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Trends May Support Network-Centric Fundraising

Jim Moore points out some great trends and general guidance on the ways folks can fundraise online. Don't request money for a general organization. Jim thinks that the data is going to indicate that the way to get online fundraising to work effectively is to pitch specific projects. People are not interested in supporting a general nonprofit but they will pay for things that are "immediate, tangible, transparent and personal." This trend shows there is a potential for loose networks to raise funds. It is possible to raise support for activities without a major brand backing the operation.
The other interesting points to consider include: Trends seem to favor investment in specific, targeted political television ads over general contributions to MoveOn. org. Is this because brands are not as important as transparent strategy? Or is it that these efforts are appealing to a new type of investor?

Technology-Amplified Collective Action

Howard Rheingold kicks out some much needed message volume on the importance of using connectivity to turbo charge collective action. His voice adds to the handful of activists promoting new campaigns and encouraging groups to think about decentralized "wings" that are designed to exploit the connectivity of our society.

Activists should now concentrate their efforts in this last sphere—technology-amplified collective action. The above examples are just the beginning. The capabilities of media are multiplying the number of people who use their mobile phones as Internet connections and text-messaging media is growing explosively. And activists are only beginning to experiment with ways to multiply their ability to organize collective action.

Influencing elections and legislation is the sine qua non of effectiveness. In the next few years, peer-to-peer, self-organized, citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media will either demonstrate real political influence, be successfully contained by those whose power they threaten, or recede as a utopian myth of days gone by. What progressives know now, and what we do soon, will decide which of those scenarios unfolds

Speed counts. The activist community needs to use the window of opportunity created by the current climate to build the infrastructure for network-centric action. We need straegies that build Strong social ties, common story, shared communications channels and technologies, shared network support services (HR, legal and fundraising mechanism) and a "seeded" team of network catalysts to plot pilot campaigns. We need to "grease the skids" for citizen-centric movements enabled by smart mob media.

These networked campaigns are not magic. We just need to think of more ways to engage the non-joiners and plot campaigns that feed off the waves of interest in a society that moves too fast.

The Political Lessons of the Do Not Call List

I am surprised there there has not been more analysis of the way the National Do Not Call list formed over the summer. How is it possible that 50 million Americans found a link on a web site and a 800 number and visited these to register numbers? There was not a drive to "register" campaign run by some advocacy group. There was not a big grassroots campaign. The government did not send out information to everyone in America. The media picked up on the story and fed the appetite which made the story more news worthy (cycles described by Steve Johnson in Emergence). In fact, the do not call movement is more amazing when you look at the timeline of events and the fact that there was so much confusion about the value of being on the list and privacy concerns about adding your name to any list. 10 million people signed up for the registry in the first 4 days.

There a few great lessons that need to be teased out of this experience. The lessons are social, technological and political in nature. They provide a glimpse into who network-centric advocacy campaigns target (folks that want to opt out of continual connections and a population that is suffering from to much information) and the dynamics that network-centric campaigns feed on (crazy media cycles, connectivity of the public and power of very loosely organized people)

First, A huge chunk of America hates unwanted phone calls. I would suggest that a healthy subset of the 50 million people really would like to stop all unwanted calls from reaching them. If they had the option they would opt out of calls from all phone banks, telemarketing companies and robo-dialers. (They really don't want there to be loopholes for business with existing relationships, organizations, political parties or charities). A big set of people want privacy and quiet more than they want information via phone calls from anyone. (The same dynamic may be true with junk mail, spam, calls to action and online newsletters)

Second, in a society as connected as America (166 million residential phone numbers, 147 million U.S. cell phone numbers, 66% of the Adult population makes it online from 137 million residential use of computers at home. finding information is not the challenge it once was. A huge slice of the population is connected to a dense communication grid. They can find information and act on it very quickly. If you are doing something that they are interested in and it is helpful a huge slice of the "don't call me I'll find you" crowd can find you. However they will not be thrilled to see that the only thing they can do to support your cause is to join and give up privacy.

Finally, an unorganized group of people has power. The Do Not Call list was challenged by a $50 billion dollar telemarketing industry. The industry took the law to court and lobbied actively against it. They were ignored because no politician want to give millions of people a reason to organize. The Congress and the White House acted twice to make sure the Do Not Call list was not an issue (after the project showed so much support). There was no "group" to represent these masses they were able to speak for themselves with a very low threshold of activity (enter a phone number and email).

The campaigns of the next two years need to think about this model and the lessons of the Do not Call list. What advocacy campaign could take 10 million tokens of support in 4 days? Do we enable people to support our campaigns without asking them to join or give up privacy? Do we plot campaigns to exploit the modern news cycles and the connectivity of the American public? Do organizations plot campaigns that aim to speak with people rather than for them? We can.

Quality Control and Network Advocacy

A friend of mine has been asking me some great questions about quality control in a network-centric advocacy model and in network-centric campaigns. The issue is interesting because it is one of the side effects of decentralizing power that freaks out the serious political players.

