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Simple actions by large numbers of actors can create beautifully complex and influential structures

We are part of a wonderfully open, vibrant and increasingly diverse progressive movement. Leadership and power working to drive the progressive agenda will also continue to diversify. We can not claim to support diversity without decentralizing the power tools for mass communications, organizing and leadership.

This diversity is a source of strength. It can also be difficult to manage. The challenge is to establish a regular framework for counterbalancing the friction of a genuine debate within our ranks. The challenge today for progressives is to build the capacity to manage ad hoc coalitions. The challenge is actually to establish many bonds to the movement that ARE NOT message or policy specific but more personal, social and experiential.
Netcentric Campaign: Networking the Movement
Our goal is to establish an enduring progressive movement which is bigger, more vibrant and more effective in shaping America. Surprisingly to some, our vision is of a movement tomorrow appears very much like the one we see today. A movement that is still alive and complex in issue work, multi-message capable, boss less and leader full. Our vision is of many voices working on many campaigns to foster progressive shifts in policy, culture, politics and business.

We are unique in that we see a clear path to drive the current cacophony of efforts into a process which harmonizes and connects the people and advocates into a more efficient network. The netcentric vision is a movement capable of rapid coordination of strategies and campaigns. The progressive network we envision is decentralized yet able to make real-time adjustments to messages and the way resources are deployed.

We want to foster a new merged network model of organizing adapted to the age of connectivity. Our vision is not the old models of organizing enhanced with new tricks nor are we advocating embracing new viral directionless politically naïve flashes fad culture organizing. We are suggesting an evolution or mutation of the community today into a new species. The Netcentric campaign will be related to both family lines but clearly a new beast. Much like the ways our cities have morphed in megalopolises, our companies into multinationals, our phones and computers into the internet, our stores into mega-malls, and our yard sales into E-bay. We are building out the next generation advocacy and social change based on a new business plan which has large anchors and smaller units coordinating together to attract and engage new mobile connected masses of people.

We must change. In any competition, strategic advantage is derived from doing something your opponents can not do. As long as the struggle for control of America’s future is about convincing people to aggregate money in order to counterbalance the influence of the wealthiest special interest and multi-national corporations, we are doomed to fail. If the competition is about our staff skills vs. what the opposition’s, we are doomed. We must shift the basic ways to aggregate and exercise influence. We must avoid wrestling on their turf, debating and measuring on their terms, lobbying and campaigning with the same strategy. We must not be dependent on feeding their media and advertising for distribution our message. They are better funded, better staffed and very disciplined and controlled. We are many.


Link: PopTech 2006: Dangerous Ideas, and Thinking About Networked Politics | Personal Democracy Forum.

One big idea that came up again and again in different forms was "the power of many," or how simple actions by large numbers of actors can create beautifully complex and influential structures.


Brightcove Launches YouTube-Style Video Marketplace - Mashable!

Your news, your story, your network..

Link: Brightcove Launches YouTube-Style Video Marketplace - Mashable!.

In short, Brightcove is offering anyone the ability to create a TV channel, display it on their site, distribute it through the portal at Brightcove.com, syndicate it to other sites and earn money doing so. The company used to cater to an elite few video creators: now they’re opening it up to the masses, with the hope of creating thousands of niche channels. Brightcove’s existing customers are part of the grand plan too, however, with content for the site coming from Bravo, Discovery, AMC, Oxygen, TV Land, Sony BMG, Warner Music and others. Will it work? Probably, yes - the Internet TV space is still getting started, and Brightcove has executed well on the idea.


MobileActive: Liberation technology | Mobiles, protests and pundits | Economist.com

Cell phones for civic engagement. Check out all the how to guides, mobileactive memos and cases from the field at MobileActive.org

Link: Liberation technology | Mobiles, protests and pundits | Economist.com.

UNTIL recently, killers in Burundi found it easy to cover their traces; they just tossed the bodies into a river where crocodiles would eat them up. But in August residents of Muyinga province acted fast when they saw fresh corpses drifting downstream; they used their mobile phones to contact NGOs, who in turn tipped off the United Nations, whose soldiers got to the scene fast enough to recover some forensic evidence.


Turning in crappy handhelds into a National SOS Radio Network

This is interesting. My kids get these radios from random family members on several occasions. national Geographic makes them. They show up for like $10. There are 100 million of these cheap radios out there.

Now a network of volunteers are organizing the use of them to hook into Ham Radios to create a national emergency communications grid to support self-organizing responses in neighborhoods. This is a really good idea.

The site needs help. They also definitely need some public relations, campaign and web strategy help to pop this idea out to the country.

Take your little radios and put them to channel 1 in a huge emergency or blackout. Phone lines down etc. ... Police and Ham folks monitor channel 1.

