Finance: Internet 'vital' for voluntary groups

Voluntary and community bodies must use the internet to engage with their stakeholders, according to a new report by the Economic and Social Research Council.

ICT, Social Capital and Voluntary Action warns that groups that do not embrace new technology will be overshadowed by those that use online facilities to boost their 'social capital'.

In the report, Jayne Cravens, former director of the United Nations' online volunteering service, dismisses the idea that people tend to substitute online volunteering for traditional on-site volunteering. "Internet-based forms of service and sharing are usually extensions of off-line activities and groups," she writes.

Cravens adds that "most online volunteers are not geographically remote from the organisations they support; they are round the corner, not round the world".

In his contribution to the study, Ben Anderson, deputy director of the Chimera research institute at the University of Essex, writes: "The concern is that IT initiatives may lead to those communities already rich in social capital benefiting most."

The results of the report were discussed last week in a seminar led by Karl Wilding, head of research at the NCVO. Commenting before the seminar, Wilding said online activity offered communication that was "enabling new connections to be made".

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