About This Blog

The legend of Paul Revere’s famous ride is one about the limits, and reach, of communications technology to advance social movements.  The tower of the North Church, the highest building in the area, could be seen for miles around.  Revere could travel relatively quickly on horseback to communicate his message of warning to neighboring towns, one by one.  Local farmers could travel short distances to muster and confront the forces of tyranny.  The story of their confrontation with British forces, “the shot heard round the world,” was communicated by an active and rebellious press sharing information with a colonial populace thirsty for information and dependent on the media for breaking news of the nascent uprising.  Although parts of the Revere story are considered apocryphal, the lesson remains: the reach and limits of communications strategies can have profound impacts on the ability of communities to work together to advance social change.

Today, as in critical times in U.S. history, innovations in communications are not only altering, but are altered by, those who put such innovations to use.  Rapid technological change is radically shaping how we interact; with whom we communicate; and the influence individuals and groups can have on each other, their communities and the wider world.  Twitter and Facebook are used to spur protests that confront dictators; share information about and mobilize market forces to rein in disfavored conduct by large, multinational corporations; and spread examples revealing the overreach of elected officials, media moguls and high profile elites.  Mobile technologies empower professional and amateur journalists to capture human rights atrocities digitally and instantly transmit images of such acts throughout the world. Web-based strategies foster the creation of virtual communities that help build trust and social capital that can span the globe.

In addition to technological innovation, social innovations—new approaches to lasting social problems—are improving the ways that humans address some of the most pressing social needs the world confronts today.  Behavioral economics and creative communications strategies can be deployed to improve market behavior.  Design thinking can be used to shape technology and its uses, as well as social programs, to conform to human behavior but also improve it.  Crowdsourcing serves as a mechanism for building more responsive markets, philanthropy and government.

In these ways, social change is itself changing.  It moves more quickly than ever before.  It responds to and incorporates many disparate voices.  It uses technological and social advances to build trust, foster community and build social capital across time and distance, despite the fact that millennia of human interactions were founded on face-to-face communications.

At a time of growing economic and social inequality, when technology itself may be one source of that inequality, technological and social innovation can serve to promote community-building, social capital and collective action that can reduce growing economic and social divides.

This blog is, in essence, about social change, and how such change happens in the 21st Century: i.e., through both technological and social innovation.  In it, I will attempt to highlight the ways that creativity—both technological and social—is being harnessed to support social movements, promote positive social outcomes, reduce inequality and foster community.  In particular, this blog will explore how the ability to combine new tools and techniques with old-fashioned notions of trust and social capital is at the essence of social change in a rapidly changing world.

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