The reality is that there is no quality control. Everyone has voice and quality control comes as the community filters by where it throws support and energy. There are some new examples of quality control managed by a self-regulating community including SlashDot, Ebay Reputations, E-the There have even been some useful papers on reputation management (google "augmented social networks") Some folks would point to the blogosphere as a self-regulating quality control community.

These systems are nice but they are technical. They do not prohibit some whacko from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. These "zingers" can be a huge problem in political or advocacy context. Campaigns have watched backlash swing public opinon and sway votes. This is a huge problem for the "brands" that need to be able to reign in staff that go off message or quickly distance themselves from stupid comments by others in a coalition. I have been to lots of conferences and meeting with lots of local advocactes I do not fear quality control.

The line of questions about quality control sheds light on the real problem with perspective on control and leadership. It assumes leadership by experts or professionals comes by virtue of the group they represent and those they distance themselves from rather than the value of current contributions. In a network-centric campaign you and your team are reponsible for your own actions. No one speaks for you. You speak for no one but yourself. The political power does not come from "members you own" but rather from the reach of the network that trusts you, your team and your plan.

Network-centric campaigns are different and will need to be planned in a different way. They enjoy different strengths and weaknessess. Ideally, Network-centric campaigns are not going to be planned to hinge on the nuance of scientific interpretation nor reading of specific laws to slowy build incremental change. Network-centric campaigns are going to draw direct correlations between painfully obvious events and the need for policy change. These campaigns are going to drive the transaction costs of doing something that folks get really pissed about down to zero so lots of people can engage and disengage quickly.

The reality is that reputations are always built on a case by case basis even with the large groups. Key staff hang around the legislative chambers long-enough to build relationships and trust with key staff and elected officials. Network-centric campaigns could support similar expertise and professionals that do not tie themselves to a single organization.

Network-centric campaigns will be able to maintain a compeditive quality to the large organizational campaigns because they will carefull planned to scale quickly and be targeted to create change in very short periods of time. Network-centric campaign teams will have better access to better staff for shorter periods of time. They will piggy back on the contributions of large organizations and help those groups stretch impact on issues.

Work gets picked up on the Hill and in the community because it is good solid logic being pushed by solid and smart players. Many of these professional lobbiest use documents, maps, photos, video, talking points etc. that do not come from large organizations. The "downside" of brand opinion is that it can exclude valuable expertise. I can think of lots of cases that good solid opinion that is discredited because of the source is not a big national environmental group. I also have friends that discredit everything NRDC says beacuse of the ALAR scare. There are many folks that filter opinion because it is from large national groups.

Quallity is a reflection of the inputs into the products, the skills of the craftsmen shaping the product, the control of the production environment. Network-centric strategy improves the variables across the movement by distributing the assets more widely. More people means there will be more policy and communication products but it does not necessarily mean less quaility and it will in no way threaten those that are committed to designing and deploying the best campaigns.

Testing Networks Capacity to Achieve

I ran across this great little article on Defense Department Test of Network Tools on Smartmobs. There are a few nuggets for advocacy efforts and those of us building and testing network-centric advocacy campaigns. The key benchmarks that the Defense teams are worried about seem to focus on interoperability, pushing capacity "out" and information saturation.

While the systems and applications are very different, it is still not difficult to look at network-centric advocacy strategy and use these as part of the test matrix for our strategies. First, interoperability in our context relates to how well groups build components of the campaigns (content, posters, communication tools, ads, organizing materials, etc) so they can be useful to other groups working on the issue. Just like technology systems we need to make sure that brand, proprietary systems and licensing present little challenge. Second, advocacy campaigns can look at campaign tactics and investments and try to look at the ability to "push" capacity to the fringe. Can a local group of moms in Florida pick up your tools and campaign investments and move your agenda in the local community? Is your campaign working to "pull" people into your organization or "push" you view points and campaign materials out to the edges of the movement? Finally, the article provides campaigns with a new information exchange benchmark. Are all the participants that support you able to access the very best and most current information on the campaign? Do your field operatives have the data and information needed so they can adjust strategy?

Honesty, is a brutal thing on a campaign trail but a truly network-centric effort assumes that the strong social ties and dense communications grid will help those movements that are honest in reporting the dynamics of the campaign. The biggest threats to success are often the senseless rallying of the faithful with cloudy overviews of the political and financial realities facing the campaign. I am not sure third tier candidates loose much by admitting they are not going to win in the current climate. They should play more cards on the table so the supporters know why it is important to back them. (Green Party may have provided more of an impact and had longer-term success if they were open with voters rather than painting a picture that a vote for Ralph could "win" in 2000.)

"Information typically has been retained in agencies' channels until the product becomes intelligence," said John Osterholz, director of architecture and interoperability for the defense CIO office. "We don't want to hoard data until it is done. We want to provide it as soon as possible."

Our campaigns need the same approach. Give the good people on our team access to the entire picture and all the tools they need to help.

