Social Networking Tools Will Continue to Drive Change, Report Suggests

By 2015, technology and social networks will change the way people organize, a new report from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Monitor Institute finds.

The report, Connected Citizens: The Power, Peril and Potential of Networks (55 pages, PDF), draws on more than seventy examples to illustrate how networks are being used to drive transparency in government, better care for the elderly, and more effective emergency assistance in the wake of disasters. Part of Knight's Technology for Engagement initiative, the report imagines three scenarios of how society might change as a result of the evolving way people connect to information and each other. One scenario projects a world of distrust where concerns about privacy dominate and people retreat from the public space; another foresees a more trusting environment where residents are willing to connect to improve their communities at a local level; and a third depicts an extremely mobile society shaped more by personal preferences than place.

Written to help funders consider how to use networks to foster change, the report includes five examples of how people are using networks for social action. The findings also point to the critical role of technology and innovation in empowering advocates and funders alike.

"Networks are all about people, relationships and trust," said Diana Scearce, senior consultant with Monitor. "They're nothing new, but technology is amplifying our ability to connect and coordinate, and funders have an opportunity to channel this potential for good."

"Social Networks in 2015: How Will People Connect for the Greater Good?." John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Press Release 04/06/2011.