Influencing public policy on-line

Many organisations, and indeed individuals, use social media like Facebook and Twitter to rally their followers and encourage public action in support of their advocacy activities. But there are also now a number of on-line platforms springing up that allow people to come together to build mass movements, for whatever reason.

Recent campaigns (Global Zero, All Out (which now claims 1.3m members in 190 countries) and Meu Rio were all incubated by Purpose.com, based in New York and set up by Jeremy Heimans who previously launched Avaaz. I can see how the likes of Google, Audi and the Gates Foundation – all clients – can use a platform such as this but, at least so far, it is rather less obvious how an interest group, especially a trade association, might be able to use it to influence public policy. I have a suspicion that such platforms will only ever be relevant for salient and contentious issues. One way, perhaps, it can make a difference is in fund raising – but that makes it far more likely to be of use in the west than in the rather less developed countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

Read more on this in the Economist

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About David Irwin
David is a consultant in enterprise and economic development. He co-founded one of the UK's first local enterprise agencies, helping new and small businesses, and in 2000 was founder CEO of the UK Government's Small Business Service. He now works mainly in the UK and Africa. In the UK, he focuses on supporting social enterprises. In Africa, he mainly advises on regulatory reform and improving the investment climate through more effective public private dialogue and private sector advocacy.

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