Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bridging the gap between what we want and what we do.

Ethan Zuckerman posted a very interesting blog a few days ago. He pondered the connection between compassion and action. He asked, “Here’s my question: does it matter if action is effective or ineffective if we can demonstrate that action leads to more interest in a topic and more knowledge acquisition?”

He suggested that perhaps the lack of interest in the developing world, by the media and average Americans, is actually a lack of information. This information gap might be bridged through Social Media as a tool of information rather than just a networking tool. I don’t know about the social networking stuff. I very much like the informing part.

Zuckerman raises this interesting question of information in order to inform rather than for any other reason: for profit, for political advantage, in order to harm. Well, the purpose to inform is to allow the possibility of change: political, social and economic. The informing however is arguably neutral. I love this idea—tout simplement comme ça. I want to inhabit that space. This struck me because I spend a lot more time than I thought I would informing people about Stock Exchanges existence in Africa as opposed to discussing the law or regulation. People don’t know. Why is that?

Informing here, should be distinguished from Education. As Prof Larry Backer has explained, formalised education can be a tool of control.

Within that context, the internet is freer that educational institutions to raise awareness and inform.

A lawyer in the state of New Jersey recently formed a non-profit to provide low-cost legal education to the public. Her idea is to provide the public with the legal information they have a right to concentrating in areas of concern today such as, bankruptcy, foreclosure, immigration and healthcare law. She covers New Jersey and where applicable, federal law. We connected on

This week launched its global network of idealists. This new venture seeks to bridge the gap between good intentions and our actions. It is concerned with the same thing that Zuckerman is. How can we take all of these good intentions and put it to use with technology. Idealist wants to connect like-minded people starting with people already in it's own network.

I like what Ms. Jackie Crosby has created. It is an extension of what Legal Aid Organisations are doing. However, they are often over-worked and under-staffed and cannot spend the time necessary to educate the communities where they are situated. Of course, many of these networking and connection efforts are computer-based so they exclude members of society who have no computer. Those that are more accessible to everybody are more practical and do the most good. I would love to see something similar to inform people about the developing world. Unfortunately, information about the developing world does not seem necessary.

Ultimately, I think information is the key. No one can predict what this information will produce. What I have described here all begin with good intentions. People do not always do rational things with information. I predict the positives will outweigh the negatives and encourage you to visit, This site is full or gorgeous pictures of an Africa that we rarely see in the media and almost never on the BBC--Re-branding Africa is the goal. They need some pictures of stock exchanges on there!!

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