Social Networking 2.0: Coming Together Online For A Cause
Now that their huge valuations have proven they're successful, the next step is for social networks to find ways to make a difference in the real world.
Jun 7, 2011 2:39 PM ET
From Glenn Croston's Fast Company blogThe environmental community has some big goals--saving the planet by solving global environmental challenges is about as big as it gets. And the tech world has powerful tools it can deploy to create innovative solutions in many fields. Put green and IT together, and what do you have? You have the start of something powerful. And social networking with groups like GreenITers might be what’s needed to generate new ideas and solutions where Green meets IT. If the IPO for LinkedIn is any indication, connecting people through social networks is worth a lot, about $7 to 8 billion at the moment, and that’s nothing compared to the estimated $50 billion value of Facebook. The question is what are these social networks going to achieve? Moving beyond simply signing up as many friends as possible, social networking 2.0 needs to be about mobilizing people around a common cause. And a growing number of people are realizing that there’s a huge opportunity to use the power of technology and social networks to take on environmental and social challenges through something called Green IT. Green IT can mean finding new ways to make information technology itself greener, such as through energy efficient data systems. But it can also mean applying information technologies to help solve problems like climate change, pollution, transportation, renewable energy, or resource depletion. Given the scale of the solutions needed, it makes sense for people to work together on solving these problems, using social networks to harness the inspiration, creativity, and drive of large numbers of people around the globe. The GreenITers is online community, based in Tokyo, that includes people from over seventy countries who share this belief. Now with over 1,000 users, the social network helps members to work together and exchange ideas and information. “The main goal of GreenITers.com is to speed green innovations,” said Flavio Souza, CEO of Fullcircle Innovations and founder of GreenITers. “I personally believe that online communities will evolve more and more to tackle problems in our societies and GreenITers`s vision is to become the main hub for green IT contributions from Asia.” Membership is free in the organization, and attracts a wide range of people including academics, IT professionals, environmental activists, and average people who want to get involved. “GreenITers.com makes it easier for all of our members to contribute to our global society,” said Souza. “We also envision working together with companies and other groups who share our goal of speeding the discovery of environmental solutions.” Environmental challenges are so large in scale that they benefit from having a global perspective, but communication can be hampered by language barriers. “The Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese can be a real barrier to knowledge-sharing between East and West. GreenITers provides an outlook on what is happening here (in Asia) by sharing news and breakthroughs in English, so an engineer, professor, or a R&D professional in the U.S or Europe can pick up on what his counterpart in Asia is doing.” The more ideas and information that come together and connect through social networks with a cause like GreenITers, the faster solutions will emerge. It’s good to see social networking used for a positive goal. Glenn Croston is the author of "75 Green Businesses" and "Starting Green", and the founder of Starting Up Green, helping businesses to start green and grow green.