Introducing NGO 2.0

I had a wonderful conversation this afternoon with MIT Professor Jing Wang about her project “NGO 2.0 China.” We were first introduced to each other randomly through Scott Kronick, by my desk, where I kept a book Brand New China written by her. Scott asked me if I’d like to have the author’s signature – of course! During our random but pleasant encounter, Professor Jing Wang mentioned her current project -“NGO 2.0 China.” I was intrigued. Having done some research at home, I wrote to her and told her that I’d like to be a volunteer.

Professor Jing Wang launched the NGO 2.0 China project in spring 2009 in collaboration with Ogilvy & Mather in Beijing, the University of Science and Technology of China, and three other Chinese NGOs.

What exactly is NGO 2.0? Professor Jing Wang and her partners are building the first social networking platform for grassroots NGOs in

China. At the same time, they will be holding Web 2.0 training workshops for NGOs in Western and central provinces and co-developing training materials with Intel China. A ranking system will be integrated into the platform to promote the organizational transparency of NGOs.

The project was created to meet the dilemma faced by mid-sized grassroots NGOs in China: even as they each develop their own small websites, these NGOs remain as insulated from one another as before. What they actually need is a platform that allows them to share resources, build networks and recruit members at little cost. Web 2.0 would be a perfect solution to help them.

Professor Jing Wang’s design of the project, in its much simplified version, is to bridge Chinese grassroots NGOs with 1) IT infrastructure/service providers and 2) business entities like Ogilvy & Mather. The former can help build a necessary platform and participate in implementing creative ideas generated by vanguard grassroots NGOs; the latter can provide creative ideas for NGO 2.0 programs and help with content generation on the platform. In addition, (1) and (2) can both contribute to training programs for capacity-building.

The NGO 2.0 China project intrigued me because in a world where everyone is talking frantically about social media and Web 2.0, I feel this project is one of the few that has a clear purpose backed by thoughtful program design.

NGO 2.0 China is not the kind of ideal that can only end up being a good will in real life. This ideal is supported by pragmatic program design that aligns partners with different interests and drives things forward together. Imagine an IT company that has a strong interest in CSR projects. Imagine a company that is attempting to engage third-party endorsers.

Finally, NGO 2.0 China encourages me to think critically about the role that traditional and mainstream Chinese media plays in this field. Many times, published NGO stories are often dominated by sensational and distorted narrations. The effect of such reports, in addition to creating a large readership, is often the further marginalization of the victims.

If you are interested in learning more about this project, please visit the following websites: http://web.mit.edu/fll/www/people/JingWang.shtml (Professor Jing Wang’s personal webpage) and http://ngo20china.wikispaces.com/(NGO 2.0 wiki site).