Headlines: October 18th, 2006

NGOs EXPERIMENT WITH TECHNOLOGY TO INFLUENCE POLICY MAKERS

 

Non-governmental organisations, campaign groups and charities are experimenting with new ways of using information and communication technology to engage individuals and stakeholder groups to lobby for social and political change. They are making use of blogs, webcasting and online discussion groups, according to a new report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the ICT Hub in partnership with the Hansard Society and supported by the Vodafone UK Foundation.

The report, “ICT foresight: campaigning and consultation in the age of participatory media”, is based on a survey of almost 300 senior charity managers. The findings show groups moving away from conventional forms of new media, such as websites, to newer forms, such as webcasting and blogs. NGOs are also making more use of online and email discussion forums, enabling them to demonstrate a collective voice and to pass on views to policy makers.

Of the organisations surveyed, 39 per cent they would use online discussion forums in the next five years, 32 per cent mentioned video conferencing and 30 per cent said they would use e-mail discussion groups. Only 12 per cent said they would use a website compared to 22 per cent who forecast a role for blogs and 14 per cent who would use podcasting. The report argues, though, that there is a real need for charities to think strategically about how to exploit the opportunities presented by ICT.

Karl Wilding, Head of Research at NCVO, said more people were using websites like Myspace and Youtube to have their say and charities must exploit these to create powerful campaigns and more transparent consultations. “Websites that do not allow any interactive engagement and space for people to contribute ideas or have a voice will soon no longer be enough,” he said and added, “New media is strengthening charities’ political campaigns, but NGOs need to think strategically about how to integrate these applications into their current campaign activities. You cannot simply bolt them on to existing working practices and expect to engage younger, more media-savvy supporters.