What do you need to do: Radio to channel 1.
WHERE exactly the caller is (street, number, apt., town, state).
WHAT is wrong (fire, injury, someone trapped, etc.).
WHO is calling (name).

In a big crunch, these cheap little radios can help swarm and coordinate local responses. This is smart. We used these cheap things doing field work in 04. Civic associations and groups could post a separate channel for chatter.

Hmm.... Anybody try this yet?

Link: National SOS Radio Network -- America's easy, reliable, accessible-by-all emergency communications system. It combines millions of Family Radio Service (FRS) radios already in use for camping, boating, hiking, etc., and the nationwide network of 650,000 h.

National SOS" public emergency network in which neighborhoods and communities utilize the 100 million low-cost Family Radio Service (FRS) radios they already own. In addition, 700,000 amateur (ham) radio operators, 70,000 licensed General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) users, and hundreds of thousands of scanner users have been invited to augment the system. Training is essential to the success of the program. Statewide and nationwide training drills, and associated public educational materials, are being prepared to help bring the network to life. For the very latest information, you can click here to visit our discussion forums and here to sign up for our free mailing list. FRS radios and FRS / GMRS combination radios used strictly under FRS regulations don't require an operator license, can be used by anyone of any age, and are available for as little as $10 - $30 at many retailers and online stores. Because of their low cost and widespread availability, these radios can be part of every home's emergency kit (flashlight, water, FRS radio, batteries, etc.).

Kudos to Stephenson's Networked Homeland Security for the pointer


What does the winning movement of progressives look like?

In scenario after scenario or business plan after business plan the basic vision of a winning progressive movement tends to be a repainted blue version of the 2004 Rove machine. Hopefully, we now know better. What we see today is working and it is not what the gurus planned. .

There is a constant drumbeat of new liberal tribes working to establish a dominance of ideas, policies, strategies, brands and ideas. Each group, vision or organization becomes flavor of the month and the new hope for a stable competitive edge against the conservative juggernauts dominating political culture, tempo of change and policy debates.

Going after the shock and awe of the Rove machine, Progressive investors have established many groups to recruit new leaders, counter-balance the right in the press, build a new field, dominate the frame or saturate airwaves with good progressive ideas, campaigns, issues and candidates. there were lots of meetings where everyone wanted thier own version of the conservative influence machine.

As each new project struggles for breathing room (energy, talent, resources, funding and attention), traditional leaders learn and adapt to challenges to their power successfully defending old positions because they reach so many so quickly. They can claim to already serve the same needs or claim to be heading in the new new direction (Pope response to Death of Environmentalism). In the last few years, we have seen this process destroy progress on many important concepts and projects (Advokit or Community Managed Voter File).

New strong ideas begin to take shape and hold promise for new directions and new outcomes but then the forces of inertia pull back and reign in change. The majority of funding going right back to TV ad media work. The big and important ideas from the value of framing, technology, data targeting, mobilization and blogs to Air America and CurrentTV make it launch and are torn down or ignored to death.. The ideas are pulled back in and controlled by a small handful of the same leaders or those that share the same strategy and perspectives of the last 30 years. (Drummond Pike of Tides new role at Democracy Alliance). The dynamic plays out on large and small efforts from ACT and Center for American Progress to small start ups like progressive leaders, civicspace and Rockledge Institute. The cycle hurts us all.

New groups emerge with visions of new ways to centralized power only to be pealed back and away by the extraordinary unregulated competitive base. We are like crabs imprisoned by our own instincts to survive and stuck in a perpetual chain of pulling each other back into the pot. Barring egregious and self-inflicted wounds of the conservative opposition (Abramhoff, War, Page Scandal, Weldon, Sherwood, Allen Gaffes, immigration) it is unlikely to see the progressives fight the well coordinated and centralized machine of the right. We may loose the fiight for direction of the culture and national policy.

Independents swing the balance of elections. We have worked hard to lower the barriers to party entry and exit so the public can and will swing back and forth building little momentum in any direction. Policy will be locked and stalled for the next two years.

The fight for the future is a culture struggle. It is a struggle the progressives can do really well in if we understand the stakes and reorganize infrastructure and investment to meet the challenges ahead.

Decentralized Coordination

The progressive movement is a big tent movement of many groups and fractured ideas and visions. The progressive movement is leaderful and bossless. We are decentralized and very difficult to control. The progressive base will always be this way and our power will always be distributed to the issue leaders and key interest hubs that power progressive progress. The big engines of change will not go away (politicians, unions, enviro groups, peace and social justice groups, etc.) nor should they. We will always have competing messages across the base that supports our direction for lots of personal reasons big and small. We will continue to inspire upstart leaders. We will continue to be a movement that can not be controlled. It is in the very core DNA of progressive and liberal to question authority and seek individual freedom and opportunity.

