This month's Net2ThinkTank is asking for 'Best Use of the Social Web by a Nonprofit in 2007'. Like Britt Bravo I'm looking forward to reading some great answers. But the bigger question is how the social web is having a direct impact on the social causes, and I bet a lot of that comes from outside the usual nonprofit circles.
I can quote a couple of cracking human rights examples from Egypt. For starters, the use of Twitter by activists to let people know whether they've been arrested or disappeared. To quote Ethan Zuckerman;
"When I saw Alaa a few weeks ago in Doha, the first thing he did was grab my computer, log into Twitter and, as he put it, "let everyone know I'm still alive." This is a good thing to do when you're an activist who routinely gets detained or arrested. Alaa's Twitter feed includes updates for his compatriots every time he goes to the police or to a demonstration so he can let people know where he is¦ and if they don't hear from him, perhaps they need to reopen the FreeAlaa blog."
This is a genuine social innovation, taking something that's already been invented and turning it to some unexpected and valuable purpose, and is one that i predicted.
Another one is the courageous use of YouTube by award winning blogger Wael Abbas , whose videos captured the torture of victims at the hands of police and led directly to the first ever jailing of an officer for abuse and brutality. The recent suspension of Wael's YouTube account highlights the clash between human rights and web 2.0 Terms of Service.
So i guess my categories for picks of 2007 would include 'best use of mobile to frustrate a despotic regime' and 'best use of a sharing site to shock people out of apathy' :)
In setting their categories for 'Best of the Social web', Britt & the Net2ThinkTank recgonise "the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities" and have added Best Use of the Social Web by an "Extra-organizational Activist" (taking the term from an interview with Allison Fine).
And although MySociety has been around for a while, I'm going to pick one of their 2007 projects called FixMyStreet. More than a reporting tool, it encourages and enables people to take collective action to sort something out. As Daniel Ben-Horin reminded me, this is exactly the starting point for community action recommended by the great Saul Alinsky.
The other category I'll invent as one to watch is 'best web-enabled ngo startup', a concept that I was switched on to by the 2006 Netsquared conference. A flowering of new and unexpected projects is my hope for 2008, because the full potential of the social web won't be unlocked by nonprofit institutions. Netsquared's slogan is 'remixing the web for social change', to which i reckon we should add 'remixing nonprofits for social change'.
As to the question 'Who Is the Best of the Nonprofit Social Web for 2007?', I'll follow the example of the 1st International Open Web Awards and invite nominations via blog comments...