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BumpList: Future Tools for Advocacy

This is cool. I want my own bumplist. We need one of these.

Sign up for a listserve if you don't participate you get unsubscribe automatically. It is cool but the bumplist site only let a few folks belong. In an ideal world, I want the number of acceptable users to grow and shrink adaptively based on the time to subscribe/ re-subscribe or the action response rate.

I want to be able to add it to lots of sites, my blog or my advocacy campaigns. In an ideal world the bumplist would also have some auto-magic click thru tracking for campaigns and actions. With each action "refreshing" membership allowing self organizing efforts to blast out an email to like minded friends on the bumplist.

It would be great if it could include a special tag.

Action < Action.. http://www.advocacyin c.com/oceana/cruisefriend.htm > action

The dream bumplist would refresh bumplist membership if readers take "action" and knock off members as they get crowed out by more active activists. Check it out. You will be bumped pretty quickly and it will give you a sense of how the tool works.

BumpList: An email community for the determined

BumpList is a mailing list aiming to re-examine the culture and rules of online email lists. BumpList only allows for a maximum amount of subscribers so that when a new person subscribes, the first person to subscribe is "bumped", or unsubscribe from the list. Once subscribed, you can only be unsubscribed if someone else subscribes and "bumps" you off. BumpList actively encourages people to participate in the list process by requiring them to subscribe repeatedly if they are bumped off. The focus of the project is to determine if by attaching simple rules to communication mediums, the method and manner of correspondences that occur as well as behaviors of connection will change over time.


Political Patterns on the WWW -- Divided We Stand

I have been to several meetings lately that are amazing engines for thought about hub vs node approach. While I won't get into the specifics of the meetings, there has been a serious debate on "reachout out" vs. "reaching in".

Do Americans want custom opinion and issue sites for each issue or do they what sounding chambers where they know they will find giant pools of like minded materials (maybe the answer is both). However, Valdis' work Divided We Stand (Krebs is a wizard.) or Political Patterns on the WWW -- Divided We Stand Still? add some fuel to the reaching into the community approach.

These finding suggest that book readers really enjoy reading "like" minds and reinforcing materials. Valdis suggests (by selection of supporting quotes) that the "opinion" leaders use these "like " books to bolster status as opinion leaders. Alternatively, people may buy "like minded" books because they don't want to be challenged by countering opinion or that is the way we study.

I can think that when I jump on a topic I'll grab a handful of books in the same subject area. I went through a biographies stage, historical novel phase, tufte phase, science literature or classic phase. If I were going to jump into the subjects on either side of the divide I am looking for a cluster and it may have nothing to do with my personal choices or opinions. I really tried to figure out Rove and "W" and ended up grabbing a handful of conservative cluster books at the time and I can not be considered conservative by most definitions.

I need to wade through the topic and links a little more but I thought Valdis' summary pages were great, relevant to discussions at my meetings and possibly useful to web site planners and coalition networks.


Movement As Network: Brilliant Adaptation of Network-Centric Approach to Advocacy by OneNW

In a fantastic development, the good people at OneNW have joined the small chorus of rock solid seasoned field people to challenging the current "template" approach to planning and supporting the advocacy movement. In a smart paper, Gideon and the staff have taken the network-centric approach into some new and exciting directions. Their work is a significant contribution.

These guys (like GMT) are in the desktops, systems and offices of lots of environmental groups. They have years of hands on campaign experience and a great staff (Jon and Gideon are in that class of trusted good guy gurus). They are smart and they are "on our team". (I will save my dissent with specific points for another day). Today I highly recommend you download and read the paper

Great stuff! I love the clarity of statements that I needed to dance with for several months. Environmental movement is a Network!

Great Findings:

The environmental movement is a network that is more than the sum of its people and organizations.

This movement has invested in too much institutional overhead.

Organizations need to focus on what they do best, and outsource the rest.

The majority of local environmental groups work on niche issues and solutions that will never attract large membership bases.

Funders need to help free the most important of these organizations from focusing on this distraction.

These statements have been in the works for a long time. OneNW is going to start working to building the new movement as a network. I look forward to helping them in any way I can.

It will be difficult to remain focused on the main arguments and there will be push back from funders, organizations and old guard organizers. However, the stakes are really high (future success of the advocacy movement) and the early converts to network-centric advocacy need to not only preach about the strategy but work miracles as well.

"If we don't fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don't really stand for them." - Paul Wellstone


Advocacy Toxicity - Technology is not the Solution to Failed Advocacy

danah boyd continues to dig in some really interesting spaces. Her mix of social and technology studies are wonderful. There are some great gems of wisdom that cross over to the advocacy movement (environmental, civil rights, Dean, whatever). danah's contribution fills out some gaps in thinking about the networked advocacy movement. Her post has focused me on the shift that needs to take place is in our advocacy strategy. It is not about our tools or technology but in the failures of our campaigner planners to continually reevaluate the context for social behavior.

danah discusses social network technology (FOAF RyZE, LINKed Etc. ) much like the way I see many of our advocacy groups. We construct movements and advocacy groups and advocacy strategy that wears down rather than empowers. We create a new context with the evolution of each organization (issue) which seems like they never go away. We create a new reality of "advocacy toxicity"- so many calls to action, requests for support that the public does nothing.