There are those that call for one message. They are wrong. The meta-narrative is dead in America. It died with the launch of cable. The reason no one has a unified national message is because it would cause progressives to loose power. The campaign and media people know there is no national message on security, environment, immigration, the war, etc. etc. We are no longer a mono-culture (we never were) and our call for one message is no different than Pat Buchanan wishing we could go back to the 50s it is not going to happen (if it does it would be a disaster. ) We do have shared emotions. We do share an ability to think logically.

The challenge today for progressives is to build the capacity to manage ad hoc coalitions. The challenge is to establish a regular framework for counterbalancing the natural friction of a fighting within our ranks and to establish many bonds to the progressive movement that are not just message or policy specific but social, emotional and shared resource dependencies.

As a movement, we will not be able to straight jacket our base into a molded message or under a single leader for any long period of time. There is a need to accept that we live in a big tent. Our future lies not in how successfully we control everyone but how quickly we can coordinate the scattered energy, momentum and motion to create change. The new challenge is to solve conflict and debate with speed and ease NOT to attempt to control all conflict. The new challenge is to find as soon as possible the opportunity to swarm a scattered movement in to sync with the winds of change.

To the casual eye, the winning movement of progressives in the future will look no different than the jumble of issues, causes, competing organizations and people pushing for change today. However, the new winning movement will be effectively networked together so that it can self-organize drives in policy, enforce reputation behavior rules within its own ranks, and experiment with innovation. The winning progressive movement includes tapping the power the edges of the movement to contribute the success of the campaigns.

The new progressive movement looks more like a plate of spaghetti (social network) of public interest groups, cultural centers and political activists. It does not look like clearly designed organizational chart and 72 hour march plan designed by "the architect".

We need to think carefully and strategically about the ways to make the messy network jumble bigger, more effective and efficient. And, we need to fight any urges to pretend centralization or "one thing" (data mining, tv, bloggers, women, yada,yada ) will be the key to future success. We need to make sure that we continue to build network health and network strengths across our wide and inclusive base. We need to design projects, policies, infrastructure and campaigns that work well on the network level not just at the organizational or party measures.


Thoughts on Global Guerrillas:Into the 5th Generation

Global Guerrillas (military blog) has an interesting discussion of the changeing nature of warfare.

Why read military blogs on strategy?
War is an extention of politics. Or War is the result of the breakdown of politics. It is important to think about why warfare has chaged and how these changes can be adapted to organizing political power at new levels. It is our challenge in the peace, human rights, poltitcal and envrionmental advocacy fields to extend and play with the Rabb's analysis to nonviolent conflict and our work.

The shifts in physical conflict are really an extension of political debate. Our president is engaged in a global fight for "hearts and minds" with a guy that lives in a cave. We need to explore advocacy strategy in contexts of nonphysical conflict. WInning the fight but who is really controling the political capital on a global scale?

The ideas are thought provoking and the emerging constucts for military strategy also seem to be useful points for consideration in our emerging political organizing.

"An ability to decentralize beyond the limits of a single group (way beyond cell structures) using new development and coordination methodologies. This new structure doesn't only radically expand the number of potential participants, it shrinks the group size well below any normal measures of viability. This organizational structure creates a dynamic whereby new entrants can appear anywhere"

Sounds like Stop Sinclair, MoveOn, Townhall, Dean Meetups, etc. How are we fostering the organization of political action beyond the single group approach? How are we investing in ways to create small but effective coordinating units in field organizing? (building a political machine on a laptop) How are we investing in the network capacity of the movement so these organizers and move very quickly from issue toi issue?

Systems disruption. A method of sabotage that goes beyond the simple destruction of physical infrastructure. This method of warfare, which can burst onto the scene... uses network dynamics (a new form of leveraged maneuver) to undermine and reorder global systems.

The leverage of 527's, the emergence of blogosphere, the attacks by the swiftboaters, the attacks to roll back power of infrastucture still capable of influencing direction of the country ( media and judges ). Upstart campaigns that atttack the systems of logistics support for the opposition base (attacks on particpation of churches and/or nonprofits) attempts to destroy the incentives for charity donations. Or clter jamming efforts like Chevy Ads What are the global systems that support the political and economic machines that feed conservative control of political agenda (Rob Stein) More importantly how do our moves reorder the system. Do we invest in podcast networks (shifts the system) and or Air America (reinforces a global system)? Do we invest in youtube (global disruptive) or Current TV? Do we spend money on Center for American progress or solve basic communicaitons challenges of our movement (coordinating listserve feeds which are the backbone of organizing)? Green Media Toolshed (distributed voice and tools) or (centralized messenger) NET? Do democrats keep lots of small messages or build a national "message" ?

