Mobilising Online Communities to Your Cause

Vinika D. Rao is the Executive Director of INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute and Parminder Singh is the Regional Managing Director for Southeast Asia, MENA, India at Twitter.

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On September 6th 2014, floods struck Kashmir and thousands of people were stranded across the state. There was a complete communication breakdown as phone and mobile networks went down. When contact was made with people in the affected area, they were asking for help in the local language and the volunteers who wanted to assist did not understand. A common language and communication platform were needed. That’s when a Twitter team was mobilised to create the hashtag #Kashmirfloodrelief.

It proved to be a simple but immediately effective solution. Within 24 hours, people from different parts of India and around the world connected on rescue and relief efforts. The hashtag went viral. Individuals, volunteer groups, the Indian Army and the National Disaster Management Authority all used it to coordinate their efforts. Airlines pitched in to ferry people to safety. A website, jkfloodrelief.org, was set up to collate information and direct donors. Ultimately, this led to the creation of @InCrisisRelief, which consolidated efforts and is now used as a citizen-led disaster relief handle managed by a volunteer group. The power of the internet, the ultimate connector, had been put to use in the best possible way.

This story and many others like it reflect the rapid social shift taking place on the back of the technology revolution. But it also reveals some fundamental principles for building and mobilising communities to prominent causes.

The full article was first published on INSEAD Knowledge.

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