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Network-Centric Advocacy coming to a flash mob near you

I now join those that predict a Flashmob of Bush protest ...Flashmobs for the silent majority...Flashmob fundraising...flash mob riots...flash mob fights..Flash Mob trash Clean ups..

Flash mobs are still just very silly (often described as " artistic events, performances that are fun to participate in") Very cool but pointless. However, flash mobs are the initial tumbling and "play" of networked world flexing real world touch.

Like a baby, we will "fuss and play" inorder to master skills and build strength. Watch a cat "play" tag with other kittens. It is all fund and games until the kitten realized birds taste good then "sneak and pounce" turns out to be less fun for the birds. Soon, Flash mobs will be pointed at someone or something...show a minute of silence, a community scream for justice in multiple cities with millions of people (even for 60 seconds) will start to scare the crap out of the body politic.

This is network-centric movement, it will awaken network-centric advocacy. How about all flash mobbers show up to vote at 3:00 EST with masking tape as arm bands? Flash mobbing is a perfect example of network-centric behavior...it is a coordinated activity among individuals without any centralized organization or governance.

Network-Centric Advocacy is going to be amazing!


Deregulation Defined by Industry

Thanks to Solarbunny (energy policy blog) for pointing out an a great article on Bush family and the energy policy.

POWER OUTAGE TRACED TO DIM BULB IN WHITE HOUSE --- by Greg Palast

I really like the way Greg defines deregulation "the industry leaders got together to swear never to break the regulations again. Their plan was not to follow the rules, but to ELIMINATE the rules. They called it "deregulation.""... nice touch.


Strategic Value of Technology in an Advocacy Context

I have been kicking around a lot of the applications of technology to advocacy but I ran across an article by Nicholas Carr that has opened a new potential thought process for those of us in the nonprofit advocacy tech space.

“IT Doesn’t Matter” – May 2003 Harvard Business Review

The article is a pretty well crafted attack on the strategic value of information technologies in the business world. Carr argues that currently are in a period of the commoditization of IT. He looks at railways, electric power and IT curves of adoption and warns that the “resource” of IT is becoming essential for competition but inconsequential to strategy. It is a good article.

I disagree with his article as a whole…I would actually compare the IT revolution more with the advancement in medicine, the invention of the writing and agriculture. The information technology revolution does not seem to be just about data storage and transfer but more about computational power and being able to visualize and solve problems that seemed impossible just a few years ago. (I think of DNA mapping, Mars exploration, GIS visualization of environmental threats, monitoring global warming, etc.) On a basic level the IT revolution is helping employees solve problems ranging from spelling and math to finding directions. The IT revolution provides us with an opportunity to attack (and create) more problems with more depth than ever before. You can saturate the country with electrical power lines and railroads but not with computational power.

However, I did like the article and it has inspired some new thinking about open-source technology, approaches to nonprofit advocacy work and ways that nonprofit technology assistance providers need to adjust our thinking.

The bit that really has me stuck follows.

“Chief executives now routinely talk about the strategic value of information technology, about how they can use IT to gain a competitive edge, about the “digitization” of the business models. Most have hired strategy and consulting firms to provide fresh ideas on how to leverage their IT investments for differentiation and advantage.

Behind the change in thinking lies a simple assumption: that as IT’s potency and ubiquity have increased so too has its strategic value. ….It is mistaken…What makes a resource truly strategic-what gives it the basis for sustained competitive advantage –is not ubiquity but scarcity. You only gain an edge over rivals by having or doing something that they can’t have or do.”

We are seeing these patterns with Move-on, the Dean campaign, websites, email strategy, etc. The early adopters get some tactical and political advantage but soon other sites reproduce the tools and what once was a an advantage becomes “basic equipment”.

So…What are the implications for advocacy groups and campaigns?

1. The progressive advocacy movement must immediately focus on the advantages that we can develop that our opponents can not. The most obvious would be that the relationships with our supporters is based on good-will rather than financial gain. Another would be that the movement can “share” more effectively than competitive businesses (anti-sprawl groups can share data, techniques, staff, content and tools at lower costs than small developers or Walmart and Kmart)

2. We can shorten the learning curve across the sectors and geographic regions so that in a “fight to fight” basis our allies gain strategic advantage.

3.We can invest strategies that make the most use of cheap and easily accessible tools, in open-source projects and share hardware and expertise to quickly erode advantages gained by opposition at higher costs.

These approaches are all more consistent with network-centric advocacy than with strong organizational focused support and development. I think the Carr article will be one of those that need to sit on my desk to “ferment” for a few months before I really understand its full implications to advocacy theory and my work.


Blog Campaign Against Agricultural Subsidies that Hurt the Third World Farmers and Cost EU and US $$$

A blog campaign is on the roll. The blog received 11,000 hits on day three and is off and running. The work is also an inspiration to pull together some of the essential tools and suggestions for executing a network-centric blog campaign. My comments are not on the strategy and ideas related to the Cancun meeting but suggestions to fellow bloggers and supporters of kickAAS. On ways to be more effective organizing a loose campaign.

1. Request that volunteers write short blog statements everyday on the issues and economics that explain the problems with agricultural subsidies. Allow content from websites and blogs to be copied and posted again on many different blogs, newsgroups, etc. (This builds message volume on the web and helps your point of view begin to saturate the blogosphere) It also recycles older content into a new format that gives it new life.

