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The 7 R's of Advocacy Logistics

After kicking around the Dell case study, I have been poking around logistics sites for insights on the importance of "placement" in creating value. It turns out that there are seven "R"s that guide exploiting supply chain for advantage.

Logistics is also defined as time related positioning of resources. The whole concept of Logistics is based on 7 R's which are: -right place -right time -right quantity -right quality -right price -right condition -right customer

Advocacy groups need to think about these R's in the context of campaigns. How can your campaign be more effective by hitting the "R's". Your campaign will fall flat if launched in the wrong place, at the wrong time, if the quality is not good, if conditions are wrong and customers or voters are not interested. The campaign will also fail if it tries to attract the wrong customers and the price of action is too high.

Traditional campaign planning focuses on improving quality and targeting the campaign. There is often not enough focus on ways to hit the other R's more effectively. Can we start setting the campaign in "holding patterns" campaign assets like staff, content, tools and funding stored in an advocacy supply chain. The result would be that campaigns (like businesses that focus on exploiting supply chain advantages) will be able more effectively meet timing and conditions set by the social landscape.

Network-centric campaign strategy enables campaigns and organizations to take advantage of place, time and condition variables that can effect campaign outcomes.

Dude, Your Getting a Dell: Network-Centric Advocacy: Learning from Michael Dell

Background on Dell
Michael Dell is the CEO of Dell Computers. He started Dell in 1984 with $1,000 and an unprecedented idea - to sell computer systems directly to customers (no big box stores, catalogues or building his own distribution network). Dell lets consumers (individuals then businesses and government accounts) tie directly into the chain of choices the company makes in building computers. The consumer feedback is “real time” input into the products the company produces that day. Additionally, Dell runs extra efficiently because it quickly feeds information to parts suppliers via the internal secure communication networks so they are only “feeding” Dell parts in demand.
The result is that Dell builds computer systems to order. Dell also has the ability to introduce the latest technology much more quickly than companies with traditional models for inventory management. Dell is changing inventory every four days on average. Long-term planning at Dell is unbelievable considered to be a forecast over the next 4 to 12 weeks.

How did Dell do it?
Dell has invested in technologies that enable them to monitor the supply position of every part. If any part is in short supply due to greater demand, Dell checks with its supplier to find out if he can increase supply of this part in the next shipment. If the part in short supply is a generic one - example a hard drive, it checks with alternate suppliers. Once the supply options are exhausted Dell approaches its sales and marketing team to check if the demand can be moved to some other products.
Dell’s build-to-order model ensures that a computer is built only after an order is placed. It can survive because it can build computers the same day they are ordered. Dell’s focus on maintaining a continuous balance between supply and demand helps minimizing excess and obsolete inventory. Dell’s system ensures that it never has months of inventory anywhere. If it observes a slacking of demand even over 2 days it pro-activates corrective measures to balance the demand and supply.
Dell’s strategy of winning is based on using technology to more effectively scale outputs with demands and minimizing excess inventory.

The Advocacy Lesson
There are some very thought provoking lessons in the Dell story for advocacy groups. Here is a new business model that focuses on feeding supply to meet demand. This model is only possible in today’s world of dense communication ties between consumers and producers.
In the advocacy context “demand” is the public appetite for policy change. The “supply” provided by the advocacy movement is the staff support (speakers, stories, policy expertise, media coverage, organizing, membership and fundraising) to meet that demand.

