Social value creation through digital health activism in an online health community

Chamakiotis, P. Petrakaki, D. & Panteli, N.(2021), Information Systems Journal

The study explores how online health communities produce social value by uniting individuals under a common purpose, to advance healthcare in post‐conflict states. We selected MedicineAfrica – a digital platform known for creating social value by providing medical education in regions with under‐resourced healthcare systems – and drew on multiple data collection methods. We found that it is through a unique form of digital health activism that social value is created in this context. Drawing on a sociological understanding of digital health activism, we make the following contributions: First, we identify three types of non‐economic, social value: cognitive, professional and epistemic. Second, we indicate that social value creation is enabled by three emergent forms of digital health activism (ie, philanthropic, moral and reciprocal activity). Third, we elicit three enabling mechanisms explaining how these forms of activism are technically and socially afforded through the platform’s connective capacity and emerging collective practices in tandem with its members’ growing commitment. Our article contributes to the growing IS literature on digital activism by offering a framework that elucidates how digital health activism relates to social value creation. The article provides practical implications as to how platforms can enable sustainable online (health) communities.

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