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Empowering Change Through Collaboration

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Social Media Week is a leading news platform and worldwide conference that curates and shares the best ideas and insights into social media and technology's impact on business, society, and culture.

Guest Post By Don Tapscott, Curator Social Media Week

I’m enthusiastic about taking on the role of “Curator” for Social Media Week. Between now and my kickoff speech Feb 13 to cities around the world, I’ll be writing a series of articles to stimulate thinking and discussion in our global community.

The debate on the role of social media and change is over. Over the last year, many have questioned just how important social media are in helping activists achieve social change. Writer Malcolm Gladwell wrote a thoughtful essay in The New Yorker entitled “Small Change: Why the Revolution Won’t be Tweeted.” He argued that social networks only create weak ties between people, but that it’s strong ties and close relationships that bring about real social change.

It was a good debate and then reality stepped in — Tunisia. It turns out that the revolution was tweeted. The Tunisian revolution wasn’t caused by social media; it was caused by injustice. It wasn’t created by social media; it was created by a new generation of young people who didn’t want to be treated as subjects anymore. But the media dropped the costs of transactions and collaboration and it empowered change.

The movement for change has like a prairie fire across the Arab world and has now extended around the world from the demonstrations of millions in Spain against unemployment, to Wall Street to the global #Occupy movement. Leonard Cohen was looking prophetic when he wrote “First we’ll take Manhattan and then we’ll take Berlin.”

The Social Media Week theme of “Empowering Change Through Collaboration” is an apt one. But evidence is mounting that the current global slump is not just cyclical, but rather symptomatic of a deeper secular change. There is growing evidence that we need to rethink and rebuild many of the organizations and institutions that have served us well for decades, but now have come to the end of their life cycle. The global economic crisis should be a wakeup call to the world. We are at a turning point in history.

Let’s face it. The world is broken and the industrial economy and many of its industries and organizations have finally run out of gas, from newspapers and old models of financial services to our energy grid, transportation systems and institutions for global cooperation and problem solving.

At the same time the contours of a new kind of civilization are becoming clear as millions of connected citizens begin to forge alternative institutions using the Web as a platform for innovation and value creation. Social media is enabling social business. From education and science and to new approaches to citizen engagement and democracy, powerful new initiatives are underway, embracing a new set of principles for the 21st century — collaboration, openness, sharing, interdependence and integrity. Indeed, with the proliferation of social media and social networks, society has at its disposal the most powerful platform ever for bringing together the people, skills and knowledge we need to ensure growth, prosperity, social development and a just and sustainable world.

But don’t count on governments or most of our current business and institutional leaders to be the architects of change. Leaders of old paradigms have the greatest difficulty embracing the new. And vested interests will fight against change. It’s up to us.

The stakes are very high. As Anthony D. Williams and I describe in Macrowikinomics, people everywhere have nothing less than an historic choice: empower ourselves to achieve change and collaborate to find new solutions for our connected planet; or risk economic and social paralysis or even collapse. It’s a question of stagnation versus renewal. Atrophy versus renaissance. Peril versus promise.

Fortunately, for the first time in history, people everywhere can participate fully in creating a sustainable future. We are now building the collective intelligence to rethink many industries and sectors of society around the principles of collaboration.

This is not just a theory — it’s happening.

What do you think? What is to be done?

Over the next three months I’ll be introducing bi-weekly discussions on a number of topics where we can empower change through collaboration: Education & Learning, Health & Wellness, Energy & Environment, Politics & Government, Media & Entertainment, Science & Technology, Banking & Finance, Transportation & Mobility, Art & Culture and Marketing & Advertising.

Please join in the discussion!

For three decades Don Tapscott has been the world’s leading thinker about the impact of the digital revolution on business and society. He is the author of 14 books, most recently Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World and with Anthony D Williams: Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. You can follow Don on Twitter at @DTapscott.




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