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Many-to-one or one-to-many – the use of participatory internet technology by NGOs in Germany

Kathrin Voss
Universität Hamburg
Kathrin Voss
Universität Hamburg
Open Panel

Abstract

When it comes to the question of how the internet is changing the communications of intermediary organizations, some are extremely enthusiastic, some are extremely skeptical. Some predict that the internet will be the gravedigger of traditional NGOs, because it will undermine their dominance as they rival with new net-based organizations as well as with the grassroots capacities of the web. As people organize themselves on Facebook & Co they will less engaged in traditional NGO activities. On the other side of the spectrum, there is the assumption that traditional organizations will benefit of the advantages of online communication. That goes along with the idea that the more participatory web 2.0 technologies will create positive organizational change within NGOs as those applications can be used not only to integrate the views of members as well as non-members into the work of those organizations, but it can also be used for organizing political action. My paper examines how NGOs use the internet today and if and how they make use of the participatory potential of web technologies. It will depict research results from a survey conducted among 135 German organizations, working in different field. Those findings will be contrasted with finding from similar surveys from different parts of the world. In addition, some selected examples both from Germany and from the USA will illustrate the topic in order to answer the question which of those contrasting perceptions of the influence of the internet on NGOs is right. The paper will show that different types of organizations make different use of the new communication possibilities and that only a few organizations use dialogue oriented web 2.0 applications.