Individuals Cannot Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

Here is a good article unpacking the fallout of group think. It is also a nice set of questions for any campaign planning and campaign strategists. The original article is about CIA and failures of intelligence. Our allies often get what we ask for but not what we want. My sense is that the failure of many of our investments and strategies is because we don’t do enough of the following….

1. Challenge Authority. Challenge Tradition.

2. Probe the Assumptions

3. Look for Indicators. What details could change your mind?

4. Brainstorm the likely responses from opponents.

 

Here is the section from the original article that hit me…

What our intelligence system really needs is ways to avoid becoming trapped by the natural tendency to leap to conclusions and stick with them. This is true in other fields as well, which is why so much of professional and scientific training is designed to reduce the errors made by fallible people using weak information.

If individuals cannot avoid jumping to conclusions, there are ways for organizations to make up for this. They can systematically solicit the views of people with different perspectives, for example, or use devil’s advocates who will challenge established views.

To compensate for the tendency to rely on implicit understandings, intelligence analysts can be pushed to fully explain their reasoning, allowing others if not themselves to probe the assumptions that often play a large and unacknowledged role in their conclusions.

To better recognize the significance of absences, analysts can learn to think explicitly about what evidence should be appearing if their beliefs are correct. Gaps do not automatically mean that the established ideas are wrong, but they may signal a flaw in the prevailing thesis. Analysts can also be trained to consider, explicitly, what evidence could lead them to change their minds - not only alerting themselves to the possibility that the necessary information might be missing, but also providing an avenue for others to find evidence that might overturn established views.

Analysts should think more broadly and imaginatively about how adversaries are likely to respond, especially when it appears as though they have few alternatives and may be pushed into tactically surprising acts.

Think different, CIA - The Boston Globe


Because of You Google Maps Show Live Traffic Reports for Back Roads

The thinking behind the Google Map service is the way every allied organizer should be thinking. Once you are not stuck at the ground level, we need strategists to step back and look at the 30,000 how can we make this happen.

The basic concept behind the way they build information on the map is exactly the way distributed advocacy and social change movements MUST be organizing. 

How do movements build up the capacity to enable collaboration with “almost zero effort” on the part of the organizers and groups?  What transactions of everyone else in the movement you work in would be most relevant to your work? What are the traffic jams of social change?

The people with cell phone are collaborating. They benefit from the collaboration. They have accepted the bargain of giving back peeks into data about them in order to see the big picture.

When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you're moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions. We continuously combine this data and send it back to you for free in the Google Maps traffic layers. It takes almost zero effort on your part -- just turn on Google Maps for mobile before starting your car -- and the more people that participate, the better the resulting traffic reports get for everybody.

Google Watch - Google Maps - Google Maps Now Shows Live Traffic Reports for Back Roads


I'd rather have people grow out of our products, as long as more people are growing into them

We keep our products simple. I'd rather have people grow out of our products, as long as more people are growing into them. http://ow.ly/zIGI   The Way I Work: Jason Fried of 37Signals

Man. Wow… that is a line that should be burned into every social movement.  Jason is talking about products at 37 Signals but I would love to see that approach taken by our justice, environmental and other progressive movement organizers.

How many would pass? What % of our users do we graduate? Serve the new people well and you grow.

If you want to grow a movement build it to serve the newbie not the old baby boomer that wants you to add increased science policy review language onto some obscure wetland legislation. (press feed from ascribe)?


Collaboration Anti-Culture

Here is a great riff on culture and collaboration that resonates with me. It fits with the seven elements of a healthy network and begs the question…. can you manage “culture”? 

Yes. It is possible to establish and set the culture of a group. There are 3 ways to build culture in an organization or network.

1. Leadership- Leadership in culture is very different from leadership in an executive sense. There are leaders that serve others. Leaders that direct and drive. And leaders that focus on process and infrastructure. There are very few people that realize they are controlled or follow culture but most of us are sheep grazing on pastures of culture.  The culture sets the terms of acceptability (you know the day you square danced or moon walked).  Leadership in a culture is not being a boss but leading in vision or service. Leadership is also exerted by those that see the culture and shape it by weaving parts of it together or drive wedges in the cracks. 