Threats to Organization(c.3) Based Advocacy

The four major threats to the effectiveness of organizational advocacy are:

1. The dynamic nature of issue advocacy creates larger inefficiencies as organizations grow in size.As organizations grow, the contributing public is locked into investments of maintaining large overhead through periods of diminished interest in changing environmental policy. These continued steady investments and involvement during times of inactivity undermine confidence in the organizations ability to use investments wisely. Unable to adapt their model to more closely match expenditures with genuine opportunities to pass policy, organizations continue to push for policy change during times when legislative, administrative or court support is limited. (ie. 2002-2003)

2. Cheap market alternatives can now mimic the output of larger organizations and are supplanting traditional large organizational advantages.
Consulting services and grassroots management companies 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. The opposition has found counter-measures to such organization mobilization tools. Targeted mailings, phone banking, letter writing, and event organizing (labor intensive processes that required as much free labor as large organizations could assemble) can be purchased cheaply thru the private sector. Many politicians and political offices now ignore email or faxes and merely weigh mail piles and form cards.

Availability of affordable technology (intranet PAC sites, corporate advocacy tools) and communication services (ads, polling, auto-dialers, Internet and media bookings) help narrow focused interest groups and their lobbyists counter balance the traditional methods, strategies and tactics of broadly supported organization campaigners.

3. The contraction of attention cycles in the modern 24 hour news cycle both intensifies and shortens opportunity to push policy.
The 24-hour instant news world works against both large and small organizations. The media cycle is shorter and more intense. Media have developed an unchecked feedback loop where the coverage of a story by one outlet helps a story become newsworthy to other outlets. The more that a story gets covered, the greater the public interest. Interest leads to higher ratings, which leads back to more coverage. This loop runs very quickly and is only stopped by story fatigue.[Emergence] The resulting dynamic is a tighter attention cycle and a smaller window for creating policy change fueled by earned media. The American public’s attention has developed into a fast paced and rapidly changing appetite for news. The media move from story to story very quickly testing the “stickiness” of a storyline and set of characters.

Smaller organizations do not have the resources to cope with the attention of a major media story. Larger organizations can cope with the strain of media attention but cannot shift policy and program directives quickly enough to capitalize on the opportunity media attention represents.

4. The shift in demographics is away from “joiners” to a more casually connected base of support.
The most troubling trend and direct threat to the organizational structure is a basic shift in behavior of the American public away from “joiners”. The United States is no longer a “joiner” country. Demographics and membership data show that the average citizen does not join organizations, political parties or institutions. Increasingly, individuals get involved in an issue on their own terms rather than on the terms forced on them by organizational membership. Membership of major organizations is increasingly old, white and declining. The membership of groups is not reflective of broader societal diversity. However, this trend away from membership is not a trend away from popular support for environmental protection. Therefore, groups must adopt advocacy strategies that are not merely designed to build and capitalize on membership (membership is still very important but only for a small minority of the public.)

In a fast paced and connected world, people interested in an issue will be able to find the leaders working on an issue (not everyone needs a newsletter and long term engagement contract to help you). The challenge is to adopt new strategies that can adopt succesfully to rapid rise and fall of issues in a modern connected culture. Traditional organizational culture and managment dynamics prevent smoothly adapting to this new reality. The movement and the organizations that launch campaigns must add a network-centric advocacy component to all campaign planning to capitalize on the connectivity of the modern body politic.

Letters to the Editor, Free Speech and "Astro-Turfing" by US Command

NPR's Cokie Roberts discusses the Bush administration's launch of a public relations offensive on Iraq. Cokie basically describes the effort as a "local news campaign" to bypass the questions of tougher journalists. She talks about the Clinton model running local to get away from inside the beltway crowd. It is interesting all by itself. However, this new public relations strategy is a huge problem if they are manipulating soldiers to "build support".

I wonder if it is anyway connected with the military "astro-turfing" of soldier opinions. Somewhere in the command, public relations folks are producing letters to build support for the war. I am not sure where most folks would stand on the war but the big issue here is the direct manipulation of the editorial pages by the command and administration. I might not get ramped up if it is from a "campaign or movement not associated with the military" but Gannett interviews soldiers that did not sign the letters. It also looks like those that did sign the letter were asked by a superior (which is really troubling because it is against policy for soldiers to go into the media to disagree with the President or leadership.) "None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense, or the president of the United States," said Gen. John Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command.

Gannett asked several commanders that did not have knowledge of the campaign. It is fine if the government wants to show how well things are going in Iraq. However, the government is not making the case very effectively. Journalists are seeing the good and the bad. They are painting a complete picture that Bush and Rummy dislike. The government can reach any journalist and the President and his designated spokes people can easy start a dialogue with reporters. The problem is that journalists want to tell the whole story.

Someone in a leadership position for the US troops in Iraq has taken to "astro turfing" - creating a fake grassroots support to run around the filters of the media and place stories directly into editorial pages. (This is a common tactic of lots of small organizations to encourage membership to write letter to the editor but that is real grassroots our volunteers can always say "no" or publish the opposing opinion.)