Applied Network-Centric Advocacy
Some of the best grassroots organizers and the most powerful advocacy organizations are extremely flexible in the work they do (assess the last 5 issues by MoveOn) These leaders in our movement understand that if an issue gets “hot” the organization can jump into the fight and in the process attract new membership, build organizational profile and make a significant contributions to a cause. Many activists think groups like this are chasing dollars or publicity without putting the hard work into setting the policy groundwork for the big battles. I have even seen resentment grow between groups that are perceived to be “stealing” the show (remember Dell did not invent most the stuff they sell).
There are two ways to adapt to this new dynamic. First, groups can fight the success of the model. The movement can try to “control” who gets involved in which campaigns. Groups can try to restrict what other organizations write about in annual reports, media releases, newsletters, emails and fundraising appeals. The struggle of “who gets credit for what” can become and endless supply of fun (private sector does this via patents, copyrights, trademarks, lawsuits and intellectual property fights) The other option is that advocacy movement can embrace the lessons of “on demand” supply and try to exploit it to your advantage.
Not many groups that can say that in the fall of 2002 they predicted all of the major battles they would be involved in for 2003. From watching staff time slip into anti-war efforts, fighting the roll back of mercury controls, or fighting judgeships, we rarely can forecast with much accuracy where “demand” will be in 4 to 12 weeks like Dell. As a movement, we are locked into building “supply” based on grants and campaigns for 12-18 month ahead of time. We spend lots of “supply” and build up a large inventory of content, research, bills in committee and media attention when there is no “demand”.

New Steps
There are alternatives to the current model of engagement. Launch an “On Demand Initiative” within your organization and your coalitions. Each On Demand Initiative consists of both internal work and external investments.
First, develop an internal plan to capitalize on the natural ebb of attention around the issues that your organization works on in the regular year. How can you quickly increase staff support to anti-sprawl groups when the utility inflames a community by purposing new major power line projects? How can you have a campaign ready to launch in few hours that requires double the amount of staff you have today? What happens when the dam breaks, fire runs wild, or a celebrity steps into your issue? Are you ready to “scale”? What do you need to do today so you can meet that demand? How can you rearrange work so that total strangers can jump in and help you?
Second, set up the communications tools and matrix you are going to monitor to track “demand”. Who are the most reliable early indicators that a story is going to be “big”? While the old “if it bleeds it leads” rules of thumb may not hold true, many advocacy staff do have a pretty good radar for knowing when a cancer cluster, fire, industrial accident, drought, invasive species, political scandal, etc. is going to create “buzz”. Can the buzz be turned? Do the groups involved in the issue have an “On Demand” plan? Can the energy be channeled?
Finally, come to terms with the fact that helping others and jumping in to crisis hot issues is strategic and smart advocacy. Listen to your instincts of “hot issues”, if you think that your contribution of some chunk of staff time, expertise, manpower or connections to the public may be the investment that “wins the day” jump in for a few days. Your best staff often help their friends from other groups in a pinch. Let them feel good about it and know their work is supported by the organization, funders and membership.
Many of the most successful long term organizers often feel like they run from “fire to fire” jumping on opportunities, responding to attacks and doing the best they can. They get dragged into strategic planning process where strategists continue to push the linear plodding step-by-step campaigns. The alternative is to adopt infrastructure to support another alternative business model that can respond with the demand flux driving the “fire to fire” approach to advocacy.
Launch an “On Demand Initiative” to serve the progressive needs of the broader community who are not your current members or supporters. The goal is to support allied nonprofit groups in moments when their staff resources can not effectively absorb and harvest public attention and demand created around an issue. Make this investment because it will help build progressive momentum, build connections across organizations and payoff tenfold when your group needs help the most.
Build tight communication ties between other “suppliers” that can help meet demand and let your customers drive a bigger portion of your production.

Blogs as Training Tools

The Dean Campaign continues to apply some of the best examples of network-centric distributed organizing implemented to date. The Online Organizing Training is a beautiful example of ways to take "insider" knowledge and distribute it. I really like the format and step-by step nature of the tools.

I think similar online organizing tools are needed for lots of 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.

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. I am going to try it with a basic communications training.

The problems I expect with using a blog as a training tool are mostly on setting up an easy search, controlling the order of the posts and navigation challenges. However, given how easy it is to create a post, edit a post, create unique categories....a blog tool could be a great training tool.

Typepad also offers unique "typelist" that offer serious control of the order and maybe able to provide easy navigation.