2. Language – A culture can not emerge without commonalities. Common vision, common stories and common language. Words, pictures, music, stories that unify and define “who is in” and “who is out”. Just because you participate or you are there doesn’t mean you are part of the culture. Wolf Blitzer is not really part of twitter culture but he uses twitter. His story, images, process and language don’t fit the culture.

3. Lines – Common channels, common lines of communications, a capacity to collaborate, share and synchronize. The ability to connect and reconnect in new ways. You can not evolve an art culture without venues, unify a culture without the ability to interact in some ways.  A collaborative culture is build on the capacity to communicate and share experiences.

These create a culture and are part of mix of challenges network strategies address.

Culture is really important for collaboration technology to work in a group or organization. If the culture isn't right, "collaboration" as a human process expressed through various communication and collaboration technologies can't take root. I met with a new client earlier this week to talk about a senior management attempt to encourage "collaboration"….

Michael Sampson: Currents: Collaboration Anti-Culture: Can It Get Any Worse?


Twitter Cofounder Jack Dorsey On Using Twitter For Social Change

This is in line with the training work we have been doing on twitter for activists.  The power of Twitter comes from 3 sources for activists.

  1. The ability to instantly connect people who don’t know each other but care about an issue, event or action. (#hashtags)
  2. The ability to set up a group of trusted people and connect them even if they are not in front of computer but not tight enough to share cell phone numbers with each other. (lobby days, coordinating action etc.)
  3. The ability to scale up your listening, broaden your radar and listen to people you don’t normally get to listen to so regularly. (Micah Sifry is one of the smartest and well connected activist … who does he follow? Follow them directly.http://twitter.com/Mlsif/following) and now his lists…http://twitter.com/Mlsif/techpolitics

 

Jack Dorsey nails it… Good Huffington Post Interview…

Impact: How can people use Twitter more effectively for social change?

JD: I think the biggest thing is supporting each individual update more, getting away from [Twitter] being a social network and focusing on individual tweets, so that you can create a whole movement from that. Right now we have the hashtag, which was invented by our users, but it's still a little bit cumbersome. But we've seen that tool have a dramatic effect on how people organize and it serves a particular event or a particular moment and then disperses when it's no longer necessary. Or, the hashtag becomes a full-fledged Twitter account which people can follow permanently. I think making that transition [to concentrate on the value of individual tweets] in an easy way would be very, very helpful.

Twitter Cofounder Jack Dorsey On Using Twitter For Social Change


John Kao: Innovation Nation meets Nonprofit Networks

I really thought this was a good presentation on innovation process and practice.  I like how it resonates on personal experience level and how it bumps up against the network design issues and the paradoxes of building network power and performance to create intentional change.

First, the discussion fits well with the type of work I do with partners.  It is interesting to see John focus on the conceptual clarity and need to ask and queue up the right questions.   Partners often balk at the really important part of the work that is focused on syncing up the network vision and our efforts with the current contexts and realities that are buffering and shaping the context.

Second, this presentation bumps into the system and process questions at the network level. What systems do we have in place that actually DESTROY innovation at scale across groups and in an issue and advocacy network ? How can networks innovate? How can networks be supported in innovation process? I find it interesting that John limits this conversation and thinking (national or organizational level) to centralized planners and individual examples.  John provides the right process (everyone knows the process, set of practices that work well, leads to value) but how does it scale to a distributed innovation by a network of allied activists?  

How does a movement of 50 years get to a "beginners mind"? How do set process of leaders, foundations, donors and the most accomplished advocates ask new questions and direct the jazz band of change by adopting the Miles Davis "don't say to much" leadership?

Thanks to Momentum for posting the videos.

Engagement without Joining - Youth Vision

It is tragic that we don't have intentional efforts to drive power, leadership, budgets and responsibility into the hands and power of tested, smart and emerging young leaders.   They are interested in engagement without joining. Why do most of the models for engagement include "joining and membership" vs action, output and results of conversation.

