Have you ever wanted to change the world with a Facebook page? Or start a revolution-for-good on Tumblr? Mashable has, too. This year, the Mashable Social Good Summit—a three-day event featuring tech-savvy social entrepreneurs from around the world—was all about using new media as a tool for social change.
I had the chance to attend the event and the opportunity to learn more about some the digital innovations that are poised to empower and inspire people worldwide. If you’re socially concerned and want to make a difference, use them as inspiration or as a way to get involved. Changing the world is really just a click away.
Keep it Simple: The GSMA mWomen Program
With more than 6 billion subscribers, cell phones are already the world’s most widely used device. But, when it comes to women in low-to-middle income countries, there is still some work to be done. Women in these countries are 21% less likely to use a mobile phone than their male counterparts. In many cases, this is the result of high illiteracy rates—the cell phone interface is too difficult to read. But a phone with simple, recognizable symbols would mean important social and economic gains, and could quite literally put access to healthcare, banking, or social connectivity in the palms of women’s hands.
That’s the aim of the GSMA mWomen program. Launched by Hillary Clinton in 2010, the project is challenging designers, programmers, and, well, anyone, to reinvent the smartphone interface to be more accessible to resource-poor women—with the goal of finally bringing a solution to the developing world. (Interested? The prize money tops off at $20,000, but the real reward is the social good.)
Small-Scale, Big Gains: ARTVSM
While it’s often said that technology is the great equalizer, nothing unites the world quite like music. If you’re not convinced, check out the ARTVSM project (that’s art+activism) by Pierce Freelon and DJ Stephen Levitin (aka Apple Juice Kid), who are working to bring open-source beat-making software to communities across the developing world.
Their goal? To bridge divides between people by sharing knowledge, opportunity, and, yes, great tunes. Based on a class from the University of North Carolina’s music program, where they’re both professors, their first project involved the installation of a sustainable music studio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has already brought together communities and encouraged collaboration in the country.
Use a Material World to Your Advantage: (RED)
With $195M contributed to the Global Fund—the world’s leading financer of programs to end AIDS—(RED) is a social good campaign with a lofty goal: End the mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa by 2015. Yes, the organization has set its sights high, but it’s also made incredible progress by mixing business with philanthropy. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Starbucks, Dr. Dre, and Apple—just to name a few—on your side.) Chances are, if you wear Beats by Dr. Dre (the, uh, red ones) or checked in on Foursquare last summer at Starbucks, then you’ve already given to the cause. (RED)’s latest fundraising tactic? Giving away free stickers, so you can snap a picture of yourself supporting the campaign and load it on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.
For a quick lesson in how to use new media for self-promotion, just head to (RED)’s website. Or its blog. Or its Facebook page with 1,414,591 likes. In short, (RED) has turned a social good project into a successful brand, garnering support from its target audience (young people) and marketing almost exclusively through social media.
Tell us! Did you attend Mashable’s Social Good Summit? What other social good projects should we know about?