Virtual states... No longer are guerrilla movements or terrorists aimed at taking control of the reigns of the state or merely proxies for states. A new form of economic sustenance has been found ...and gains momentum through weakening and disruption of states. This...integration creates a virtuous feedback loop that allows groups to gain greater degrees of independence and financial wealth through the warfare they conduct.

Mediavolunteer provides tools to groups to promote messages which should attract more volunteers, which should make the outreach tools more powwerful. Bloggers attack media coverage and the party which reponds and then buy ads on bloggs giving them the resources to be more effective in the attacks against the party and mainstream news.

New leaders in the political world are less likely to want to manage traditional groups or organize within traditional power structures. Bloggers avoid being cozy with the party. Organizers would rather start their own splinter group rather than connect with established nonprofits. Linking people along the edges by network automatically weakens the power of the center.

In political organizing like real estate, or media control was a game of "location". New virtual organizing end runs the value of being central. Ward chariman are not as important when candidates can directly talk to the oganizers. Organizers are less important as party and issue groups can talk to local people. All stuctures are less powerful as the people can self-organize with each other.

John's quote of Lind "Whoever is first to recognize, understand, and implement a generational change can gain a decisive advantage. Conversely, a nation that is slow to adapt to generational change opens itself to catastrophic defeat." This lesson should not be lost on orgnaizers either.

Link: Global Guerrillas: THE CHANGING FACE OF WAR: Into the 5th Generation (5GW).


MAPLight.org

So there is no excuse for California folks to get steam rolled ... This is a really wonderful mashup of legislative data and data tracking with political contributions.

The power of money to kill legislation
This is really cool. I encourage everyone to poke around and think about what this would look like on a national scale.

* How often did legislators vote to support bills their top contributors supported?
* How did a legislator vote on a particular bill, and who are the top contributors to that legislator?
* How often did special interests (such as insurance companies or drug companies) succeed in blocking bills that did not serve their interests?

WOW. VERY COOL. I look forward to seeing RSS feeds of the legislation tracking and the cpacity to embed a bill or industry tracking in issue sites.

Link: MAPLight.org | Money and Politics: Illuminating the Connection.

MAPLight.org brings together information on campaign contributions and votes in the California legislature. The first of its kind in the nation, MAPLight.org provides an unprecedented window into the connections between money and politics.


Idealware: Addictive Volunteering

Network scale projects must:
1. Be designed so that the more people that use them the better they are are.
2. The more people that use them builds hooks into creating more people wanting to use them.
3. The more people that show up the more effective the system becomes at filtering.


Link: Idealware: Addictive Volunteering.

Google is doing a similar experiment with image labeling, which I also find pretty addictive. Over a 90-second period, you and a randomly assigned partner will be shown the same set of images and asked to provide labels for them. When your label matches your partner's label, you move on to the next image until time runs out. Strangely fun, and presumably generates a bunch of decent labels for images.

This is a really interesting and promising model – what else could we apply it to? For better or worse, volunteers are looking to contribute in ways they find meaningful without a huge time commitment. There must be a whole slew of other areas where we could use novice researchers to gather data or apply insight – researching and categorizing software tools? Mapping (through addresses) a huge number of items? Linking up resources into a central place?


Fence for Economic Refugees: Or a new work plan for 18,000 Poor?

$2,000,000,000 for 700 miles of border fence.... According to accounting practices fences depriciate over 7 years. The GOP's new fence costs $285 million per year for 700 miles. So ...about $408,000 per mile, per year. 5208 ft per mile or $78 per foot per year.

The average immigrant salary $15,000. We could pay about 18,000 immigants to live 200 ft. apart along all 700 miles of the border. They could sit there and nicely ask folks to go home. They could call for help if they needed it much better than a fence and gizmos.

What could you do with $2,000,000,000?


Homeless Nation

This is a very cool site that Perla Ni GreatNonprofits. She gave a wonderful presentation and pointed to sites that are human voice, connect users and encourage emotional connections.

Homeless Nation

There are tens of thousands of homeless people in Canada, with no address, no vote, nameless and faceless, and yet there is almost no documentation (statistical or personal) made by them or about them as a community or as individuals. If we continue to accept this status-quo of invisibility, an entire generation of homeless people will pass away without a trace.

The Homeless Nation website has been created to reverse stereotyping, to empower the street community to undertake their own representation, and to foster a national dialogue around the most serious social problem facing us today: homelessness.

The site provides video to homeless people in Canada. The stories are genuine real and create a connection between the audience and the people they serve. It works because you can see that the people in the street are real. The group is not using stock photography of the people they help. They are giving those folks voice and volume in the Internet age.