Technology Empowering U.S. Diplomacy and Development

Civil Society (CS) 2.0 is an effort of the State Department to galvanize the technology community to assist CS organizations across the globe by providing capabilities, resources and assistance to enable CS organizations to harness the latest ICT advances and build their digital capacity. Through CS 2.0, new CS efforts will be cultivated and existing CS organizations will have ready-made avenues to quickly understand, access and use the latest technologies to better organize, communicate, raise funds, and advocate their goals and interests.

In promoting CS 2.0, there are three separate efforts which must be undertaken to reach its full potential:

  • Cultivate a CS 2.0 Technology Community comprised of technology people and companies, CS luminaries and activists, and socially conscious individuals around the globe;
  • Develop a network of Civil Society 2.0 Promotion Organizations like the State Department, World Bank and the UN, which work with on-the-ground technology assistance personnel, including ICT NGOs, to help identify valid needs and requirements from CS organizations, and to provide information, consultation and recommendations on specific CS projects; and
  • Cultivate relationships and communities of practice within specific CS topics, such as disaster response and risk management, environmental issues, economic opportunity, digital freedom initiatives, innovative education approaches, and women’s issues, in developing countries.

Cultivating a CS 2.0 Technology Community: The State Department will assist in convening the technology community, CS luminaries and activists, and other ICT organizations to form a CS 2.0 Technology Community that can help address the needs of civil society organizations across many different areas. The State Department will facilitate the cultivation of such a CS 2.0 Technology Community by providing information, consultation, recommendations and liaison support, but State will in no way own, direct or manage such an initiative. In essence, this becomes an opportunity for participants in the technology community to take a leadership role in making CS 2.0 a reality. Products produced by and made available from the CS 2.0 Technology Community could consist of software, resources or personnel assistance, including:

  • Ready-made, free or open-source tool kits for CS organizations to customize for their own circumstances;
  • Easy-to-use training on social software tools and technologies. to be delivered both via the web and mobile platforms;
  • In-kind donations such as web or server space, software or technology development resources;
  • Community-based platforms that aid the discovery of like-minded CS organizations and people to help build capacity, which might support global communities of practice around specific topic areas; and
  • Projects that can aid specific sectors of the CS world, such as situational awareness apps that can show the status of ground water pollution, for instance.

CS 2.0 Promotion Organizations: A network of organizations like the State Department, foreign governments, USAID, UN organizations, and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) like the World Bank, needs to form to help bring about partnerships between local and global ICT NGOs and local technology companies working with on-the-ground CS organizations. Facilitating such partnerships between technology and CS organizations will lead the technology organizations to gain a better understanding of the CS organizations' needs and, thus, will allow these technology organizations to provide appropriate assistance and training to increase CS organizations’ digital capacity. Guidance and liaison assistance provided by the Network of CS 2.0 Promotion Organizations would include:

  • Facilitating region specific or topic-area specific conferences to bring technology and CS organizations together so they can explore ways that (non-USG) technology organizations can assist CS organizations with training, personnel and resources;
  • Liaison to cultivate global communities of practice comprised of multiple CS organizations, networked together;
  • Packaging a replicable approach to CS TechCamp conferences for global use; and
  • Facilitating the identification of valid needs and requirements from both individual and networked CS organizations so that these can be shared with the technical organizations for their consideration and assistance.

Digitally Empowered CS Organizations: CS Organizations, such as those interested in humanitarian relief efforts, environmental issues, digital freedom initiatives, innovative education approaches, and women’s issues in developing countries, can benefit from the CS 2.0 effort. Those who take advantage of the CS 2.0 effort will be exposed to new methods and capabilities for raising their digital capacity to organize, communicate, raise funds and advocate their interests. This can happen either by directly tapping into the capabilities, resources and people in the CS 2.0 Technology Community, or by working through the Network of CS 2.0 Promotion Organizations. By participating in larger social networks of similar CS organizations, the expectation is that the CS organizations in each topical area will form greater bonds with one another, and will be able to learn from one another in mentor-mentee type relationships.

Overall Outcome: The end goal for the CS 2.0 Technology Community and the Network of CS 2.0 Promotion Organizations is to enable CS organizations to increase their ability to leverage technology to meet their real-world goals. It is anticipated that larger networked groupings of CS organizations will form around natural topic areas (digital freedom, humanitarian relief, women’s issues, etc.) and regions. New social networks should form while new “free agent” participants join the network. The end result is an environment which leads to networked, more capable and resilient CS organizations that will impact their target areas faster and more effectively than before.

Phase 1 Activities: For the initial phase of CS 2.0, the State Department will liaison with other stakeholders and partners in the technology community to begin institutionalizing CS 2.0 ideas. This will involve a framework for hosting CS 2.0 coordination and information-sharing conferences and CS 2.0 training events to develop partnerships between technology participants and CS organizations. This will include methods for attendees and trainers to connect online to a virtual CS 2.0 network. Specifically, the following actions by the State Department need to be taken:

  • Provide thought leadership to the CS world to put forward the idea of CS 2.0 and its role in assisting CS organizations around the globe. This includes the development of a web presence and outreach activities that describe CS 2.0 and how other organizations can get involved;
  • Package a replicable structure called “CS TechCamp,” which other organizations can implement to foster CS 2.0 activities;
  • Liaison with the Technology community to convene an initial CS 2.0 tribe that can grow and take shape in an organic fashion. This CS 2.0 tribe could then work to make available an initial set of tools and technologies that can be applied by CS organizations.
  • Socialize the concept of CS 2.0 to the other major CS 2.0 Promotion Organizations. Ideally, the State Department will be one among many large-scale organizations that facilitate such efforts; and
  • Facilitating conferences in different regions of the world to promote the ideas of CS 2.0.

Find out more by coming to the Tech@State event on November 4, and the unconference on November 5 -

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Comment by Tapan S. Parikh on September 15, 2010 at 9:29pm
See this article: Engineering Rural Development: Improving the Performance and Accoun..., Communications of the ACM, Vol. 52, No. 1, January 2009

Contact me if you find anything useful. Ive been pursuing this vision for about ten years now and have lots of ideas. Thanks.

Comment by Noel Dickover on September 15, 2010 at 10:27pm
Hi Tapan, excellent paper. There is about a 100% correlation in what we are doing that supports the wonderful efforts you've clearly been engaged at for a long time. The whole thrust here is to bring new technology volunteers to the table. People will "swarm" around disasters killing thousands of people, but probably not so much around farmers in Mexico and Guatemala looking to meet stringent certified organic requirements via mobile devices. The question before us is how can we get all this awesome cognitive surplus to engage in all these wonderful projects like the ones you discuss in your paper.

If interested, 'we'd love it if you can come to the Tech@State event on November 4, and may be interested in sending you down to Santiago, Chile on November 20th if interested.
Comment by Tapan S. Parikh on September 15, 2010 at 11:21pm
Great point. Distributed problem-solving opportunities are compelling, and we have also been thinking and doing more in that area recently. This approach is particularly compelling for events like disasters, as you mention, which you can rally people around. However, in many situations its more a matter of using existing, often local, resources most efficiently and transparently. My belief is that ICT (and many of the same approaches, in fact) can be used to help on the ground, people-centered institutions become more efficient and transparent. (And besides, I think there is a lot of cognitive, not to mention economic, surplus of folks interested in fancy coffee as well!)


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