PDF12 | Jane Holl Lute | Homeland Security in a Networked Age
Story of Change.. Go to the Heart of the Problem

Organizing and Mobilizing - 2 Distinct Strategies in Your Advocacy Effort.

I have been struggling lately to get more clarity on the concepts of organizing and mobilizing.These are terms of art in my world but often see the concepts mashed together.  These terms do not mean the same thing in an advocacy context and BOTH are very important.    

Problems emerge in conferences and in group conversations when mobilizers and organizers get together and don't call out important differences in the way they work.  The confusion of these concepts muddles campaign work, online and network building strategy.

Organizers... Bring people together, they organize people to address whatever emerges as the people's priorities. The organizers focus on listening, building community, building trust and building respect. Organizers welcome conversation, strive for genuine diversity, push for distributed ownership of the group,  and know group process. Organizers default toward consensus, need to make sure all views are heard and want to keep everyone engaged.  

Mobilizers ... Work with people in order to focus on a set of steps to get something done. Mobilizers focus on moving people to act. Mobilizers push and pull the people they can to take a sequence of steps.  Mobilizers attract and sustain engagement by demonstrating momentum and direction. Mobilizers default toward pushing to the next step. 

When we mash these concepts together, we do a disservice to both. Organizers need mobilization to keep people engaged so that participants feel a sense of trajectory and accomplishments. Mobilizers need organizers to weave the base they will work with to get things done. 

Good strategies often meshes organizing and mobilizing into one effort as a part of a continuum of things that happen. A great strategy focuses on consistently meeting the needs and process of both organizing and mobilizing while carefully building the mechanisms to hold the mobilizers and organizers together in alignment.

I see too many critiques of campaigns that say "that group is great at getting people together but they don't DO anything" OR "that group does campaigns but they don't engage the community or listen".   We need to look at both and ask ...is this an organizing group or a mobilizing group?Am I applying the wrong metrics to the group? 

In your campaign ..

  1. Is there a dedicated effort to organize for the sake of organizing? Or is there only organizing for the purposes of mobilization? 
  2. Is there a dedicated effort to organize the people mobilized to act? Is there a process to push those mobilized back into the arms of organizers?
  3. Is there a dedicated effort to mobilize those who are organized? Teasing out people that are engaged and pushing them to act.
  4. Are the things in place (seven elements of an advocacy network)  in this context to connect and grow the power of both mobilizers and organizers?