The Internet is revolutionizing all aspects of our society, from commerce to education to politics. By eliminating barriers of time and space, the Internet has opened the door to new possibilities in global communications and connectedness. It has also opened a Pandora's box: Those without access to the Internet and the understanding of how to use it are at a serious disadvantage and risk being left behind in the New Economy. Unless more fundamental social issueseducation, health, economic opportunityare addressed, these wonderful new communications technologies could exacerbate longstanding inequities in our society, leading to a permanent underclass.
The Morino Institute was founded in 1994 to understand the opportunities and risks presented by the Internet and to advance positive social change through the intelligent and constructive application of the Internet and the technologies that support and facilitate it. These are the principles that guide our work.
- People, not technology, make change. Technology, by itself, is a thing. Silicon, wafers and wires are amoral, neither inherently good nor bad. Technology becomes important only when people apply it to a purpose. Technology enables and facilitates change. It is not an end in itself.
- Profound social change comes from the bottom upfrom engaged parents, teachers, clergy, activists and othersworking day after day in our cities, towns and neighborhoods. It is important to identify and partner with those people and institutions who are tackling the issues, understand the needs and are making real progress in their communities.
- People and institutions already working in communities are change agents. Funders and others who want to make a difference should not believe that they can drop in a solution. They must work with and through those already in the communities. The technology companies have slowly learned these lessons; you can wire the schools but if the teachers don't accept or know how to use technology to advance learning, the wiring doesn't really make a difference.
- It is essential to understand the fundamental issues before change can occur. The Digital Divide, for example, is not truly about those who don't have access to the Internet and related technologies. It is, instead, a symptom of more profound and longstanding gaps in access to economic and educational opportunity where technology holds one of the keys for opening doors.
- The funding mechanism that supports nonprofit, community-based human services organizations must change. We must make strategic investments to target resources for maximum effect. We must make significant, long-term investments in people and institutions, and we must support these financial investments with strategic management and technical assistance. Those investments should focus on pressure points that are levers for change. And these investments must be targeted to organizations that already have clear missions, strong leaders and proven track records within their communities.