Photo Credit: Barbara Kinney / Clinton Foundation
Feb 19
February 19, 2014

Social Media for Social Impact


At the 2011 CGI Annual Meeting, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the world had entered into a new "age of participation." Technological innovations–especially social media and other digital networks–are fueling this transformation. Through data and connectivity, resource and information sharing, and broad awareness and engagement campaigns, social media tools are breaking down social, economic, physical, and cultural barriers and building new connections to advance progress across many different issue areas.

Several members of the CGI community employ social media platforms to advance elements of their Commitments to Action, but the group below is leveraging digital networks as a core component of their commitment. Whether they’re engaging supporters, rallying contributions, or connecting communities to resources, these commitment-makers are demonstrating the value of social media in driving social impact.

Mobilizing Supporters On the Ground and Online

When used effectively, social media can rally supporters to engage in actions that advance a common goal. In Brazil, a CGI commitment is doing just that, employing social media and mobile gaming to "bite back" against dengue fever.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 40 percent of the world's population is at risk from dengue–a mosquito-borne infection that causes flu-like illnesses. There are an estimated 50-100 million dengue cases annually, and around 500,000 severe cases require hospitalization. To stem the growth of dengue cases in Latin America, the UBS Optimus Foundation will launch the Dengue Torpedo, a mobile-based tool that will crowdsource mosquito breeding sites in Rio de Janeiro. Through gameplay and interactive tools–including mini-blogs, social networks, and maps–the commitment plans to organize and engage more than 1,000 households across 10 neighborhoods in an effort to eliminate breeding sites.

While the UBS Optimus Foundation is working to drive action on the ground, another commitment is working to mobilize online supporters in an effort to deliver clean drinking water. Every day, more than 4,000 children die from diarrhea caused by dirty drinking water. Through their Children’s Safe Drinking Water commitment, Procter & Gamble is working to deliver clean drinking water and save a life every hour, 24/7.

At CGI's 2013 Annual Meeting, P&G expanded their efforts by launching "Flash Flood for Good" — a social media campaign focused on engaging global leaders, organizations, academics, corporate brands, and other partners to enlist hundreds of millions of people in providing clean drinking water for children. The campaign reached over half a billion people and raised funds to deliver clean drinking water for an entire year to nearly 3,000 children.

Elevating Efforts by Increasing Awareness and Contributions

Social media also provides an avenue for issues to generate awareness and raise contributions that support specific projects or actions. In Hawaii, the Blue Planet Foundation is developing "WEfficiency," a platform that will help nonprofits raise capital to fund energy efficiency projects that will lower their monthly energy bills. Through the platform, organizations will be able to broadcast proposed savings and collect donations. Then, the initial energy savings can either be paid back to contributors, used in future projects, or given back to the nonprofit.

Catapult, a crowdfunding platform announced in 2012 by Women Deliver, rallies contributions to support projects that empower women and girls around the world. Online audiences can find projects to support directly, see exactly what efforts their contributions are being put toward, and encourage their friends and family to get involved by joining funding teams via social media. Catapult has also engaged well-known pubic figures in its efforts, fueling a structure of sustained support for programs that advance the lives of women and girls.

Connecting Individuals to Information, Peers, and Resources

Social media’s greatest potential may lie in the connections that are created on the platforms, and their ability to shine a light on issues sometimes ignored by other forms of traditional media. In 2011, to capitalize on this opportunity, the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons announced a commitment to develop a social media platform to build awareness and engagement around human trafficking.

This platform, called the "Slavery Footprint," provides a mechanism for users to learn how their daily lifestyles contribute to the demand of human trafficking, and proposes actionable opportunities for combating trafficking around the world. Through the platform, individuals complete a survey about their daily routines and learn how different products connect to the worldwide demand for human trafficking. The initial response was so overwhelming that it initially crashed the site, with millions of people from more than 200 countries visiting the website. Within one year of the site's launch, more than one million people had completed the survey and calculated their individual slavery footprint.

Online networks not only connect individuals to information–they can also build upon peer and local communities to drive further engagement. For his CGI U 2013 Commitment to Action, Brown University student Drew Heckman launched the Queer Nebraska Youth Network to connect LGBTQ youth in his home state to peers, local organizations, and resources. The initiative features an active online, peer-moderated discussion where the more than 500 members of the network can connect with each other and find out about local opportunities and social events. Through the tool, Drew says that "people start to find they’re not as isolated as they think" as they build new connections in the online network and their local community.

Follow CGI on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Flickr to learn about the more than 2,500 Commitments to Action made by CGI members since 2005.