How to Write Advocacy Email: Email Usability

I have poked around some of the online literature on email formats, spam, etc. (Past Email Related Posts ) I even picked up Jacob Nielsen's study on "Email Newsletter Usability" (A good review but not worth the $$$$ for advocacy groups). I think there are a few great resources out there for the nonprofit community that focus on using email to build "high" touch feel of an organization. (OneNW has lots of good insights)

However, the uses and success of email is always changing. Today, spam is choking inboxes of even the most casual users. It seems like email strategy needs to change too.

Nielsen does hit some gems in his latest work. First, new insight is the email is a "burden" perspective. Means that advocacy groups should only use the email to communicate key information..If you wouldn't pick up the phone and tell someone about the content or you wouldn't pay to send the information don't abuse your readers because sending fluff because email is free. Nielsen suggests considering email is a "burden" on the reader. (Unfortunately, those that send email don't often think about that point before they set up the monthly spam.) This advise starts to run counter to some opinions I used to have about using email as the always on "connection" between the groups and members. (I also look forward to comments that suggest that nonprofit relationship mail is treated "better".)

Content and message drive the success of the communication but here are some tips that might be useful.

Email Tips:
1. Most valuable "property" is the (FROM) and (SUBJECT)
2. Set up (FROM) addresses that are informative (<30secondactions>, <2min2HelpRivers> etc. Can still be from your email address but play around with the name of the FROM also personal messages are really good)
3. Very Clear and Specific Subject Line (Never generic like important, Call to actions..newsletter 2, etc.)
4. People seem to like conformation emails. (whenever they do something .Sign up, etc)
5. Tell folks what they want to know first. (We need you to look at issue X for 2 minutes with us. We want you to Y).
6. Include full contact information from sender.
7. Design the content to be scanable top lines are key. Yet also offer complete thoughts (link to additional and backup support)
8. Very Brief and To the Point
9. Make sure the email answers key questions that the content might raise
10. In general email Newsletters have very low open and read rates

Email Use and Tricks Rules:
1. Subscribe on your website
2. Tell a Friend on Your Website
3. Send A Confirmation Email
4. Make subscribe Easy and unsubscribe Easy

From Nielsen: "A striking conclusion from the study is that processing email is a stressful burden on people. Users frequently told us that they were too busy to deal with certain email messages and that they considered any fluff in messages a waste of time. When users "check their email," they're dealing with multiple requests for their time, including messages from their boss, colleagues, and family. People just want to be done with most email, and quickly move past anything that is not absolutely essential.

Gideon Rosenblatt's Blog: Email usability

Demystifying the "Magic" of the Dean Campaign Approach to Advocacy

Jim Moore takes an insider peak inside the Dean campaign with Joe Trippi. I like the trends and "findings" that Moore asserts at the beginning of the post (points A to G). Moore finds that campaigns are different now because of very network-centric concepts:

1. Speed (time to battle) is used to eliminate defensive options of your opponents options.
2. Power Distribution (distributed capacity to grassroots field staff and volunteers).
3. Improved situational awareness (everyone is in the "know" fostered by connectivity) of the whole picture.
4. Scaleability and inter-operability (participation by large numbers)

You can spend years looking at the Dean campaign and try to figure out how and why his campaign has "magic" or you read through Department of Defense literature n network-centric systems and realize that political campaigns and advocacy movements are just coming up to speed on things they have developed over the last 20 years. These campaigns are repeatable and based on sound operational theory.

Building a Political Machine on a Laptop

The Washington Post nails a analysis of some of the dynamics driving the success of network-centric advocacy. It is great to see the larger outlets start to pick up on the reality that advocacy in the age of connectivity is actually transforming the type of structures and strategies activists and campaigns can rely on to organize and exert political power. There are additional reasons for the existence and efficiency of the "Firm" that have been expanded on by Coase and other subsequent economists including the abilities to collect resources, organize labor, reduce duplication and synchronize team direction. However, the tradional approach also assumed that management of such tasks needed to come from a hierarchy and therefore drive the creation increasingly large organizations or small but tyrannical micro-managing power centers (sounds like lots of variations on nonprofit models- bureaucratic , egomaniacal or both)

The advocacy and campaign movements (borrowing from co-working, consultants and open source development models) now realizes that when you assume that everyone is on the same team and intent on moving in the same directions (reduced costs, project completion, profit or campaign success) many of the functions of the "Firm" can be phased out because of the density information flow between your team members. ("Flatter and Faster" as Ehrlich points out) The Dean campaign has a bigger worker base and a smaller core leadership team then their opponents most importantly they are organized in a way that can exponentially expand worker base without demanding a larger core team.

