Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Virtually essential: why voluntary and community groups must embrace the internet

Ignoring the Internet is no longer an option for voluntary and community organisations, according to a new booklet ‘ICT, Social Capital and Voluntary Action’ published today by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

It warns that failing to embrace information and communications technology (ICT) risks having their work overshadowed by those who do draw on this new source of ‘social capital’ – the reserve of goodwill generated when people interact. And though local ICT initiatives are taking place, the booklet says that the smaller online communities they create need ongoing technical and funding support if they are to survive.

The booklet was produced to accompany the second in a series of special seminars entitled 'Engaging Citizens', organised by the ESRC in collaboration with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). It summarises views from two experts in the field – Jayne Cravens, a leading researcher regarding ‘online volunteerism’, and Dr Ben Anderson, of the Institute for Socio-Technical Innovation and Research, at the University of Essex.

They will lead the seminar, to be held at NCVO in London on October 5, when Karl Wilding, Head of Research at NCVO, will respond to the publication's findings.

Karl Wilding said: "There is a lot of interest today in encouraging community involvement, and an important factor is the impact of ICT.

“Some people feel that online activity fails to build strong ties between people, yet it offers additional means of communication which are strengthening existing social networks and enabling new connections to be made.”

In the booklet, Jayne Cravens, former director of the UN's Online Volunteering service, says that it has become the norm, rather than the exception, for voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) to engage in online activities.

Online communities and online volunteering provide excellent avenues for them to connect with current and potential donors, volunteers, clients and the general public.

And she argues that people do not substitute online volunteering nor online communities for onsite, traditional volunteering and community.

Jayne Cravens said: “Internet-based forms of service and sharing are usually extensions of off-line activities and groups. And most online volunteers are not geographically-remote from the organisations they support; they are around the corner rather than around the world.”

Ben Anderson discusses how local ICT initiatives already support the development of social capital in communities. But he points out that some researchers still question whether social capital needs to be in place already for it to grow. “There is concern that ICT initiatives may lead to those communities already rich in social capital benefiting most. It is still an open question as to how to benefit less well-connected communities,” he said.

And Ben Anderson suggests that grassroots initiatives may be more sustainable “not least because they draw heavily on local social capital, but more crucially because they tend to be much more attuned to what the local people need and want from the services.”

But he points out that whilst generally highly motivated, local groups’ core support structure is prone to burn out and needs ongoing support through committed long term (five-10 years) low-level funding.

He continues: “Smaller communities will not have the technical expertise, nor the funds, to support community networks. Low bridging capital is a problem, and there is a need to help develop links between individuals and communities to resolve ICT problems when resources are stretched.

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>