Unshakable Faith in the Human Spirit

After my speaking engagement at the Making Connections: Social Media Conference & Internal Communications in the BC Government this week, I had someone in the audience challenge my assumption about why Gov 2.0 works. My assumption is that most people (I estimate 95%) want to contribute, be part of something larger than themselves, and to make the world a better place

He asked whether I had any empirical evidence for my assumption, because his understanding from what he read was it was more like 15% who want to make the world a better place, 80% who are apathetic and don’t care, and 5% who are out to scam people.

The question was a good one, because it allowed me to make a distinction. My questioner was right: There are a lot of apathetic people. However, my point is that if apathetic people are given the trust, the guidance and the wherewithal (in this case social media), the vast majority will do the right thing. Call it optimism or rose-coloured glasses; I call it my unshakable faith in the human spirit.

Nurse log, Amanda Park, United States
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: The Quinault Rain Forest is better than the Hoh

Aside from my life experience, my observation is somewhat empirical. I’ve seen the success of crowdsourced initiatives such as Wikipedia and Linux. Wikipedia is a straightforward example. Anyone in the world can update Wikipedia, and it works. Wikipedia contains the three elements of trust, guidance, and the technology that allows people to contribute to a service for all.

Recently in San Francisco, a group of 100 hackers came together for 24 hours to create apps for social good. In a concentrated effort, the developers created an apps to allow subscribers to get an SMS message when a neighbour needs a hand, report missing persons using location data, and exchange fresh produce (for local gardeners), to describe a few.

I’ve also seen social media for social good work on our government corporate microblogging and intranet sites. Public servants routinely contribute to constructive, unmoderated conversations that immediately allow for improved collaboration and communication across silos and ultimately improve service outcomes for citizens.

That is not to say that we have 95% of the world’s population wanting to make a difference. We still have a large majority of people not contributing to the social web to create change and those who are apathetic and don’t care. We all get apathetic at times. But this is the challenge and opportunity. It is a battle for the hearts and mind of the apathetic that will determine the outcome of the human race and our planet.

In what percentage are you? Are you contributing in your area of interest, part of something larger than yourself, somehow making a difference? As Marshall McLuhan said, “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

We need your help and we need your leadership.

All the pieces are in place. It’s your move.


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