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Book. Tom Watson. Causewired. Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World. 2008


Bill Thompson:

"“in the book Causewired he (Tom Watson) shares his experience and understanding of the growth of what has been termed “peer-to-peer philanthropy”.

The book’s strapline is “Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World”, and Watson offers a range of examples of the way in which the network is making new forms of fund-raising and activism possible.

It documents the outpouring of online support for the people of New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina through the campaign to obtain justice for Mukhtaran Bibi in Pakistan, via Barack Obama’s internet fundraising efforts.

It’s a fascinating read, not least because the principles he outlines for effective online organising are based on his own experiences.

“Small but well-connected can be more effective than huge and widely disbursed”, for example, is something many online community organisers could benefit from realising, as is the call to “invest in conversations”.

As with many US writers he seems to believe in the power of the market to solve all our problems and has little time for regulatory or government-based solutions to problems.

He lauds for providing equipment for US schools instead of asking why public funding was not adequate in the first place, and sees the network as a way to encourage philanthropy rather than social justice.

But he has clearly identified the ways in which the network is making a difference, and given us a valuable primer in the ways in which those who want to change the world can make effective use of the tools and services now available.” (


Of mobile activism:

"Here are some of the mobile-for-good projects being highlighted at the MobileActive08 conference this week in South Africa:, the 10-month-old, Web-based, agit-pop protest movement (its name means "noise" or "voice" in Urdu, Hindi, Dari, Persian, and other languages) is kicking off a series of SMS (short message service) campaigns to get rapid signatures on petitions to fight climate change and the war in Iraq. Cofounded in January by, Res Publica, and, Avaaz already has more than 3 million members around the world, and offices in Rio de Janeiro, Geneva, London, and Washington, D.C. Says Graziela Tanaka, an Avaaz coordinator in Sao Paolo, Brazil: “Cellphone videos and instant messaging has the affect of decentralizing old-media control over information. We think SMS and cellphone videos are the new way to mobilize people around the world. The Internet is still restricted in some countries. SMS is not. Everyone, or nearly everyone, has a cellphone.”

The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is using a "bulk SMS" service out of Cape Town to organize demonstrations against sexual violence, chiefly against girls 15 years and younger, and to share health information. The nonprofit sends out thousands of instant messages to a targeted list of members, simultaneously, to mobilize support for its various campaigns, without fear of interference by local governmental authorities or family members. According to WOUGNET's Nora Naiboka Odoi, cellphone use in many African countries is still largely controlled by the men in the family. SMS, she says, makes it easier for word about demonstrations to get out virally and bypass these constraints. Adds's Verclas: “The cellphone in these communities is an empowerment tool, a way for women to reach out to each other as well as to get help in a violent situation."

Alo Cidadao! (Hello Citizens!) is a year-old text-messaging community news service that connects some 450 residents of the low-income section of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, with information about jobs, cultural events, classes, and health vaccinations. "People in this neighborhood are afraid to leave their homes," says coordinator Daniel de Araujo. "We are trying to help them feel less cut off and are encouraging them to re-join the mainstream by giving them knowledge about what's going on outside their doors." Each person who signed up for the service gets about 40 messages per month, Araujo says, and most forward these messages on to friends and family members.

The International Youth Foundation's BridgeIT project is using cellphones to boost the quality of education for 5th- and 6th-graders in the Philippines and Tanzania. Science and math teachers there can use their cellphones to download science videos and other content-rich material via satellite to a digital video recorder connected to a television set in the classroom. Videos focus on subjects such as space, ecology, geology, or human anatomy—all part of a special text2teach lesson plan. So far, the program, partly funded by Nokia, is being used by 938 schools in the Philippines and 200 in Tanzania.

M4G, which stands for Mobile for Good, is helping people in Kenya find jobs. For a video on the project, click here. More than 70,000 people now use the service, launched in 2003 and funded in part by the European telcom company Vodafone Group Plc. Some 60,000 have found jobs through the group's job service, Kazi560." (