Kudos to Gannett for catching the ploy.

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours...And all the letters are the same....A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash...
Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year..

Hopefully, someone with more access and smarts can make sure there is no connections between “Bush avoids national media to build war support” and the astro-turfing campaign by local soldiers that are by regulation not able to speak freely.

Emergent Democracy, Direct Democracy and Network-Centric Advocacy

A next stage in direct democracy cannot be reached without policy and tools to build trust with leaders, socialize issues and the chance to participate in process equal to the lobby and those who hire them. Premature attempts to go direct will only bastardize the process as it was yesterday. - Ross Mayfield

Emergent democracy is only going to emerge as groups and movements begin to internalize the implications of pushing advocacy and policy within the networked society. We need to invest in the social connectivity (cheaper because of technology -meetup, web conference, conference calls) for individuals to build the trust levels needed for a new wave of self-organizing advocacy campaigns to succeed.

All poltical advocacy and campaigns are currently conducted by organizations (c-3, c-4, 527), the people and staff of those organizations are still tied to self-interests, governance and ownership of the organizational entity. These organizations are merely exploiting the network nature of society for their own aims. They are not generally adopting the broader agendas of network participants (mission statements and donation managment often get in the way of environmental staff jumping into an antiwar fight. Laws prevent them from election work, etc.)

The samples of truely grass roots fluid self-organized (unregulated) teams plotting campaigns, attracting resources of talent, skills and funding and leading in a new direction are very rare. (9-11peace, poets against the war, FCC fight?, Amber Alert Legislation, Millionmommarch) Succesful network advocacy campaigns are even harder to find (the geeks and self-organizing teams are not making the proper connections with the political wonks.) Poltical wonks still have not seen "wins" so they are resistent to let go of the limited resources they control to untested network-centric advocacy efforts.

"Emergent democracy is about leadership through giving up control, activating the people to engage through deliberation and action, and allowing emergent order to grow from the grass roots."-Joi Ito

YES...However, we are all very excited about the possibilites and not building the "nuts and bolt" strategiges and support structures groups need to influence policy. We are not selling groups like the AARP, civil rights or unions that they should "free up" resources to serve network-centric campaigns. The DNC or NAACP are not going to hand over the political power to a loose band of out of work tech folks without seeing successful campaigns.

The Dean campaign is unique in that they are linking network connectivity with strategy. They walked down this path because they were the underdog with no resources. (vs. Kerry, Gephart, etc) They have effectly learned to plug folks in at the volunteers comfort level. Most importantly, they "have religion" so it won't be difficult for them to translate the openess of the online community to a completely unconnected grassroots world. They are shooting for message volume not message disapline, they are shooting for issue dominance not brand dominance. They are absorbing enerrgy with effciency. The core team seems to understand and therefore they will continue to devise network-centric approach to oganizing those left on the other side of the digital canyon.

What we really need is more talented pople to focus and on connecting the resources that we do have creatively and scaling self-organizing involvement stuctures with our core activists. We also need to invest in strategies that counter balance the self interest forces that pull movements apart (a task that could more be easily accomplished in connected world but one that is by no means assured.)

I hope a new crop of thinkers start talking about investment strategies and tools for exploiting emergent democracy because those with the resources to create this new super level of engagment are only going to "buy-in" when we can layout why it is the only real path to help them realize their own goals.

Avoid Fist Fights with a BeeHive

In a fantasitc exchange among power media gaints, the House Majorty Leader and a small virtual community coordinated by five staff. The little guy wins in a networked society. MoveOn benefitted from the further attention to the cause, highlighted a serious issue, and made the opposition look small and petty. Nice work.

Right wing crank yankers
Pariser is more surprised by DeLay's stunt...because, as he says, "This is the guy who's the majority leader. He has a responsibility not just to members of Congress, but to the whole country." ...The progressive Internet organizing group has reduced two pillars of the right-wing establishment to pulling petulant phone pranks. On Tuesday, the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay..

This response raises some interesting challenges for MoveOn. The more MoveOn staff get dragged into the spotlight the more likely they become a "single" point of failure. Hopefully, MoveOn will expand the "guest" voices but not really target existing recognized spokespeople (big nonprofit or poltiticos) but instead expand the voice of regular members that could take leadership of MoveOn for a moment then disappear back into regular working life.

How would the same call and tactics have worked if instead of Eli the target from MoveOn was a local cop, teacher, nurse, etc.? Hello, Chicago Trib a Nancy the Nurse from MoveOn suggested I call you about the Novak colum. Here is her number 555-temporary MoveOn cellphone. 4000 calls from Nancy the nurse. Tom Delay staff screaming about the ability of some random nurse to shut down his phone system. MoveOn needs to adapt some strategies that will freustrate the counter punch of its opponents.

Games, News and Hollywood

I was watching an interview with Bill Gates and he said the "Video Game Industry is BIGGER than Hollywood." There are lots of reasons why this may not be true and the messenger is biased (not counting DVD and VCR sales) but the point is that there are lots of games and people who game out there in America.