2. Ask supporters to visit chat rooms at major newspapers and TV networks to do rapid response to any articles that can be tied to your campaign (newsroom folks and web producers watch these to see how stories are getting traction.)

3. Clip stories, good blog entries and articles to forward them to friends via email. A majority of people get NEWS via email from friends and family. Tell them why the article is important why you agree or disagree and see if they knew about the injustice and cost of the agricultural subsidies.

4. Setup a Paypal Account (no tax deduction for donors but helps with hosting, maybe the $149 upgrade to the citizenspeak account, working on the site and a campaign slush fund that might be needed to help fight in Cancun) Paypal is easy to set up. It also shows folks that if you care about an issue you need to toss a buck in when they pass the hat.

5. Setup links to get every individual registered to vote. The ultimate political power is exercised in an election.

6. Set up a campaign on Citizenspeak.org and put the link in blog entry and links so that folks can voice their opinon and the campaign can contact them a few times before Cancun.

7. Set up (or co-opt) a few Meetup.com meetings so that people have an opportunity to meet face-to-face to discuss strategy and get to know each other socially.

8. Set up a "Wish list" link that what is it that you need how can folks provide it for you.


Loggers, Skidders and GPS Units

The article in Fast Company on GPS units on concrete trucks seems to beg why not use the GPS units as a "under house" arrest unit for machines working around environmentally sensitive areas.

As part of settlements and permits to work in a sensitive area, national forest, near streams and wetlands the machines should be fitted with GPS units and communications gear that would track the location of all on site machines throughout the time they are onsite. If machines wonder into sensitive zones warnings could go off ultimately power to the machine could be cut protecting the sensitive habitat. The exact location of these units and the permitted work zone could be provided to internet volunteers to monitor. It would also provide supervision of work in very remote locations.


Campaign Emails

Email is the primary connection users have with the web. Millions of people only use the Internet to access email. The problem has been that many of the advocacy organizations have put too little thought or strategy behind message targeting, development and use of email as a mass communication medium.

The following site is a great collection of campaign mass emails. These email messages seem long but they are a quick scan and tend ot catch the readers attention pretty quickly. These messages go to more than 100,000 readers. Dean is shooting for 400,000 and Kerry campaign has popped over the 200,000 mark. (I have not seen GOP numbers but I bet they are impressive.)

CAMPAIGN BLAST EMAILS

Please comment with the observations and tricks that you tease from these messages.


A Democratic Denial of Service: The political Boss comes to the Web

In a reaction that would have made James Michael Curly proud, the people of California are going to use the viral organizing of the web to replace the boss politician. (Curly ran democratic candidates with same name and/or multiple ethnic candidates to slit opposition base.)

In what Stuart Vance describes as ``a denial-of-service attack on the recall,'' he and some tech buddies want to overwhelm election officials with up to 1,000 names. That could exceed the number that fits on ballots and force the Oct. 7 election to be delayed.

``The more confusing the ballot, the more likely we are to affect the election,'' the site says. -News Article


While the Stuart Vance push is a not a genuine grassroots effort (vance is providing $$) it raises all sorts of interesting issues for democracy like the idea that we need to "ignore the masses" because it has become to easy for them to participate. We are already seeing this with the public comment rules put out by the Forest Service and by the fact that Congress only weighs "for and against" mail.

Is it really a "denial-of-service" or can we believe that at least 1000 people would like the job for Governor. The boldest thought is that this is real democracy and part of the scare that our founders worried about in the Federalist papers. I love it.

Lets' open the doors to mass participation. Good luck.


New Strategy for Telecom Competition: Forget Product and Services Hijack a Grassroots Campaign

The Issues Dynamics hijacking of the Grey Panthers is yet another example of availability of traditional grassroots outputs.

Consulting services and grassroots management companies like Issue Dynamics have leveraged the reductions in the costs of technology to provide instant “off-the-self” campaigns cheaply and effectively. In the process of building these “instant” constituencies they have devalued genuine popular support. Targeted mailings, phone banking, letter writing, and event organizing (traditionally, labor intensive processes that required as much free labor as large organizations could assemble) can be purchased cheaply thru the private sector. Why support large organization to do these activities if they can be mirrored with such ease?

"This ad was paid for by Gray Panthers." ....not really the Washington Post reports that the ads (the $200,000 was raised by Issue Dynamics Inc. a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that represents the Baby Bells in their fight to keep WorldCom out of business -Washington Post Article

Issue dynamics ..helping corporate interest win each fight and killing true power of grassroots groups in the process...


Every Cell Phone with a Camera is Now a News Outlet

The Online Journalism Review covers the TV news in Japan picking up phone video of a 12-car pileup.

Everyone with a phone that can take an image can transmit "live" news. Organizations should be playing with this approach as they document protest, illegal acts or arguments. It is not much different the activist video project except now folks can document disturbing images and transmit in the same moment publishing to a personal web page, blog, organization web page or directly to the news. (more on advocacy video)

Advocacy groups have had cameras broken, tapes confiscated and been intimidated by on site “security officers” into exposing tape. The ability to move the data off site live would have protected valuable content.

There is a multi-billion dollar network of communication infrastructure at the end of our cell phones. We have just begun to figure out ways to co-opt it for democracy rather than commerce.