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Zack Exley: The People: Think Bold

There are few rants that get me to really pumped up. Even fewer that cause me to shake my fist with agreement. Few articles that I print and make my staff read. This is one.

Zack stands behind the idea that movements are smart. His experience is rich and he is really good at banging out some of the failures and opportunities for social change.

Because of our perception of this dumbing-down of the people, we focus more and more intensively on "consciousness raising" and "leadership development" -- to the exclusion of working with leaders who are already plenty conscious and already amazing leaders. We've been shrinking down our expectations until they're practically non-existent. We been doing this for decades.

To start to get out of this trap, we've just got to open our minds to the possibility that the people are just as radical as they were when millions took part in sit-down strikes and the Unemployed Councils. We've got to recognize the possibility that the wisest, boldest leaders have been consciously refusing to participate in our campaigns because our goals have been too modest and our strategies shaky as hell.

His piece begs a shift in organizing strategy and our leadership. However, the shift in strategy needs a corresponding shift in the infrastructure to support change. We will not change things until we stop measuring and evaluating by the same matrix as before. Zack has put together a better riff on this people leadership and respect for the masses than I have in the past but it is an underpinning theme of network-centric advocacy. It is also a theme i believe strongly in....

Mead warned that "If we let our generals and our statesmen involve us in international threats and reprisals which fail to bring out the strengths in our character--we may lose" The strength of our movement is not in the centralized organization but in the small bands of activists that sit in each neighborhood. Our movement marches lock-step with American doctrine to centralize power and control. We seek to build bigger and stronger organizations to fight for progressive policy. The promise of network-centric advocacy is that it focuses on reinforcing casual connectors to issues of social concern. Network-centric advocacy puts everything on the shoulders of the small thoughtful groups and fosters their leadership and clout. Small groups can change the world, our challenge is to help without getting in the way. "

We are in a renaissance of personality history. We are gobbling up biographies of Jack Welsh, John Adams,Rudy Giuliani and every other man figure that has found themselves in front of the juggernaut of public unity. Our society (our largest social network) will create leaders to fill our needs and visions. We will increase the reward to those willing to speak our language and serve our needs. We will help them overcome the adversity they face. We will offer a resolve they could not muster on their own.

Zack drives it home from his organizing experience ...

the leadership of a group is not a static list. In campaigns, if you're open to the possibility, you find that leadership is something that pops up in the most unexpected people at the most unexpected times. I remember one day when the whole future of a campaign relied on one worker reading a statement confidently and clearly to the boss in front of an assembly of workers. So who did we choose? Of course, the most confident and articulate worker on the organizing committee. When the time came, he froze and couldn't open his mouth. He stood there with the paper shaking in his hands. The woman standing next to him took the paper from his hands and read it just as clearly and confidently as could be. What was shocking about this was that, while very respected for being a hard worker with seniority, she was known for anything but her way with words or confidence in front of other people.
Ultimately, we need to connect the dots that leadership takes place in a context. A context that the family living room and factory floor creates is different than the context that currently shapes the "leadership" on a national scale. Taking over talking points on a stage is very different from swapping out leadership of NRDC or the Party. Why is it so different? Because leadership on a national scale is about control of resources (money, people, brands, intellectual property) and resources right now are governed by very old and dysfunctional laws and history. Being a boss of an organization means decades of work, ass kissing, political maneuvering, positioning, family ties and maybe even a history of success or successful spin. It is our structure that sets the context for leadership. It is our structures that set reasonable "measures".

Hopefully, Zack will follow up with a bit of thinking on the role of structure in picking leadership and experiment with ideas and proposals that loosen the barriers to bottoms up leadership taking shape. There is more here than blaming good hearted organizers that went to college. I would push Zack's summary a bit more.."

But it's clear that the progressive movement overall is still suffering from a lack of trust and faith in The People. Take a leap of faith, trust The People, and I guarantee that as long as you combine that with good organizing, you won't be disappointed."

Good organizing flows from the ends you want to achieve. As long as the organizing goals are set by the organizational leadership that employee the organizers and the resources poured out are from spigots controlled by traditional leaders then you will run into structural and governance systems that are set up to lack trust and prevent leaps of faith.

There is an old saying about the idea that soldiers talk about fights, captains talk about battles and machinery and generals talk about logistics. The movement, our street organizers, our media, and our message sharpers seem to miss the focus on logistics entirely. We need to build the network power of a distributed base.

Ronald McHummer 128,000 Signs Served: I'm Loving Network CultureJams

The campaign that keeps on giving. McDonalds inspires 128,000 anti-hummer ads. It is a great campaign with a edge on the ads ...


Link: Ronald McHummer - Just Say No to Hummers.

Happy Meals to promote Hummers. These super sized SUVs spew smog-forming chemicals that send asthmatic children to the hospital and greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Our kids should be learning about cleaner, healthier cars and what they can do to protect the environment, not gas-guzzlers that keep us dependent on foreign oil.

Oh yeah, please also do what you can to stop the obesity epidemic too.

Culture Jam: Politics Cleanup: Ads Mashup :Chevy Tahoe Ad Machine: All Cool

I love it.... Time to make more movies and ads. Please post your links. Lets see what folks can do.

Vote for mine...

Review a few...

Make your own...


Flashback to the Chevy Rants

BlogTalkRadio: Internet Radio for the Membership

Here is a little new site that packs the phone interview and the podcast into a nice little service. It creates the opportunity for bottom up talk radio targeting those that have Internet connections or listen to podcast.

This will have some applications for the groups that can draw an audience with big names and a good email list. If you check it out please let me know. .. I listened to a few and the basic technology seems to work.

