Building Social Capital Through Web 2.0 Tools. The Case of the Catalan Third Social Sector

Teresa Torres-Coronas, Maria Arántzazu Vidal-Blasco and Ricard Monclús-Guitart


The Third Sector is the sector where private non-profit organizations (PNP), worker- owned companies or cooperatives, mutualities and, similar service providers operate to achieve higher levels of social inclusion and cohesion. The Third Sector, which is included in the social economy, pays particular attention to the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Third Social Sector, which makes most of their income from private donations, has a growing role both in size and visibility within the social and economic systems. In recent years the development of the Third Social Sector in Spain has been really rapid, highlighting the development of social policies. There are currently over 25,000 NGOs and foundations that have created about 475,000 jobs.

The current situation and the continuing and rapid changes occurring in the digital world are affecting the way in which business organizations, in general, work and do business. The emergence of Enterprise 2.0 model incorporates this idea of change focused on the development of collective intelligence, social interaction and social capital building as sources of value for companies. It is then clear the importance of ICT for organizational growth and development. But also, Information Technologies and Communication Technologies, and now social software, are needed as support tools for knowledge creation and therefore as tools to step up social and economic development.

ICTs are transforming our society and also the way that public, private and nonprofit organizations are managed. Not only has ICT allowed organizations to acquire and share information in real time but, ICT has make it easier to broke communicational barriers by providing access to any geographical area and any stakeholder. This last issue is having a deep impact on both organizational effectiveness and efficiency through social capital building.

For the Third Social Sector, ICTs represent a key opportunity. On the one hand, in a context in which society demands greater transparency and accountability, ICT allows a more efficient management of resources. On the other hand, ICTs are used to search for new economic resources by strengthening communication between PNP and those institutions potentially interested in giving them economic support. Finally, ICTs allows them to be more effective in achieving their objectives through the use of technologies for collaboration, community building and knowledge sharing.

Since the use of ICT and web 2.0 tools does not require big financial investments, these technologies are increasingly becoming a mass media communication channel, which are beginning to be used for organizations of the Third Sector. Though, it should be noted that, in general, the use of Web 2.0 tools in nonprofit organizations is still very unusual (Albaiges, 2007). It is also important to remember that not everybody working with social entities has access to these tools, which could create digital exclusion within the most vulnerable people. A lot of work has to be done to end with this digital exclusion where web 2.0 tools can play an important role.

In Spain, institutions such as the Observatorio de las Telecomunicaciones y de la Sociedad de la Información (, Fundación Orange ( and Fundación Telefónica ( ) have been studying the changes that new technologies are causing in our society, but their effects in the Third Social Sector has been poorly studied. For that reason, the purpose of this paper is to see whether and how ICT and, in particular Web 2.0 tools and social software, are being used by social institutions of the Third Sector, thus moving towards a more participatory culture. Thus this paper will explore how the Catalan Third Social Sector is using web 2.0 tools to build social capital.

This paper will look at the use of web 2.0 tools for…

  • enhancing connectivity and interactivity among PNP’s stakeholders.
  • developing opportunities for higher participation among PNP’s stakeholders (from voluntary workers to society)
  • facilitating collaboration and social capital building between social organizations.

Besides the possibilities that Web 2.0 technologies can have in transforming the way social entities are managed, it is important to evaluate their potential for improving their visibility and their public image. This is useful to raise awareness about PNP’s mission and social values, to mobilize the civil society and, to build a more participatory and collaborative culture. Obviously, in the connected society, web 2.0 tools, through social capital building, can greatly contribute to the social development that our society still needs.


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