Heroes of Social Innovation

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Without a doubt, the Internet and social media have revolutionized what and how we communicate today. It began with mobile phones, effectively starting a trend for the need for instant information. Internet brought real-time sharing and a real-time wave to help solve problems, ease engagement, and increase sharing.

And today, through social media, anyone can be a hero. Ask Ian Drysdale, of GoodGym and these three founders of their respective organizations, Dominic Campbell of FutureGov, Jeremy Gilley of Peace One Day and Ken Banks, of FrontlineSMS.  Here’s what they did: they saw a need and used their unique gifts and talents, along with the help of the Internet and social media to make a change.

“Social innovation isn’t about having big plans and raising lots of money and having a five-year business plan,” said Banks. And the three all agree that social media is great, but it has to be more than that. It has to be a tool for young people to change the world, to teach them to be peacemakers. With FrontlineSMS, Banks was able to help re-engage the conservation effort in Kruger National Park by using his own versions of social media to run two-way message campaigns for those without an internet connection.

At FutureGov, they noticed that institutions were slow to respond to the needs of the people, so they decided to start something themselves and use the internet to make it great. Campbell said their goal was to focus on the true problems, like creating public value and changing institutions from the outside in. It began with advising councils and communications teams on how to use social media, but became a way to use the internet to bring a group of people together in an area. Their three main areas of expertise are Design, Technology and Change, and with those as a guide they work toward using the power of the web and solve some of the most difficult problems.

Gilley’s philosophy is, “If you build a house, you start with one rock. If we want to build peace, why not start with one day?” So he did. That was in 1999. On September 21 of this year, 100 million people in more than 100 countries took part in Peace One Day, including more than 400 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In addition, this year’s Peace Day saw the largest global reduction of violence both domestically and internationally, with key partners like Coca-Cola, Dior and Skype.

Drysdale said the problem was that each week in London, a quarter of a million of the older people weren’t receiving visits from a family or friend. On the other hand, people were paying steep prices for their gym memberships. So, in his own words, they ‘basically swapped that treadmill for a meaningful run.” They pair runners with people who are less-mobile in their area. While out for a jog, the runners stop by the person’s house, make a delivery of some kind, chat briefly chat and then are back on their way.

No matter the country or the cause, these men have demonstrated that changing the world isn’t as complex as some may think. But it has to start somewhere. With the Internet and social media as valuable resources for so many, it has even gotten a bit easier.


Delesia Watson is in her first year of graduate school at New York University, studying Public Relations and Corporate Communication. Delesia believes social media has largely impacted the way people all over the world communicate, and when used properly, can contribute to building sustaining relationships and a global society. Delesia loves a good read, pageantry, traveling and bargain shopping. You can catch her online at @deleesh and on her blog.

Photo via Gibb River Road

Delesia Watson

Student, New York University


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