I just came across this interesting article by the CEO & Chairman of Accenture Bill Green. It gives some context to my after after-hours hobby project (creating an alumni portal for my school back home in Bombay). While the similarity is not direct, but it definitely points to the nature of action being rooted in local small communities.
Taking this thought one step forward.... Imagine local communities being able to collaborate with other local communities -- making driect contact. As a catalyst, multi-national companies play a key role in encouraging their employees to this form of global networking. Imagine colleagues sharing their experiences and their local networks across the globe to grow their local communities.
Making this a bit more concrete -- and personal:
Consider the school as a community. It is a fascinating thought -- my children working together with students from my alma mater. The experiences and networks from such collaboration would most likely surpass the end-result or deliverable from such a project. The value of the improved understanding between youth is hard to measure but is very much there.
I guess measurement of such "societal value" is a possible research topic?