I know that many movements are working on product placement in Hollywood stories (safe sex, environment, anti-gun, pro-gun, etc) They really are working to place products and ideas in the TV and films we watch but do we have an equally talented groups of people working the gaming industry?

I can think of lots of ways that we fight over liberal and conservative dominance of Hollywood and movies but I am not sure folks are really paying much attention to the video game industry as a channel for advocacy and political communications. (Army games recruit)

Unfortunately, I don't play games much. (My family rents units around Thanksgiving so we can whack each other in a game of 007, but generally my nephews kill me quickly and I jump back in line with the other 14 kids, brothers, wives rotate in to play winners.) I started to Google for political games and games with causes and ran across interesting articles on Slate ,
and games like Political Tycoon, and State of Emergency.

Gaming is a new communications channels. We need to continue to look for ways to plug into the opportunities that this represents and find ways to give voice to the audience. Bill Gates is interested in building new games that foster interaction and leverage the connectivity of modern culture. to speak and connect in to new audiences and speak the language of our people have looked at each major

NewsGaming. This company gets it.

We need to spend sometime gaming our scenarios so that the game world can include progressive messages. Can we actually use games to create valuable work products? The army is using games to recruit teenagers.

Self-Organizing Teams Supported with Online Training Courses

The Dean Campaign continues to apply some of the best examples of network-centric distributed organizing implemented to date. I really like the format and step-by step nature of the tools. We have seen this with the Million Mom March, United for PEace and Justice. River Network developed a paper version around the Clean Water Act. Clean Water Network had things like this around the Safe Drinking Water Act. However, internet tools and Internet users have come such a long way.

Similar online organizing tools are needed for all future campaigns. This isn't hard. It is a few step by-step guides with links. I would like to see a "add a comment" feature on the bottom of each page so participants could add tips and tricks and create dialogue. In fact I bet it would be a piece of cake to set up an "Organizing Guide" category in Blog, then create the six pages of training, links to key files and a very cool add a comment feature on each page.

The novelty is that the campaign is really working to get out of the way. It assumes you are smart and that you will try to help without running each action through HQ. I would assume they are loosing some folks because people would be screwing up the message and brand but they make up for it in volume.

The Failure Points of Network-Centric Planning

Measures of Effectiveness for the Information-Age Navy: The Effects of Network-Centric Operations on Combat Outcomes by Walter Perry, Robert W. Button, Jerome Bracken, Thomas Sullivan, Jonathan Mitchell.

I ranted on the fun part of the Information Age Navy two days ago (Here) but there are a few more snips that I want to explore. It seems that in the theater that the navy team is interested in the computer or scenario modeling they are finding the weaknesses in network behavior. As with all great research the conclusions come to "no kidding" results. (Fatty food can be bad for you research.)

The first one that they try to point to is related to scale and collaboration payoff. At some point in the evolution of a network campaign the rewards are outweighed by increased complexity.

Instances may occur in which burdens of network complexity outweigh gains of increased opportunity to collaborate

There are a few reasons that this statement could be true in a political context. First, I would say the "you are going to lose anyway" law will skew the calculation of gains. The anti-war protest may have reached this point a month before troops rolled into Iraq. Potential network participants started to look at the gains and opted not to participate. Second, the largest factors that dictate the "truth" of the statement center on network complexity and network friction. If bringing new participants "up to speed" takes a larger investment than opportunity payoff then the network should not welcome additional participants. Conversely, if it takes too long for the network to calculate the value of and deploy new participants then the participation is not offset by gain. Finally, the quote assumes a "rigidity" or inflexibility in the deployment scenario that may not be "as true" in a social movement context. (Missiles and planes moving to attack a country ) is a much more defined moment than a campaign. In most (but not all) network-centric advocacy context if the "new" node has huge potential the campaign can "reset" the timeframe.

The quote adds clarity to the things that a campaign or movement "must have" to scale. These tools center on speed, information exchange and awareness, and the ability of new network members to quickly plug into tasks that matter.

This is definitely appropriate in national campaigns and advocacy movements. The large professional staff will often attempt to "go it alone" because the complexity of organizing and working with lots of smaller groups is perceived to be burdensome. (Kerry, Clark vs Dean campaign styles). Key questions to ask as groups plan a campaign should center on "success". What can we do alone to win? What happens if we start to succeed and more people want to join in the effort? How do we reduce the joining friction? How do we absorb as much energy, talent and resources as society is willing to offer without becoming a choke point in the engagement process? Can we make use of someone that wants to offer $1 or 2 minutes of time as well as someone that wants to give us $100,000 and offer 10 fulltime staff to help for 3 weeks. I would bet Dean Campaign can answer yes to both and most others can not.

