD working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions stated, must be hidden somewhere. More transparency, especially within global financial flows is urgently needed, as also Transparency International pointed out in its resolution of this year’s Annual Membership Meeting ahead of the 13th IACC.

It would be great to use crowdsourcing concepts to identify flows and assets of CEOs or politicians. To match the money with the people. As Pieth said, if dictators find it more difficult to hide their bounty in financial centre, this contributes to corruption. Maybe if they find their mansions and Maibachs posted on the web, people will become aware. A map on google un-hiding the villas by political leaders.

A question to the panelist asked them, what each one of them could do to fight corruption. So here are just some initial thoughts, if you have any ideas, I’d be interested in hearing and reading them here!

What can you do to fight corruption?

Changing the fight against corruption

2 October 2008

One of the key questions of the workshop will be how social media can change the way we fight corruption. We’ll have some interesting answers and examples, but as a general note a couple of directions can be distilled already.

Fighting corruption becomes:

1) Collaborative and crowd-based. It is much easier to link up with people and groups working on the same issue, and gather them in a bigger anti-corruption movement. But this is only one aspect to it, as it also has an effect on joining up with individual activists, a task usually difficult for bigger organisations, as well as for people to organise themselves. The dream is the old metaphor of the many little fish that eat the big fish. Also crowdsourcing as a tactic can be one of the options, especially when looking at datasets made available under the umbrella of transparency or interpreting data collectively (as an example see how mysociety.org asks their users to match up each speech with video footage), or in investigative journalism or for community-based reporting, as reflected by the NY Times and the People, Spaces, Deliberations-Blog.

One of the consequences, overseen sometimes, is that organisations will loose control over how people organise themselves and communicate externally, but also internally.

2) De-centralised. De-centralised action and organisation forms will be developed where necessary. One example is how global protests where organised on 4 February under the moto “A Million Voices Against FARC” via Facebook. Manifestations were organised all over the world. Especially under restrictive regimes, where civil society is challenged when organising itself, social media can be used to organise, meet virtually and work together without being together. Google maps can be used as a great tool to track and plan actions.

3) Empowering. Social media can empower people that want to change things. It becomes bottom-up by giving voice to the people affected most. By contributing their experience, easily done via blogs, twitter, or a wiki, they can become part of the movement and give faces to the issues. I have referred to this in my previous post.

Some of the traditional limitations of the fight against corruption that lie within the political environment of a country, such as a restricted civil society, can be overcome using social media. While knowing that new limitations such as lack and cost of access to the internet and mobile devices remain.