(Social Media + Story) x Trust = Engaged Activism

Social media is changing our relationship, understanding and connection to the world beyond our own doorsteps. Whether we are talking about funding an independent artist, working in developing nations, helping people in crisis, or bettering global health or the environment, there are now many organizations who use social media as a powerful tool to reach broader audiences and create meaningful connections that lead to action.

The African Medical Research Foundation is currently using Facebook to generate connection to their work of improving the health and lives of some of the world’s poorest people. By choosing to participate you will lend your Facebook status to a chosen African person. Your status is then updated several times a day for the next five days to reveal what daily life is like for that person where they live.

Some organizations are using a model similar to Kickstarter, where individual projects make their case, provide sharable information and seek individual contributions that you can track, which allows people to follow the progress of the projects they care about.

Portland based crisis-support organization Mercy Corps recently announced their own user-driven project-based fundraising site called MPower which asks you to “Be the change” by choosing a project to champion.

Another organization using this model is Betterplace.org which helps you to find and support projects large or small around the globe in nearly every category from education to culture to emergency aid and crisis relief. They have taken the model a few steps further by creating a web-community experience for its users. You can invite friends, share posts and create your own “betterworld” page to track the projects you are interested in.

The part that I am most impressed with is what they call their “Web of Trust” which is comprised of supporters, visitors, advocates and blog posts for each project:

  • A supporter is someone who donates time, money, knowledge, materials to a project
  • A visitor is someone who has actually visited the site of the project and reports what they learned
  • An advocate is someone who has knowledge of the project and/or people behind it and has chosen to vouch for it’s value and integrity
  • The last part of this web of trust is the project blog which contains posts from any member of the web of trust as well as the project originators

While all these examples use social media to connect with broader audiences, the Betterplace model does them one better by using one of the most powerful aspects of social networks: our own contributions. These contributions provide authentic storytelling that builds connection and encourages support and serve as third-party endorsements that generate trust in each project.

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