The Perry paper has another quote that in a social context swings focus away from the tools and onto the strong social ties:

Among the factors that affect the value of collaboration is the knowledge the decision making team members possess about critical elements of the operation and their level of experience acting as a team. A team capable of highly effective collaboration is not apt to benefit from additional members-regardless of the new members knowledge
The quote is about trust and network tactics. How does the network of people implementing a campaign trust each other? What does the network do to reinforce that trust and practice the "team" between campaigns? The other fact that the quote points to is that once that team is assembled and running another new team should form to execute an independent but complementary action. ( I think this could be linked to the GORE-TEX management strategy mentioned in Tipping Point or Linked - 150 employees per unit, don't expand the plant to 200 start another building for the next 150-)

The ditty that has me really stuck is "The downside of networks, the larger the number of connections in an operational network, the more likely nodes will experience “overload” . I worry that most our people and certainly most of America feel like they are "overload" already. As the movement becomes more networked we are going to need to devise strategy and tools to assess each participants connection capacity and a "protection tool" to prevent overload. I see emerging intermediaries as examples of that framework. Move-on could be seen as a overload protector for individual move-on members. Move-on shifts from campaign to campaign, environment to politics to anti-war but they are very careful not to jump at everything. In a new network-centric advocacy movement participants will need some sort of individually controlled filter. ( I know this is a sloppy end but this overload question might need to fester for a while before I find any clarity)

"Free" Network Tools Wisdom from the Dean Blog

Jon Stahl pointed out this fantastic thread on Howard Dean's campaign blog, his supporters from around the country (173 comments so far) are dropping great tips for online organizing tools. They already have one of the most successful social toolsets built to date. Dean is dominating the battle for web dominance. In a very open way, they used a thread to harvest ideas and energy from supporters.

My favorite suggestions which are consistent with network-centric advocacy include:

1. Self-organizing batch email tool by location
2. Self-organizing phonebanking tools
3. "Bugzilla" for issue identification, policy drafting and ranking
4. Karma system for blog comment filtering
5. Distributed media production room for multi-media projects (like steve johnsons suggestion)
6. Clear talking points volunteers (distributing spokespeople)
7. Reminder system to step-by-step participation focus on little things to help ("write your grandma")
8. Ability for the user to opt off all snail mail. User defines methods of communications.
9. A way to create small "working groups" or forums where supporters could organize
10. Webcams in key offices
11. Ability of anyone to download and print ANY of the allied literature and posters
12. Lots of UI wish list (calendar, timeline, etc. Easy universal login and profille)
13. Photos and details on key activists
14. Discussion forum and email listserve
15. Outlook address list upload, FOAF
16. Audio and music files available to download for events..greatest hits and speeches
17. Use of guest host, speakers and bloggers
18. "lunch for Dean" dragging a lunch crew into the issues.
19. Distributed door knocking tools to create walking list
20. Collective document creation
21. The continued random acts of associated kindness (dean food program)
22. Distributed list of elected officials to lobby for endorsements
23. Distributed Media Outreach tools

These are fantastic. They are not asking the central hub for more things or money. They are looking for tools that enable the supporters to engage each other directly. They are looking for ways to distribute the workload of a presidential campaign with each other.

Campaign Group "Optimization" in Network-Centric Advocacy Context

Measures of Effectiveness for the Information-Age Navy: The Effects of Network-Centric Operations on Combat Outcomes by Walter Perry, Robert W. Button, Jerome Bracken, Thomas Sullivan, Jonathan Mitchell.

I am not sure why an environmentalist should read Information Age Navy but it does get one out of the day to day grind of watching Bush administration decimate our environment. Millions of tax dollars are being invested into defense thinking …some of it must be valuable to other context.

Actually, Perry and his gang have really worked hard at attempting to develop standards that can be used to evaluate effectiveness of operational networks. (I hope that the future of their work is not classified. ) I look forward to following the completed study and to see if the matrix of standards can be used to refine network-centric advocacy campaign planning.

I would like to explore a few quotes here (others tomorrow). I have stripped and teased them with hope of making the appropriate linkage to the network-centric advocacy context.

Network-centric is generally “thought to be the linking of platforms into one, shared awareness network in order to obtain informational superiority, get inside the opponents decision cycle and end conflict quickly.” It is an interesting perspective on the goal of network operations. It does not surprise me that information awareness is a key part. I also follow the quick conflict thoughts. The point that I have given no thought to is how network-centric advocacy campaigns and a networked movement enables progressives to "get inside the decision cycle" of our opposition.

What does that mean? How do self-organizing campaigns collect and distribute resources in such a way that the actions create more awareness of the opponents decision process and influence it at the same time. Network-centric advocacy campaigns need to add a decision cycle "monitoring" capacity focused on opposition tactics and attempt to "forecast" the steps they may take to neutalize a campaign. I kicked around a related point in old blogs (Web Site Tracking for Advocacy, Speed not Secrets Drive Network-Centric Campaign Success, Crisis Communications - Create a Crisis for Your Opponents. However, the "inside the decision cycle" creates a new goal for network-centric advocacy campaign planners to incorporate as they layout advocacy plans. In our context, I can see campaigns that are launched in response to a "spill" pushing media attention in a way that forces the opposition (industry responsible for the spill) be more transparent in the decision process. The goal would be to foce them to invest more money in the clean up (money could by speed of clean up or best practices and longer term monitoring) or prevention efforts (because of the network response changes risk calculations and costs).