Q: What will happen when a national political machine can fit on a laptop? ....The biggest fault with the Post article is the assumption that the "campaign structure" is Dean's to move as Dean wishes. Erhlich doesn't make the leap in understanding that Dean or his small staff don"t "own" the structure. The team could easily "cut and paste" Dean out of the picture. This same core of people could veer off and attack Dean (impact of draft Wesley Clark's core team being "replaced" by traditional insiders attempting to take control. Clark messed up and the self-organizing team was so pissed by the way they were treated by the "new leadership" his virtual worker base evaporated.) Dean and his core team are pulling off some amazing victories, they are providing skills and expertise to lots of allied interest (exposure for friendly blogs, organizing resources ,etc) and Dean himself is animating growth of network by animating a new base with powerful ideas, accomplishments of his core team and effective speeches and content.

Many past post are related to this general thread can be found at:
The Herd vs. the Elephant
Grassroots Organizing In the Age of Connectivity
Technology-Amplified Collective Action
Strategy Decay and The Environmental Movement
Quality Control and Network Advocacy

Washington Watchdog

Here is a cool little tool in the works for advocacy groups (useful for public lands groups today) by Washington Watchdog. Check out the Public Lands Test: What's New

The tool slurps and filters all federal documents including federal register, GAO reports, code of regulations and Congressional testimony. A little system "watch" the federal data stream.

There is no information on who Washington Watchdog (or even a Google) so I don't know who to contact with suggestions (rss feeds?) or to see how hard it might be to set up a new issue area. It would seem like there might be other competitive sources for this type of information.

Please use the comments area if you know of other such services.

Donor Bees: Polling: Futures Market

Using this space as a little cross-pollinator, I am particularly interested in Eric Bonabeau's work on evolutionary computing and agent based modeling. How can we start political movements, messages and policy initiatives that quickly release indicators that provide feedback allowing advocates "hone in" on the opportunities across the body politic like ants to crumbs. I have posted on this before but it really warrants additional thought.

An ant crawls out of its hill and marches toward a half-eaten Twinkie. Another treks to a puddle of water. Others plot routes to their own diminutive chores. Along the way, each lays down a pheromone trail that, over time, tells co-workers where it has been, what hazards to avoid, and which path offers the quickest way home. - Business2.0

We are seeing these models emerge in "survivor" series and "vote your favorite". Audience make the vote on who stays and who goes. The "listening to the people system was used extensively in the NYC efforts to gather opinion about the future of the WTC site ( Just one example: It is really interesting to see how often the audiences "override" the experts (future study). In a connected world there are new models that exploit "connectivity" to help make decisions.

How would such a system be used to collect "wisdom" of the field of advocates. Currently, I am thinking that a system of small "voucher grants" could be very effective for coalitions and campaigns. Who is perceived by the field workers as the best investment? (The point is not to "win" but to show trends and reveal successes and failures. )

There has been lots of polling and focus groups targeting 18-24 year old's and the next generation of activists. The hope is to find out what they think works and what unites them? Let's play around with the network approach...instead of the older model "pull wisdom" into the center leadership so they can act on it ...why not distribute the ability to act...spend $50,000 targeted at allowing the 2 youngest staff from any environmental or civil rights group in the Southeast to pick the best place to invest $100 for environmental justice work. The young staffers can chat, teleconference, meetup, email, bundle dollars with friends, etc. The participants can nominate a group, each group needs 3 nominations to be eligible for any vouchers. The vouchers will be backed with money as a gift or grant from the sponsoring foundation. Those that invest in most successfully will be invited back for another larger round of play. (vouchers can be mailed to group of choice and bar coded with voter/donor info.)

