Reading through my Tweets today, I was struck by something that I’d known, but I was unsure if I’d really felt before.
There it was, plain as day: Save Saab, the Haitian earthquake and a rescheduled corporate shareholder meeting for a company that I’d never heard of.
Naturally, you may ask yourself: what do these things have in common? Why did this set of seemingly unrelated items make things “plain”? The answer: they all indicated how the power of internet communication have given common people a voice they’ve not had before. We the people now have an impact that previously was diluted with the distances that separate us physically, linguistically and economically.
The impact of the individual is obvious to those of us following the saga that is Save Saab. The convoy that visited GM’s Detroit headquarters was limited to a few determined people that could handle the logistics. But, as luck would have it, some others had the idea that all could participate virtually by showing support in their own location and in their own way. Once the Dutch started organizing their convoy and showed that it could be done, others began to see that their efforts, no matter how small, could make a difference in the way that the world perceived Saab. Each individual can do their part to show that Saab isn’t dead. Quite the contrary — Saab was more alive than ever in many ways.
The internet connected individuals into a web of supporters that could well save an automaker and employer of thousands.
Likewise, the Haitian relief efforts have been remarkable. The imminent tragedy has been well-publicized on the Internet, and that’s a part of the story. However, in this context, the big news is the number of individual contributors that have poured their savings into a mammoth pool of funds to save an entire nation. Think about that for a moment. An entire nation. According to the United Nations, individual donations comprise roughly one-third of the approximately US$400 million raised thus far. In fact, there has never been a four-day period of charitable donations like this, ever. How did the money get there so fast? The internet. Plain and simple.
The internet enabled individual donations to quickly and directly go to save the lives and health of the people of Port-au-Prince.
Finally, the rescheduled corporate shareholder meeting. It seems that there were too few shares voting on important changes in the corporate structure to complete the meeting agenda. In days past, only the votes of institutional shareholders (banks, insurance companies, brokerages, etc.) that held large blocks of shares really mattered — they comprised the majority of voting shares. Typically, individual shareholders could only marginally affect such votes. However, because the Internet allows for the individual investor to be directly involved with equity trades and investments, there are more individual shareholders in every corporate pool. In this case, enough to upset the normal scheme of things with their apathy (unfortunately).
The internet enables individuals to have more stake in our economy than ever before.
The impact of the individual through the long arm of the internet. It’s amazing, and we had a front-row seat for one of the most uplifting chapters in this story. Save Saab, indeed.