Looking at traditional vs. network operations they “the difference is that in traditional models one must mass force to mass effectiveness because each participant acts independently, whereas in network-centric approach effects are massed rather than force. That is, systems are “optimized” to improve aggregate performance, possibly at the expense of individual unit performance.


This is a great quote. Perry has looked the the perfomance of networks and individual components of the network for "optimization" . This quote resonates with my experience in working with large national group staff that "see" network-centric action as a less efficient use of the resources they have. These large hubs will need to act as part of the connection grid being less efficent units of the movement in order to optimize aggregate perfomance of all the groups working on the issues. Green Group strategy focuses on massing the polticial force of the network rather than connecting the efforts of lots of grassroots directed efforts to create mass effects on policy. Standard engagement at the grassroots level groups consist of large DC groups asking locals to help them in a campaign in DC. It is the exception to the rule for nationals to provide brandless horsepower to a local fight.

It is really hard to appear less then "optimized" performer to funders and supporters. The result mimics the models in the network computaitons done for the Navy. Each unit in our movement strives for individual performance peak often at the expense of aggregate policy impact.

Searching for the "Sweet Spot" in Group Effects

Clay Shirky cranks out a nice overview on group dynamics and social software. A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy." touches on both social sciences the group behavior of online communities. I really like Shirky's dive into W.R. Bion's book "Experiences in Groups." (Extra-bonus to use see pre-Internet literature providing value). There are a few points that make the article relevant to network-centric advocacy.

First, it challenges the "build the self-organizing tools approach" with a rich history of self-organizing tools that eventually are destoryed by the lawless nature of the tools. (We should look at his guidelines to see if they apply)

Second, the article stresses the importance of group membership and groups (somewhat anti-network-centric). "It's obvious that there are no groups without members. But what's less obvious is that there are no members without a group. Because what would you be a member of?"

Third, the article has a "seed" quote. (one of those quotes that I know is important and worth exploring but I need to let it germinate for a period of time.)

"So there's this very complicated moment of a group coming together, where enough individuals, for whatever reason, sort of agree that something worthwhile is happening, and the decision they make at that moment is: This is good and must be protected. And at that moment, even if it's subconscious, you start getting group effects. And the effects that we've seen come up over and over and over again in online communities. "

The quote sticks and is worth mullling over. I agree with it. Group dynamics do eventually take over. However, network-centric advocacy seeks the sweet spot of the "complicated moment". Acting while the momentum forms and disappearing before group effects outweigh the benefits of scale. I can think that flash mobs might fit the "sweet spot". If the mob stayed for more then a few minutes police, fire codes and permits, leaders and rules would need to quickly get involved. However, the gratification is complete and the crowd disappears before negative group effects kick in.

Can the speed and shorter nature of network-centric advocacy campaign life-cycles negate much of his talk. What is we don't make the mistake and don't feel the need to organize a long term community? I can't resolve it so it is a "seed quote" I'll return to in the future.

Activate Yourself: Decentralized Wake Up Service for the Body Politic.

One of the biggest problems with decentralized action is that it will be "spiky" in nature. People in decentralized campaigns might get "fired up and engaged" during a crisis or accompaning media circus but eventually they will shift attention to other activities. This is the biggest problems for the current advocacy groups and a dynamic the politicians count on to push some of the worst special interest policy. They have traditionally exploited the idea that people have short term memory.

Large organizations have used this reality as a major reason to keep people engaged and try to recruit them into the long term membership. Network-centric advocacy needs to make sure there are mechanism to "reactivate" people at key moments (like elections). A flash mob against the war does not scare politicians today but a flash mob that resgisters voters and commits them to an election day flash-reunion would start to get the attention of those in office. (See Move-On Democracy Mobs)

I went overseas on a volunteer assignment when I got out of college. Before all the volunteers departed, we wrote letters to ourselves. The letter was given back to us as we landed two years later. It was a powerful experience.

So...We need to do the samething for our network-centric advocacy efforts. We need a decentralized campaign management tool. If we get folks interested in an issue today, we need to have them leave themselves a message (voicemail, email, posting, etc.) that will be delivered "from them to them" on election day. No need to keep a third party organization around to remind people, no message, branding or spokespeople problems. During the network-centric campaign the organizers would only need to point folks to the "wake up" system and provide them with some prompts and language to work from.

Marty, Please call 555-1212 confirm your return number or send a messsage to yourself at this link. (we will deliver for you reminding you to register and on the day before the next election. Please record how you fell about the Issue "X" . How do you want to make sure you vote? Tell yourself how important this is" How From You to You

Think of it like a long term wake up service "to the people from the people". A simple report could let politicians know that 100,000 people have left reminders to look at the candidate positions on clean water before they vote. No lobbying group, no PACs, no electioneering reporting..message loops that are managed by the masses to self-organize political clout.