We can assume that all the participants are "on our team" because they work nonprofit allied nonprofits. There are no experts and those young staff selected from the total pool would be contact independent of work and remain confidential to nonparticipating (no interferences from management).

Like almost all of Bonabeau's work, I am sure we would see surprising and counter intuitive results. We would save a foundation the trouble of picking a good place to invest $50,000. We would quickly build a directory of the youngest staff. We would give staff reasons to talk with other young staff and reach across organizational boundaries. We teach the youngest group of participants in the movement lessons about collaboration, fundraising and the difficult choices program staff at foundations make.

Setting you the initial web page to register participants would be simple (Guidestar search, Mailing to all nonprofits with the keywords environment, civil rights) Each organization would get a password to register the 3 youngest (ideally between 18-24) staff, active volunteer, board member by phone or web. The database would then randomly select participants from those registered and print and mail bar coded vouchers. There would be a few months of discussions,meetup, conference calls, etc. participants mail the vouchers to group of choice...The groups visit a web site to describe program funded and print unique label for envelope with all vouchers. The vouchers are processed and returned as a small check. A year later any program receiving more than X vouchers are checked by program staff and the successful investments are documented (all investors in the most successful projects are invited back for a second round).

Love Donor Bees:

Can you see me now: Cell phone photos as evidence

Portland Tribune: Can you see me now?

In the Ringlers case, at least two patrons at a Nov. 18 hip-hop show used their camera phones to document a police car that parked in front of the West Burnside Street club with a stuffed gorilla attached to the car's grill. Because of the racial overtones, the incident became a news story: Some of the photos were printed by the Tribune and shown on several television stations. Portland police say they've not used cell phone photos as evidence in any cases, but the Independent Police Review Division of the city auditor's office plans to use the Ringlers pictures to investigate the gorilla incident. "We still don't have the photos ourselves, but since it was in the paper, it obviously establishes beyond any doubt that there was a stuffed gorilla on a Portland Police Bureau car," said Richard Rosenthal, the police review board's director. "It's not an issue that's being disputed by anybody."

Make sure you have your cell phone at the next rally.

ReCap of Image Rants for LiberalOasis Traffic

A quick recap on the "Power of Images" rants for the LiberalOasis traffic:

* Visuals tell the Story
* More on the Power of Images
* Every Cell Phone with a Camera is Now a News Outlet
* Create a Dialogue of Images

"The decline in government services -- and steeply rising fees -- go unreported by cable TV networks broadcasting live speeches by our leaders pledging to rebuild schools and hospitals in Iraq." - Joel Connelly Article

Are we angry at the media, our leaders or ourselves? Joel writes an excellent article on the power of visuals, the use of media coverage to tell a story and the hypocrisy of the Bush administration. However, the jet stunt is nothing new nor is it anything we can change.

Visuals are the most important element of a story in many ways because the media can not change the visuals.

As we write and present talking heads to the media we are debated, edited, clipped and cut. Our letters and prose can be distorted and talked over by the media. Our opposition can respond. However, a good image always gets play. The text or voice around the image can change but the visual slips into the mainstream as is. Everyone is working on image these days. I disagree with Joel that budget cuts are not visual. We are carrying a lot of writers and policy people in the nonprofit movement but not nearly enough photographers, communication staff and video production capacity. As a movement, environmentalists have a compelling visual story but we do not provide the images to support our narrative. How often do groups spend a full year of staff salary on an issue to crank out a report but release findings without $1000 worth of images?

Lesson. Communication, visuals and content matter. Unfortunately, it is often in that order and our movement refuses to engage in this reality. Our lack of telling visual stories may be directly correlated to our loss of the youth (learn more by seeing than reading) in the membership ranks.

Chat Campaigns

There have been an increasing number of reasons to start looking at chat campaigns and an increasing amount of insight on ways to do them.