The youth are not interested in

  • joining
  • becoming member
  • movement's that have delivered the current world to their door.
They are interested in 
  • power
  • freedom
  • justice
  • global perspectives
  • engagement and voice

Energy Action Coalition continues to pump new ideas and insights into the drive and trends they see on the ground with young diverse and mobilized base. There is good insight into the language, channels and rhythms of youth leadership that are very important to heed.


Facebook as a Financial Platform?

There are big changes going on at facebook that will reshape the ways nonprofits will be able to use and leverage the platform.  The biggest of these changes is the launch of some “gift” tools for your social network. These changes seem little at first “who cares if you can buy a song for a friend” but anyone that watched ITunes, Skype, Amazon and online donations scale up realizes that getting people to cough up credit card for credits is the biggest hurdle in ultimately freeing people from money.

The more that facebook users get used to buying little bits of things online, using their credits, and making transactions online the easier it will be to help them convert facebook relationships into channels for sending money to your charity and campaign.

I expect online donations to charities and groups with “pages” will grow proportionally with the amount of total exchanges on facebook. So seeing them add features like the new “buy a song” for a friend will be a big boost to those of us that look to facebook as a space for organizing relationships with people that use if like the way traditional users focused on their inbox.

While you can currently purchase gifts from non-profits, like Kiva, Project Red, TOMS Shoes, Charity Water and the World Wildlife Fund, Facebook is now also including gifts via the Causes application. So you can make donations to a cause as a gift for your friends for pretty much any cause supported through the app.

Facebook’s Gift Shop Sings A New Tune


Sean Parker: Twitter/Facebook Will Soon Dominate The Web — Not Google.

This resonates with Clay Shirky, Beth Kanter and a bunch of riffs here on network-centric advocacy.  Connecting people is taking over as the major service of the web.    Newspapers provided information. Advocacy groups exist to connect people to each other. Connecting people with more than just text is the big leap. Connect people with voice, video and images. Connecting people to work, laugh, collaborate and create change is the golden opportunity of the next 10 years.

 

Parker believes we’re shifting from the first phase of the Internet, which was dominated by what he calls “information services” These are companies like Google and Yahoo. But next up to dominate the web will be the “network services” like Facebook and Twitter, he believes.

To be clear, he thinks Google will stay huge and relevant, but it’s dominance will go down because collecting data is less valuable than connecting people, he said.

He went on to talk a bit about the social networking space, which is significant because he helped found Facebook.

Sean Parker: Twitter/Facebook Will Soon Dominate The Web — Not Google.

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Super Crunchers : The Future of Advocacy Evolution?

No more experts and intuition. Look at the data trends. Storage to $0 and processing power out the wazoo available for everyone.   What massive datasets do you have? What data sets can you create with a little investment.


Here are some applets that give you a sense of the kinds of things that Super Crunching can help predict. Use them at your own risk (The lawyer in me feels compelled to emphasize that I make no representation as to their accuracy). .

God's Eye View. Replace Folk Wisdom with Data

Games that generate data and change behavior.  Alex Pentland is not only thinking about network behavior but starting to look at it and measure it.  He looks at the "fabric of communication" beyond language that we used to coordinate and communicate for all those years before language developed.  This is a really interesting riff and quick introduction to the concepts in his book.



Healthcare little pulse on Facebook: Where is the campaign?

This is a chart of the number of walls that talk about health care in Facebook.

It is surprising that there is so little change over the last several months. If the progressives are actually going to influence the undecided on health care they need to find a way to enable people to bring health care battle out into these edge networks. The movement of people that were behind Obama are not carrying his message on health care into their social networks. It looks like there was more chatter about health care before the election.

The campaign to spread that message on health care is too centralized in the administration. And merely tracking the amount of chatter on the issue demonstrates that it has moved to an inside the Beltway issue.

For each policy initiative the White House needs to make sure that the talking points and facts are presented in a way that they are viral and encourage people who want to spread the to date and clarity on the issues to take these facts into their social networks.

 


Social Movements are Self-Serve

I have been thinking about the differences between between supporting a campaign and supporting a movement. Is there a difference? Is it in the leadership or vision or direction? Is it in the approach?  How is the environmental movement different from the campaign on toxics?  If your job is to support a movement, how is that different from campaign planning?  Is it possible to think of design goals and challenges to supporting a social movement?