Her thoughts are almost always worth reading. It is a long post so I have grabbed the 4 bits of it that I really like. danah's point on social software is highly transferable to social engagement models (advocacy groups) which are last generation's "tools" for organizers.

apophenia: my etech talk: revenge of the user

Social behavior doesn't have a technological solution. We're all involved with social software because we see needs that technology can solve. Yet, by building the technology, we don't simply address or fail to address those needs; we create new realities. At this point, we need to think in a new way. We need to think about what new realities we formed, what new problems evolved, what new needs happened. Then we need to iterate.

Social behavior doesn't have an advocacy group solution. We are involved with our nonprofit advocacy group of choice because we think that groups address the problem yet by building up these nonprofits to address concerns (wetlands, ducks , etc) we create new realities. Groups become the hub for knowledge, magnets for resources, increasingly predictable etc. We need to think in a new way.

The biggest trick in social software is to realize that, just like we can't predict the behavior that users will have, we can't force them into behaving the way we want them to behave while simultaneously giving them freedom to be social. The only thing that we can do is try to understand what is motivating new behaviors and figure out how to adjust the technology accordingly. We must recognize that, for any social software, disparate users will have disparate uses. But like any good city, we have to figure out how to create a live and let live environment, where those who want to visit XXX stores will do their thing without driving the moms with small children insane. You can't kill unwanted behavior without also killing desirable behavior. This is a design challenge, an architectural challenge and a social challenge. And, of course, a business challenge. If we want to make social software that meets the needs of a disparate group of people and not just ourselves, it's time to take up this challenge. Otherwise, we'll spend forever frustrated, failing to understand why other people aren't like us.

danah has teased out "the curse" of advocacy leadership. As a group advocacy groups are befuddled that so many people don't know or don't care. Additionally they are shocked that the public can still "find out" but then behave the same way. The dominate models of engagement seek to shape activists in the same fashion as they have always been shaped.

We have a design challenge in our advocacy movement.

Some people want to be seen; some people want to be hidden. By making everyone far more accessible, those who have something desired become more visible targets. While trying to elevate those in need, give them newfound access to their networks, we can't overwhelm the targets and expect them to play along. How do we meet the needs of different people?

People should be able to comfortable, and EASILY, determine who should be introduced to who. If we figure out how to empower the bridge without wearing them down, they're far more likely to want to participate in the technology we create. Right now, we disempower them AND wear them down; this is not a survivable model. When Jason Kottke posted to Craigslist looking for someone to manage his social networks, he was dead on: this is more of a pain in the ass than valuable.

Advocacy work is often perceived to "supposed" to be a sacrifice. The movement (planetworks, moveOn, e-volve) and companies (grassroots and get actives) of the world are evolving entire new ways to manage your advocacy profile..(see planetworks) or distributed profile models. What we are not doing is checking the multiplier effects to see if the end result is a wear, disempowering or survivable. What would happen if I jumped on all the lists and memberships of groups I cared about...justice, human rights, children's issues, clean air, clean water, education, church reform, school reform, DNC reform, sprawl, biodiversity, local affordable housing, elderly care, corporate responsibility, trail and bike path development, etc. The calls to action, donation appeals and pipeline of engagement would wear me down. Engagement models today are not a survivable model. We need to think again.


More Free Wisdom from the Chief-Blogger of the Dean Campaign

Jon Stahl and a handful of good people in the PNW environmental community have been working hard on the importance of generating your own story to distribute. This strategy should increasingly be used by environmental nonprofit organizations as it becomes easier for nonprofit groups to develop "news" and send it directly to audiences via electronic tools (email, newsletters, xml feeds ). Jon has an older blog post that is worth digging up in light of this new post


Dogwood really understand the advocacy power of making news, and commenting in real-time on breaking news. And they're putting that understanding into action. Check out what they're doing -- I really think it's a model for small grassroots advocacy groups.

Jon has linked to and teased out some great wisdom from Interview with Matthew Gross, Howard Dean's (former) blogger-in-chief.

Jon and I tease pretty much the same wisdom from the interview.

What this means is that people are going to have more options to get involved in national politics. It also means that campaigns are going to have to become their own media channels, and find ways to reach out to an increasingly segmented American audience. Campaigns will have to decentralize as the electorate becomes more decentralized. And I think the Dean campaign has shown the way for other campaigns to do that.

The Internet has the ability to nationalize any race.

