Nedra is a social marketing consultant, author and speaker who works with nonprofits and government agencies for positive health and social change using social media, transmedia storytelling and entertainment education approaches at Weinreich Communications.Email me
Three 20-something kids with a video camera wind up in northern Uganda. They see incredible horror and encounter heartbreaking suffering, most especially among children.The organization is dedicated to ending the war in Northern Uganda where children are abducted and forced to fight with the rebel army as child soldiers. For fear of being hunted by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), these children commute on foot every night to find safe places to sleep in their town centers. To date, more than 30,000 children have been abducted and forced into war.
Instead of turning their backs, they can't stop thinking about it. They decide to do something about it.
What can three white kids do to stop 20 years of horror and war? They decide that alone they can't do much, but if they can mobilize enough other youth, they can influence the powerful.
They know their audience - other youth. They use multimedia, they use rock music, they use myspace, they make music videos, they portray things raw and gritty and honest and authentic.
...They make their message viral and easy to share. Buy a DVD of their documentary and they send you two - one to share with someone.
They brilliantly merge online content with offline activities, such as house parties and private screenings. They provide materials to allow people to host their own house parties.
People who sign up online get regular updates on their Ipod to motivate and give them insider information.
In a social environment based on networked individualism, the internet’s capacity to help maintain and cultivate social networks has real payoffs. Our work shows that internet use provides online Americans a path to resources, such as access to people who may have the right information to help deal with a health or medical issue or to confront a financial issue. Sometimes this assistance comes from a close friend or family member. Sometimes this assistance comes from a person more socially distant, but made close by email in a time of need. The result is that people not only socialize online, but they also incorporate the internet into seeking information, exchanging advice, and making decisions.The Joslin Diabetes Center is a good example of an online community providing support to individuals with a given health condition (you can login as a guest to take a peek around). A study of the effectiveness of the Joslin discussion boards, as an example of internet-based discussion groups found that they made a big difference in the lives of many who used them:
Nearly 75 percent of respondents to the study's 2004 survey rated participation in the discussion board as having a positive effect on coping with diabetes. As one woman commented, "I have found an oasis where I can be encouraged, inspired and educated by people who sincerely understand my struggles."If you have the information people are looking for, or if you can provide the framework on which these online communities and social networks can form around health issues, your organization can play a major role in the decisions people make about their health. But if you don't have an online presence, you won't even be part of that conversation.
What's more, 71 percent of respondents stated participation helped them to feel more hopeful. One user, a representative of many, found the discussion board to be an online lifeline. "Here in Spain, I have no support," she commented. "I honestly don't know what I would do without the support I find here. It really has transformed my life and had a positive influence on the way I cope with diabetes."
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