Campaigns focus on creating targeted change and encouraging others to work on the pressure points someone has identified and that someone has figured out the messaging on. Social movements are really about many campaigns and many messages.

Campaigns are “serve me”. Social movements are self-serve. 

In a movement, you need to support leaders and scale by working to attract more people into leadership.  In a campaign, the leadership is known and others opinions on the campaign direction are just a distraction.

It is interesting because that distinction plays out the entire strategy on how you deploy the limited resources you have to make a big difference.  If you are campaigning, you need to be directive, manage your resources and control each investment to move the campaign along a known trajectory.   People within a movement run campaigns. However, if you are building a movement, invest in lowering barriers to participation, invest in viral training, invest in peer to peer connections, invest in tools and services that are self-serve and therefore scalable.

Building self-serve systems requires a completely different design.

We have self-serve banking, appointment scheduling, health-care, self-serve ticketing from airlines, self-serve gasoline, checking bags, shipping, customer support, etc.etc.  Self-serve movements can use these same guidelines for self-serve design to help our thinking about movements. This reading made me really think hard about the campaigns that do this and those that don’t:

Rule #1 Provide a Benefit to Customers

Rule #2 Make Transactions Intuitive

Rule #3 Show Customers What to Do

Rule #4 Choose the Right Locations

Rule #5 Beware of Legacy Systems

Rule #6 Take a Test-Drive

Democracy and  Human Rights to Kiva, DonorsChoose, NPR, Alex’s Lemonade Stand… Movement Approach.  Are you investing in a way that supports the growth of a self-serve movement ? Or are you putting money into campaigns? Both are fine but we to often confuse investing in campaigns as part of movement building.


Shifting the Costs of Organizing to the Community

This riff is interesting. It raises further questions about the inefficiencies arising in the current way that we organize.  The cost of organizing shifting heavily onto those organized.

Political organizing is inefficient to the end user.  They give us support for one issue ..like save polar bears and then the “good organizer” uses the political engagement on the polar bear by extension to advocate for all endangered species work.   You like the GOP stand on the 2nd amendment, next thing you know you are part of a “political base” being leveraged to fight against health care or expected to ignore human rights abuse.  You support a charity as it works with the poor and then hear your numbers counted among the millions against gay marriage.  Parties and institutions have leveraged political capital worse than the wall street traders playing with mortgages. Lackoff, American Environics and others continually point to the complexity of people’s opinions on issues but they are not pointing to the huge institutional interest in convoluting and working to cluster people unnaturally. 

Organizers do this everyday. They leverage past organizing to appear more organized on current issues and to pretend they have proxies to engage in anything centralized leaders and experts believe in-line with group brands.

Markets and networks will continue to squeeze these “inefficiencies” out of our system of organizing.  Information transparency will expose more of this cycle. Additionally, one-off campaigns and adhoc campaigns will demonstrate that they can assemble resources quickly and make a difference (Actblue, Donors Choose, Kiva, Microvolunteering, petition site,  etc.) The “build your own” model to engagement will evolve and eat away at the need to give “vouchers” to let others speak for you.  We will see a flip-flop of political weights.  It used to be that the size of the groups engaged base was what was more important and that these groups of joiners represented the “super-engaged” and the hardened activists. It will ultimately, be that the groups become the repositories for the lazy activists that would rather trusts a brand while the super engaged will actively shop, engage and focus on a variety of issues without needing to sacrifice clarity that is always much more complex then what our groups can represent.   Why will this happen? Because the costs of organizing has now shifted onto the end user AND the most valuable  connections you will respond to come form friends that you have relationships with.