But the Internet's not a trick. You still need a good candidate with a good message.

And the media still exerts an enormous influence. That influence can be countered by the Internet, but the Net doesn't eliminate it.

This is a great set of insights and builds on the path that both GMT and OneNW are working to promote across the movement. The real challenge is to methodically plan campaigns to adopt to these tactics, to plot new campaign strategy and to figure out how to decentralize your campaign while also making sure that you have the talent, good message and core team needed skilled and equipped to work with traditional media and execute the campaign.


Staying On Message: Interview with White House Press Office

Phil J pointed out this exchange from a White House Press Office. (He had a harder take on what was going on here) It is an amazing example of communication process, good reporting, and holding on message. There are lots of ways that this interview could have "broken" but Scott McClellan did a masterful job at keeping the focus on message.

I like the professional debate going on between the lines. The reporter is looking for new information, a sound byte or a new angle. Scott is focused on his job of communicating very coolly and insistently "the message". Scott takes every question and circles back to his core message.

There is a lot of crazy politics around this issue but my point of interest is in highlighting the fight. Here are two top professional whacking at each other both are really good at their jobs. It is worth a read. I would like to see more of our communications spokes people be as effective in bringing reporters back to the message of the day. I would also like to see reporters pick up this kind of backbone across the board. I would love to see this kind of exchange become the norm between the press and any power figure they are interviewing. I also hope that when reporters don't get answers and facts they look for them from lots of sources.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040210-3.html

Core Lessons : Journalists.
1. Ask hard questions.
2. Make the person answer.
3. Dive into details and facts to tease out the truth.
4. Keep asking until someone answers your question.

Core Lessons : Communication Staff
1. Repeat message.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Repeat message.
4. Don't loose your cool.
5. Complete your thoughts do not get cut off
6. Keep you cool
7. Insist you're right


Network Moves Into Power in the Administration

This is an interesting network to map. You can read through the document to see how the "connectivity" between politics, industry and lobbies that are co-opting the government to serve the participants of the network ends. The process may be systematically planned from the top (they are all appointees) but there may also be a network multiplier effect going on here with each old boy and industry pulling and promoting other network elements into positions of power. A political swarming of administration by industry seeking advantage.

+2/12/2004 Press Release -- New Report Documents Widespread 'Special Interest' Control Over Bush Administration and Federal Policies

WASHINGTON -- At almost every level, the Bush Administration has turned key positions in the federal government over to industry advocates who have spent much of their careers financially profiting from their support of or opposition to the very programs they are now charged with implementing, placing public health and safety and sound fiscal management at risk.

This is an interesting report documenting the 43 private sector lobbyists and corporate officers who have won influential appointments in the Bush Administration. It is worth a read to see the facts about who is running your favorite agencies and to learn more about their connections.


Google Sinks Oceana Ad

An interesting new fight has emerged in the ad censorship arena. Much like TV (CBS MoveOn), radio (clearchannel) and newspapers (all of them), Google has stepped into the ad censorship business. It is an issue that advocacy groups need to think carefully about. Do you want well financed bad guys taking out critical ads next to your organizations search results?

Oceana's campaign is based on irrefutable facts. The ships are not designed to treat human waste nor do they claim that they do. The method of management of the waste is to dump it in shipping lanes. Oceana's campaign is targeted to put pressure on the industry to stop dumping waste overboard.

Google is making the distinction of critical vs. factual and seems to be on the wrong side of the issue. The advocacy movement can not afford to be filtered from Google ads.

Ask Google Why They Canceled Oceana's Ads Google shut them down. The reason? The ads, they said, linked to sites that contained "language critical of Royal Caribbean" and "language critical of the cruise industry"! So what are you allowed and not allowed to say in a Google ad? What companies are you prohibited from criticizing? Who knows?

Oceana has provided a tool to respond to this censorship and target Google founders and their corporate and consumer Public Relations team.


Subscribe to Andy Goodman's Free Range Thinking

If you work at a nonprofit, if you work on campaigns, if you need to communicate in your job..take a few minutes and get on Andy Goodman's Free Range Thinking (subscription consist of sending Andy an email.)

free-range thinking; is a monthly newsletter for public interest groups, foundations, and progressive businesses that want to reach more people more effectively.

Complimentary copies are available each month to employees of organizations fitting these categories. To request your free copy, please send an email to andy@agoodmanonline.com, and include your complete mailing address.

Andy sends out a nice little card every six weeks with an article on communications. Andy does case studies and develops little stories about the ways advocacy groups are communicating effectively. The newsletter is free and Andy provides it as a service to the community.

I keep bumping into directors of nonprofit groups who don't know about Andy's letter. So I thought, I would blog on it here as forcefully as I can recommending that everyone subscribe.


