The new coffee house for public discussion is the Internet. It began in the early 1990’s with Newsgroups of the nascent Internet. Today it has evolved into social networking systems like Facebook and Google+ on which a reasonably large subset of the community takes part. The story of the Internet involves community and collaboration. All organisations now need to understand how the Internet has changed how people have social discussions. Before the Internet people simply didn’t have access to mechanisms with the capability to communicate with a large number of people. We now have technologies like YouTube which allow people to post videos and communicate their point of view around the world. Web sites can publish information for all the world to access.
Over the last few years the NZARH have been putting effort into our web presence. Many of our new members joined after finding us on the Internet. But we need to understand that this is not simply a new way of advertising ourselves; although it is this. Neither is it simply a new way to publish our newsletters and journals, although it is also this. The Internet is not a ‘read only’ mechanism. It was designed from the very start to be non discriminatory; to allow everyone to have the right to transmit information.
Part of our mission in recent years has been to invert the focus of the organisation to be outward facing. To a degree this has been a success. The Secular Education Network has been a success, with over six thousand people following our campaign on social media. Our Sean Faircloth event was also a success last year. Without the Internet such campaigns and events would have been far more expensive and difficult.
At the last AGM we introduced and electronic membership so that people can join the organisation for $35, but will receive all communications electronically. As part of this change we will be making articles from The Open Society available as part of our web site. We have introduced the ability to join and renew online, with payments by credit card. Soon we will be introducing a online shop which will allow people to purchase merchandise. We also have a donations option on the web site so that people can donate to our various projects.
These new capabilities will support our future campaigns. These campaigns will continue to increase our visibility and our membership.