The job of professional advocactes would then shift from attracting an individual to a branded longterm relationship to a series of campaigns that get folks to pay enough attention today to leave themselves a serious message. (something like an open source "Mr Wake Up"Iping) the whole service could be set up with a single democracy grant. The service will send no ads, no one owns your name, the data will never be used for anything exept the reminder the user sets up.

This would be really easy to do.

NetGen Wants Small Group Organizing

Kudos to danah boyd for taking notes at an Intel briefing on NetGEN. Her blog is coffee. She is also consistently one of the most interesting blogs I read.

"Melora Zaner from 3 degrees came to speak at Intel about the Net Generation". The advocacy movement is missing the entire Internet Generation (12- 24yrs) from our actions, style and causes. As a movement, we need to read as much as we can about our next group of replacements voices.

NetGen's prioritization of communication forums is interesting. Face-to-face dominates. Next comes cell phone (SMS or not). Next IM (usually AIM). Then email. Many had Live Journals which are more valuable as a form of communication than email. Email is assumed to be tracked by parents; cell phone conversations are not. Email is for dealing with parents. If there's going to be asynchonous behavior, use LJ (group commenting).

"NetGen deeply desires small group organization online" There are those in the movement that hope to "train" these younger folks into supporting the large old style advocacy. They will fail. NetGen are the future of our movement. We need to find mechanisms to foster effective political and civic engagement models that support small group self-organizing and work with the tools and channels they respect.

The bad news is that the communication channels Zaner finds are not being used by the advocacy movement. It also raises serious questions about the way we work to reach the older cohort of Netgen. How many advocacy campaigns and movements have geared "organizing" activites around the ways that NetGen talks to each other? Let's start developing our message and campaign tools to move across the channels that the NetGen uses.

The good news is that the NetGen will be very prepared to engage in network-centric advocacy. They are comfortable with the tools they need to maintain relationships over long distances. They can quickly organize thoughts and plan actions in chat rooms. They can reach each other very effectively (cell phones and AIM are always on) with fast connecting technology. They will not let anyone dominate the social discussion for very long but if you find a way to appeal to them they will plug into campaigns very quickly.

Clipping Services, Chain Letters and a Decentralized "Fairness in the Media" Campaign

Do you regularly try to track news stories on key issues in your state? Do you try to “watch dog” a local politician or spokesperson for the opposition? Wouldn’t it be nice if every time your opposition popped into the news you could get an email alert?

You have got to love Google Newsalerts. It is not a free clipping service but with the right strategy, advocacy groups can use of the newsalert tool for many of the projects we are working on.

Encourage volunteers and staff to enter email address at Google news and key areas of interest into the newsalert system. (or offer a link (see below) The first job of the volunteer is to “filter” news from noise. Google newsalert drops an email that notify users a new clip or finding "Clean air - Maryland" which is your volunteers area of interest. No one has looked at the article yet. Step one of the process is to help filter important stories from nonsense. Is the article (Link,text, story text etc.) really related to clean air issues in the State of Maryland? If yes what outlet is it from? Who wrote it? The volunteer can then forward key articles to your group. (Respond, say Thanks)

You now have 1. a stream of articles popping into your mailbox. 2. volunteers interacting with your organization. 3. more informed volunteers 4. a list of volunteers that might be willing to do letters to the editor to respond to articles in the news.


Now try it with some friends who care about an issue and your favorite listserve. No need for a centralized organization to push back on the media.

Future complexity could include forwarding the messages between volunteers. (if only we had a distributed media database that the progressive movement could share we could build a complete rapid response system (see my day job)

Dear Virtual Volunteer,

"Another voluteer has tolds us that the following article in (OUTLET NAme) by (REPORTER NAMe) is on the Issue of Clean Air. (Is this Correct?) Are there problems with the articles? What are they? Would you saw the article is biased how? (other Move-on areas of ranking and interest)(Can you paste in clips form the article that you find offensive our wrong) (why?)

Third volunteer...
"Two other volunteers have been working on this article (all Article details generated by volunteers) is this right? Scale the problems with the article? Other comments? Should we send it to a few more volunteers to elevate it toward the media "Hall of Shame"?"

Final Touch...
Send all the volunteers that “touched the story” a final report for additional comments. (Track by subject line). The trick to encourage volunteers to grab the contact information for the reporters. The final all volunteer article report could then be made available to a final group of activists that like calling reporters on sloppy coverage. The final volunteers get an email that was generated much like a chain letter . This reporter at (OUTLET() can be reached at ....Please give them a call....tell them why the story was wrong and ask them to do a follow up...Tell them to call these groups that work on the issue...etc.

Please Comment with Feedback and implementation tips.

(I watch the news on the Inner Purple Line Project in Maryland..I even offer it as a link on the Inner Purple Line Blog)

I am just kind of cranking this out so feel free to offer feedback on the idea, technical or management issues and level of value that this might provide?