Every Piece of Legislation is Designed to Ruin Somebody

I have spent the weekend in Mildgeville, GA at the Georgia River Network conference. It has been an amazing and inspiring experience. There are lots of post that should be coming out of the weekend.

The new leadership of Georgia River Network is smart, passionate and driven to save the 70,150 miles rivers that blanket the state. I am excited to see the direction that the Board and April will take the organization (a network). Additionally, it has been very interesting to come to understand the importance of the environmental movement in South. It is one of the few issues that can pick up the class struggle bridging rich and liberal with rural and poor, bridging all those that to fend off efforts by industry to privatize the commons and fend off efforts to exploit the commons. Environmental issues unite a majority without stirring issues that often create race driven politics. There is an amazing case to be studied in the 2003 activities of Georgia Water Conference and their heroic fight to prevent the privatization of water in the state.

One of the most thought provoking moments came from a brief conversation with Neill Herring. Neil is one of the best state lobbyist, I have ever met. Neill has been working in Georgia for 20 years watchdogging, wrestling and defending the natural resources of the state. Neill is a genius and a legislative guru. He is also a realist and experienced voice having gone toe to toe with industry tactics, old boy shenanigans and the occasional dim witted corrupt politician. Neill knows what is going on and his advise is of the highest value on politics, human nature and legislative process.

The nugget of the night was half joking and yet extremely serious.

Every Piece of Legislation is Designed to Ruin Somebody. There is no idealism involved in the legislative process. Those volunteers and lobbyists that think there is anything else involved will be confused and frustrated. The political process has nothing to do with helping people. The key to understanding how to make things happen is to figure out who wants to ruin your enemies and working with them for a moment to help them succeed.

It is an entirely new perspective of ways to build a network based on ruining your opposition. It is a case by case coalition of disgust and hatred. It is a perspective that understands the venomous snake den of politics and actually resets the minds and tactics from those of us that have focuses on reports, science and facts. Neill would be the first to say those don't matter. Years ago, I remember Neill teaching me that I will never be able to educate or enlighten a politician on any water quality issue (or anything else) when it is in their direct financial interest to remain confused.

It is a bitter and minimalist view of the process. I don't want to accept it but it hard to argue with Neill his genius, his experience or his successful results. Thankfully, Neill is a good guy working on our team.


Going Beyond The Internet: Blogs from the Front

One of my favorite sites (often offensive and usually smart) Wealth Bondage throws an flame at the blogosphere, HT rants that techno-hellraisers that seek to create change are not connecting with real world movements creating change.

I actually know some of the day jobs of my favorite hacks. These folks are all about creating positive social change and working with very real (off the net) groups. I disagree a bit with the association of the blogoshere as unconnected. Sure, some folks are paid bloggers but Jim Moore and a bunch of that crew were working on Howard Dean's Campaign, Henri Poole is working for Dennis, Ben Green works for Kerry, Kos does work for an environmental group, Jon Stall works for OneNW....maybe these are not the Instapundit, Joi Ito, danah boyd blogger type gods but that doesn't matter there are lots of people using the blog world to refine real world strategies and projects.

The "last mile" with many key constituencies is handled face to face, or by pony express, or via internal memoranda delivered by flunkies in wingtips through proper channels, and through sermons in black churches, speeches in union halls, testimony in consciousness raising groups, in handbills and posters, and in public demonstrations, not only of affection, but of protest and engagement. So, we should use the net to discuss how to go beyond it. I hope to be a weak link in that chain.

While I find the relations between black churches, union halls and other messengers a bit stretched "the Happy Tutor" has made the point that this is only the first step in moving ideas. Developing rants on a blog does not mean anything. Agreed.

My blog (this one) is an online thinking space. It is my open notepad for developing personal thoughts about making things happen. The use of the blog has become a huge part of the personal discipline to read more, think out loud and get thoughts into words.

A handful of my friends are also planning campaigns, spending money on ads, visiting churches and unions to connect messages and ideas the last mile. Weak ties created by blog publishing can help foster the transfer of good ideas. However, these tools are also great for "low touch" relationships that keep the connection fresh between people (me and the handful of people that read my rants) while I keep connected using a news aggregator to slurp the latest thoughts from my trusted friends.

Casual online publishing helps foster network cohesion:
* Develops new "weak ties". (I don't know who you are reading this but if you read it often enough you get a sense of what fires my engines.
* Fosters common story and common language. I realize that most my post need reworking before I share them with work, funding or friend circles.
* Improves team situational awareness. My fiends send me good links or ideas and I will flush them out a bit on the blog.
* Refines thinking and provides stimulus for face-to-face conversation. I have actually bumped into people that read this site every so often and we pick up on a thread of mutual interest.


I agree with Happy Tutor on some levels. This blog will not by itself change anything. (I have a day job for that) but I want to push back that bloggers are not walking the last mile. My sense is that the blog post are more post cards from the field than think tank ivory tower BS.