It would be cool if enough funny and creative people could create a site of feeds that ran pretty consistently with the same numbers and lots of different programs. The groups could then cross-promte the talk radio to the audiences on their membership list and use it as an alternative channel for an election cycle or campaign.

Who knows? A netcentric podcast may be in my would definitely need to be a call in show.

Link: BlogTalkRadio.

Your BlogShow lets you host your own talk show online. Receive live callers, interview guests, and broadcast to an unlimited number of listeners. All you need is any type of phone, an internet connection, and something to say. All your listeners need is streaming audio or any type of phone should they choose to call in

Wikipedia : Small Core Group or Distributed Network

I have been thinking lots about the ideas of distributed networks and the concepts behind the value of the casual connecting volunteer. In my talks and presentations I will often bring up wikipedia as one of the great examples of distributed power that lies at the tips of all the keyboards (the people). However, some comments by Jimbo Wales have started to make the case I build harder and harder. Folks say it is just written by a handful of people.

Thanks Carl.... well the truth is....

To investigate more formally, I purchased some time on a computer cluster and downloaded a copy of the Wikipedia archives. I wrote a little program to go through each edit and count how much of it remained in the latest version.† Instead of counting edits, as Wales did, I counted the number of letters a user actually contributed to the present article.
To investigate more formally, I purchased some time on a computer cluster and downloaded a copy of the Wikipedia archives. I wrote a little program to go through each edit and count how much of it remained in the latest version.† Instead of counting edits, as Wales did, I counted the number of letters a user actually contributed to the present article.

The real result. "t's some emergent phenomenon -- the wisdom of mobs, swarm intelligence, that sort of thing -- thousands and thousands of individual users each adding a little bit of content and out of this emerges a coherent body of work" the exact opposite of the quote from Whales and on the money to the idea of a large casually connecting network (provided with a direction) attacking a problem on scale that we could not even imagine a few years ago.

Reasons to Invest in Networks

Here is a really interesting bite into the Wisdom of Crowds ideas and the balance between the individual role and the network (collective). The article and related discussion from the mediasweathearts are really interesting.

The reason the collective can be valuable is precisely that its peaks of intelligence and stupidity are not the same as the ones usually displayed by individuals. Both kinds of intelligence are essential.

What makes a market work, for instance, is the marriage of collective and individual intelligence. A marketplace can't exist only on the basis of having prices determined by competition. It also needs entrepreneurs to come up with the products that are competing in the first place.

In other words, clever individuals, the heroes of the marketplace, ask the questions which are answered by collective behavior. They put the jellybeans in the jar.

There are certain types of answers that ought not be provided by an individual. When a government bureaucrat sets a price, for instance, the result is often inferior to the answer that would come from a reasonably informed collective that is reasonably free of manipulation or runaway internal resonances. But when a collective designs a product, you get design by committee, which is a derogatory expression for a reason.

The interesting balance maybe that in an advocacy context the failures and successes of networks and organizations are different. IT is also really good to recognize the network will have peaks and failures BUT they are different peaks and failures than one might get from an organization based campaigns. The connection and balance between the two modes and the interaction of the two in social change and campaigns is the pay off point for network-centric advocacy.

What are the peaks and failures of organization based approaches to organizing political power? What are the the network peaks and failures? How can we mash them together?

". The collective is good at solving problems which demand results that can be evaluated by uncontroversial performance parameters, but bad when taste and judgment matter."

Yes.. network-centric campaigns may be bad at taste and judgement (a constant criticism of blogger political moves) but they are awesome at performance raised, exposures, people contacted, etc.

There are a few places I would like to kick this around with Jaron Lanier like the concepts of the hive "heart" is it a hive that was started and run by a leader or did the hive create the leader?

Is the constant experimentation with "bad taste" actually reflect a collective part of the process of creating "winners"?

My biggest challenge is with the statement "Empowering the collective does not empower individuals — just the reverse is true." It is a powerful closing to the essay but it is not a logical close that hangs well with the essay up to that point.

It is also just as accurate to say "Empowering the individual creates the collective." It was the complete lack of engagement that creates the power imbalance. The lack of engagement exaggerates control.

If you give most people the freedom to do anything they will for the most part conform. It is not a diabolic scheme or technical failure. It is the DNA of our messed up social species. It is the same dynamic that pushes billions of dollars in aid to Tsunami relief as fuels the insanity in Rwanda. Mobs are not tools they are organic reflections of the components of that constitute their mass. They can be good or bad. They have been a part of our survival toolbox since we were roaming the forests as apes.

The challenge now is letting more of the individuals develop the controls for the new tempo and scale that connectivity provides (not just techies and hackers).

As a lot of individuals we will need to connect and scale our organizing to push back on threats posed by a new range of mass threats ranging from multinational exploitation to epidemics and global threats. The new tools are the markets' responses to new needs created by the industrial age. these new threats are only going to be solved by more collective engagement from larger and more diverse networks.

It is a really sharp essay. I often wish I had more time to sit and kick around all the theory and pull it into the social change and advocacy campaigns I support. these folks are laying it down without any context tailored for campaign planners.

GasBuddy Network of Volunteers

YEAH! Use the network to create a data resource that pull together more volunteers that makes the data resource more valuable ..pulling in more volunteers! This is network based strategy!

You will not hear GasBuddy folks complain that they have to many volunteers or to much traffic. They are mapping gas prices everywhere. is one of 174 local web sites run by The web sites gather prices by a network of volunteer gas prices spotters in each area.

How can we help with your story? We can help you in several ways. We can supply you with gas price data from our network of web sites. We have current and historical average gas price data for every major city/US state/Canadian province going back to January 2001.

We can arrange an interview with some of our local volunteer price spotters - it provides a good vantage point from someone that uses this web site on a regular basis. These people are ordinary Internet users, and have no official affiliation with

It is a beautiful example.