Development 2.0: on which camp are you?

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Literature on Web 2.0 technologies applied to developmental problems is rapidly growing, and with it, two camps are beginning to emerge. On the one hand, there are those who see Web 2.0 tools as an enhancement of traditional collaboration and outreach capabilities. On the other hand – and to my mind more intriguing – there are those who believe that Web 2.0 is heralding a new business paradigm.

To the former, the failure to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon is a missed opportunity to tap into new audiences and fundraising possibilities. To the latter, it represents the risk to development organizations of becoming obsolete, bypassed by new players who are more adept to exploiting the innovative potential of "radical collaboration". A recent online dialogue titled "NGO 2.0 – the end of the organization?" sheds some light on this issue.

The latest voice to be added to the choir of advocates for a disruptive new paradigm is, quite fittingly, Anthony Williams - author of Wikinomics. His vision for NGOs 2.0 is remarkably similar to some of the ideas presented in this blog. For instance, the proposal to use Second Life for collaboration between donors and recipients, or the idea of launching a development market to tap into the wisdom of the crowds.

The distinction between the two camps is not purely academic. It is when you start looking at Development 2.0 as a new business model that the most promising insights for collaboration between development organizations and the private sector are generated. The whole area of managing innovation – traditionally a strength of the private sector – is an obvious starting point.

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