The one of the problems with actually implementing a Network-Centric Advocacy approach is that the network would have difficulty "swarming" on issues. The rapid adjustments of people, resources and technology into place to make a difference on the way events are managed is a key challenge to network advocacy. However, if a network was able to set up a private trend monitoring system, the participants of the network would be able to see issues emerge before the opposition would have any clue that resources were building against them.
I used to think that the only way for advocacy networks to move together would be to key action on media attention. (I.E. if an issue or event is on the web, in the newspapers, on radio and on TV for 2 days then the network participants would shift resources into place to help reinforce the progressive messages and lessons that can be learned from event.) This would work but it has three limits ...lag time, media agenda and joining a fight at the crisis moment. It has some strengths but it would require incredible speed in getting resources into position.
Tools Can Monitor Attention to Social Issues
An amazing tour of www.infoid.org has opened up a new world of a early warning system. Richard Rogers has created an amazing tool called the "Web Issue Index" . The tool is a "ticker" with issue layers. The significance (rise and fall) for an issue is measured by frequency of certain terms mentioned, frequency of mentioning and traffic a URL . Richard Rogers has been using the tool in all kinds of cool ways watching the flow of change in the issues.
Hopefully, the tools could be tweaked to monitor the pre-website communication channels (listserves, media advisories, calendars of meetings, etc.) These monitoring tools could provide an advance peak at emerging issues to network participants so that "swarming" becomes increasingly based on the network agenda rather than strictly on media coverage. A private and secure system would not reveal the details of the traffic but would help network participants start to connect with the right players and begin the shift of resources into place for emerging campaigns.
The Web Issue Index of Civil Society may be likened to a consumer price index. A consumer price index watches price fluctuations in a stable set of goods for indications of inflation. The Web Issue Index watches the campaigning behaviour of stable sets of non-governmental organisations for indications of attention to social issues.
Check out www.infoid.org