 

Costs Have Shifted to the Consumer

The shift that has occurred is that the relevant costs to the recipient are now the dominant ones. If you think about sending out mail ten or twenty years ago, the cost was twenty five cents, which the sender had to pay. The intelligence used to sit on the side of the sender, for instance, Capital One carefully figuring out whom to target. But, with electronic communication, the costs have shifted to the recipient, our time, our attention, our cost to deal with the interruptions. My belief is that it’s not primarily a technology play, but it’s primarily a people play where people provide metadata, data where they predict how important their communication is for you, and then a model negotiates, over time. Given their reputation, how much you should be interrupted and whether given the situation you are in, which of course you devise measures much more finely than ever before, you should be interrupted or not.

people & data » featured

 

With communication being free and instantaneous, attention is increasingly scarce. Economics is the science of scarcity. So, that’s why we need to develop an economic model of communication. Before, scarcity was on the side of the senders (time, money). It was impossible for firms to communicate effectively with large numbers of people at once, and communication/coordination between customers was even more difficult.  There was no way for an individual to effectively reach a broad audience beyond a very limited radius.  But the communication revolution has brought about many changes.  At first glance, this seemed to be great for companies—it’s now almost free to bury customers in ad campaigns!  However, now that the scarcity has shifted to the recipients (time, attention), communication needs to go beyond transactions and move to relationships. In fact, the value of relationships is greater than the value of transactions.


Customer Feedback Meets Ideas for Netroots Nation

image 

Customer Feedback & Ideas for Netroots Nation

Netroots conference using UserVoice to sort questions from the large audience. It will be interesting to see how the questions that emerge are very much like or dislike the questions professional reporters would ask.


Vontoo: Calling My Campaign

I will be using this asap. The power of voice and phone connected with the web.  I can see a few options from phone bank reminders to a small event, reminders for house parties for everyone in a zip from the database, etc.  It is just another way to leap content and organizing across divides.

Vontoo is a market-leading provider of automated voice messaging solutions. Our robust and flexible product offerings allow organizations of all sizes to leverage the power of voice in order to build brands, drive revenues, increase operational efficiencies and solve complex communication challenges.

When it comes to communication, nothing can compare to the power, excitement and authenticity of the human voice. Vontoo was founded with a clear mandate - to bring the power of voice marketing and communication to organizations eager to leverage its seemingly endless capabilities.

Vontoo


Web2.0 meets listserve? This is an embeddable discussion thread?

This is interesting.  It is a discussion thread that can be ported and embedded around the web.  It could have a nice potential for advocacy groups and creating collaboration and collective action between communities.  It would need a few changes to be one of the “killer” apps for those of us in the nonprofit community.

1. Data tracking and ownership. If I embed it in my site (open site)  I get a copy of the names and data of the people who post from my site (build out data and interest in my salesforce tracking of those people).

2. Data sharing. I can agree that the original person who set up the thread also gets a copy of the data like a PTa or Cancer survivor forum with data going to local group and livestrong (then it becomes a viral organizing tool spreading content and collecting data).

3. Full email integration. If someone posts to a topic I have commented on I get sent an email AND I can respond via email without going online. A copy of my reply goes into the online forum (stay in your inbox or on blackberry).

4. Secure hand off. My website  (from a closed community like Ning or a Drupal site) can allow my logged in people to post without signing in again or needing to go online with everyone who is not logged in getting the post via email.

5. Ad free version.

 

I sent some emails to the developers. This looks interesting make sure you play.

 


Associated Knowledge: Honest Signals in Music

We evolved for a few million years before developing language and another chunk of time before we started developing text and the written word. We are hardwired as a social animal just like ants, bees and monkeys. What are those threads that speak to all of us at that deeper level? Bobby McFerrin shows one of them here.  

As we do communications efforts on campaigns, we need to think carefully about ALL the channels we use to connect and listen to our audience. Most of our issue movements don’t do enough work to organize art, music and image that resonate and harmonize us with our supporters.  (This video made me think of all the art in the Obama campaign or the image masters form the early part of the Bush years.) 

Campaigns, organizers and communications strategy need to make use of art, image and music to slip under the fences that people build in their perceptions. I want to see those campaigns that use the image to frame.  i would like to see art and professional photographers talk about the influence of good art on a campaign.

Great video from World Science Festival link from Associated Knowledge

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.


TargetSpot Internet Radio Advertising

Has anyone used this in campaign and issue work yet?   I would like to see the sympathetic music linked to issue ads to see if they produce any results. I am a big user of  Pandora and I like the idea of seeing country songs about healthcare and cancer and dying linked to Health care reform campaign etc.  Music is so powerful, I have to imaging that linking some songs to issue work has to be effective.