Why should you include "Chat Campaigns" as part of your work?
NetGen's prioritization of communication forums ...1. Face-to-face 2. Cell phone (SMS or not) 3. Next IM (usually AIM)em>

Examples of Chat Campaigns:
Wesley Clark with 3500 people in a Chat room
Safe Sex Campaign
Streisand's election eve chat campaign
Jon Stahl's Journal: Instant Messaging "ChatBots" -- an innovative online outreach strategy

Currently, I am doing some research on more examples, the flow of chat discussions and debates and best practices. (I am also seeking some contract work and grant funding to develop the concept and applications a bit further.)

Evaluation Thinking on communication and Advocacy

The Media Evaluation Project represents some hard core thinking and serious analysis of advocacy communications. The team from Harvard, Berkley, Michigan State and some top nonprofits are digging into the issues that are created by the "evaluation" kick common with so many consultants and foundations. The group is taking the direction that evaluation is important and that the difficult challenges evaluating communications campaigns can (and must) be addressed to make the case for communication campaigns.

"Community Trials Project evaluation showed us that community organizing combined with media advocacy can lead to effects on media coverage, key leader support, and subsequently policy change. For policy change campaigns, such evidence based on systematic evaluation is rare, and important. Cumulative evidence from these evaluations and others are essential to the continuing development of knowledge about how to design and evaluate campaigns that have better chances of success....Harvard Family Research Project (p.38)

There is a lot on this site. I have only read the site text and skimmed the final Harvard paper but I think the evaluation elements they are working on and the "theory of change" lens could be useful to those that are looking for the ways network-centric approach creates change. I am also going to start knocking on doors at CCMC to see if I can find out how "spikes" of media attention (designed strategy of network-centric campaigns) influences the outcomes of the multi-year data sets.

This may be a multi-post thread over the next few weeks.

Ten Questions to Kick Start Network Centric Campaign Planning

1. What strategy is your campaign or coalition using to build social ties among key participants?

2. What is the common story of the key volunteers, supporters and staff working on your campaign or coalition? What are the common life threads that all participants embrace?

3. Who are the core team of this campaign? Who are the affiliated and allied partners? What do the “local walk-ins” supporters look like? How does the current strategy spread capacity and power to each participant (core, allies and walk-ins)? How do activities of the core team animate and inspire "local walk-ins"?

4. How is the common story (see above) communicated and reinforced?

5. What are the key technologies, hardware and financial resources needed to “win”? How long are they really needed for? How can the resources be decentralized so everyone can have access to them?

6. How can resources including staff and funding be managed so that it is only in use during "hot" demand?

7. What work needs to be done? How can the work be “packitized” into small chunks of 1 hour or less?

8. Can you absorb and efficiently use very small contributions of money, time and energy effectively? Can the campaign absorb huge rapid investments of manpower, cash, and talent?

9. What does information and decision superiority look like for your field staff? How are those bits of knowledge and data being collected and distributed?

10. What is the learning mechanism that feeds back learning to other participants?

Flash Ads Kicking the [email protected]# Out of Royal Caribbean

Cruise Campaign!

Nice solid use of Internet advertising and the tell a friend tool (feel free to add other innovative advocacy campaign links in the comments section (product ads will be deleted).

Surprisingly, most cruisers don't realize the ships just leave "skid" marks wherever they travel.

Ten Reasons I like it.

1. edgy enough to get attention,
2. it is not about "joining a group"
3. It targets the industry directly NOT just elected officials.
4. Tell a Friend is in the ad
5. It can be "placed" on sites that the cruisers visit or Google text ads with (AARP, Earlybird specials, GrayPanthers. Sea Sickness, Sickness on Cruises, etc. )
6. The "ask" is appropriate (don't go on dirty cruises with Royal Caribbean) and we (people who sign up) are only asking them to bump tickets a little to clean up their act.
7. The raw sewage from ships is nasty (especially considering how much they must flush when everyone is sick.)
8. Bathroom humor is universal and popular among the Brits and the NetGen.
9. Linked with a neutral campaign site (
10. I love Oceans. I am a diver and I know the entire Cruise industry makes money by externalizing a huge chunk of the costs of providing a wonderful experience onto local cultures, underpaid workers, unsafe conditions for guests and the environment.

Ways It could be Better: (Comments)