Maid Serives, Nail Salons, Taxi Cabs, Issue Groups and Complex Problems for Organizing Change.
Yochai Benkler. Keep Watching. We will Catch Him Someday. Foldit

Compound Bow, Longbow and Bowling Balls. Network-Centric Advocacy: Potential Energy with the Advocacy Movement.

Compound bows maximize the energy storage throughout the draw cycle and provide let-off at the end of the cycle (less holding weight at full draw). A traditional recurve bow has a very linear draw force curve - meaning that as the bow is drawn back, the draw force becomes increasingly heavier with each inch of draw (and most difficult at full draw). Therefore, little energy is stored in the first half of the draw, and much more energy at the end where the draw weight is heaviest. The compound bow operates with a very different weight profile, reaching its peak weight within the first few inches of the draw, and remaining more flat and constant until the end of the cycle where the cams "let-off" and allow a reduced holding weight. This manipulation of the peak weight throughout the draw is why compound bows store more energy and shoot faster than an equivalent peak weight recurve bow or longbow.


The rules of potential energy tell us an object can store energy based upon its position and structure.

How is your movement building a “compound bow”?

Here is another way to think of energy, imagine a bowling ball…in a flat gravel driveway,  a significant amount of force is required to accelerate it. However, the same ball sitting on a dirt road at the top of long hill will roll with the slightest nudge.  The ball will start bouncing, hopping and rolling down the dirt road. 

The difference in these scenarios of the bow or the ball on the hill  lies in the stored “energy of position” created by the ball’s placement and the bows structure. Potential energy is measured in degree of ability to perform work, to displace some quantity of mass.

It takes exactly the same amount of energy to move the ball up to the top of the hill as it does to accelerate it along the driveway but “the cost” of investing the energy is not linear. 

It would take a lot of capacity to blast the bowling ball down the drive way to the same speed (bouncing, hopping and rolling).  

A compound bow takes the mechanics of energy storage to an even greater design alloing a user not just to hold the energy but to hold it comfortably and directed and stored to deliver the most use.

These same forces exist within advocacy. With a little creative thought about building stored energy into a campaign infrastructure, we can lower the costs and capacity needs of accelerating change.

In our world when we are working to “displace some quantity of mass” we are talking about influence in culture, policy, opinion and actions. Do you build a base overnight or do you leverage more efficent stuctures to build and store energy?  How do you position your assets so they have the greatest work potential stored in them?  Where is the last place to store your bowling balls  and assets (in the middle of a valley or behind hoops of program officers and applicaitons) ?

 Using this framework,  we can think of some principals for campaigns.

  1. Don't wait to build your movement because you want to hold back your reserves. Focus instead on building tools that build steadily "hold" resouces ready. However, borrowing from logistics and supply chain management also remember  the flexibility of your "energy holder" really matters.    There are a few new movement structures out there but they are deisgned to "store and nuture" a movement for others to leverage on demand. 
  2. Once a base of clout is organized in a new "position" it will change the dynamic of work. The compound bow changed warfare, and distributed supply chains drove shifts in business models. As we build more flexile campaign teams and infrastucture, the fundamental ways we organize will transform to leverage the new systems in place.   When many groups can all leverage the reach to the  same base of activist while still being independent you will see new organzing as a service model emerge (testing at
  3. Finally, the tempo of delivering clout changes because the potential of the movement is organized more "forward and nimble" and therefore the other campaigners see a shorter cycle between developing campaign ideas and being able to implement them. The increased tempo of organzing creates a "mobilizing" dynamic consisting of many things "to do" for people that are eager to see progress and move the aganda forwad. The momentum creates more clout.

(I need to push this forward more...another day...must sleep...)