What is TargetSpot?

TargetSpot is the first end to end advertising platform and marketplace designed specifically for internet radio.

Advertisers use TargetSpot's award-winning platform to reach and target internet radio listeners with high-impact audio and video advertising. Traditional and web-only broadcasters alike turn to TargetSpot for its unique ability to support the growth of their streaming products and audience through its innovative advertising technology.

Since launch in 2007, TargetSpot has received numerous awards and recognition, including Always On's "Always On Media 100," Inside Radio's "Seven Changing Radio Now" and Radio-Info.com's "Radio's Innovators".

TargetSpot Internet Radio Advertising : About Us


African Americans, Hispanics Lead Mobile Web Growth

This kind of data consistently comes up in online organizing. who has access and what do the trends look like. I thought this was really interesting. I worry a little about the English survey skewing the results but broadband in the home ranging between 37% and 68% means that opinion leaders in almost all the groups will have access.

The Hispanics surveyed reported the highest penetration of cellphone ownership, at 89 percent. On a typical day, 14 percent of English-speaking Hispanics reported playing music and 5 percent reported watching video on a cellphone or PDA. In terms of overall digital activities, English-speaking Hispanics who are online or are cell phone users outscored the other two groups.
The study was conducted in English, so the Hispanic population surveyed was skewed to a higher socioeconomic group, the study notes. When Spanish speakers were factored in to Pew's December 2008 study, the rate of broadband penetration in Hispanic homes was counted at 37 percent, while in the most recent study of English-speaking Hispanics, the rate was 68 percent.

African Americans, Hispanics Lead Mobile Web Growth


MarketingSherpa: New Chart: Information Sources for Large Purchase Decisions Changing

This is interesting.  The way people are making people complex purchases is changing. I would assume this is a not only a reflection of the economic times but also of the interest in the information and the amount of information that a buyer needs to feel armed with before they can make such a decision. I think it is really telling that virtual trade shows, information websites, social media are becoming so prominent. It will not surprise me that donors, volunteers and activists are going to have the same types of appetite for information as they consider issues that are very important to them.

It will be most interesting to see how virtual fence and virtual trade shows are mimicked in advocacy and issue space.

 

image 

SUMMARY: Driven by economic circumstances, the buying process for large and complex purchases is changing. Marketers who are aware of changing buyer behaviors, such as the use of information resources, will be better able to align their selling process with the buying process to improve effectiveness.

MarketingSherpa: New Chart: Information Sources for Large Purchase Decisions Changing


Learning from Smart Bacteria: Quorum Call for the Action

Smart networks of bacteria wait for "triggers" and feedback to tell them when to act collaboratively and mulit-cellular collective action. Bacteria have a few million years of evolution on collective action planning. If our species, campaigns and social events thrive on these same conditions of signaling then we need to make sure that we encourage constant "quorum testing" across our base. It is not donations.

We need to look at common channels across our movements and among our base so that we can trigger movement action.

Our strategy of control and managing people in silos and isolation doesn't create power it jams our quorum sensing on political will for change.

Great and thought provoking talk on many levels.

Bonnie Bassler on how bacteria "talk" | Video on TED.com.
Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria "talk" to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves

Problems Campaigns Face: Riffing from PDF

We are in a unique moment of people organizing. At this time, our culture becomes both increasingly tied together and fragmented (danah boyd). Organizers dreamed for years to be able to reach millions of people (YouTube) and they pined for the day thousands of allies could collaborate in synchronizing efforts (Iranelection ish) to agitate for change of culture, industry or policy.

Now we sit in among vast networks of supporters, allies, friendsters and professionals (1000+ at PDF) as committed to our issues as we are, but working together alludes us. change remains just out of reach.

We know much about campaign planning (spitfire strategies) and communications strategy but the underlying alignment mechanisms for marshalling and managing the power in campaigns have shifted beneath our feet (who is momsrising…go Roz!). We are transitioning from an organizational-centric world dominated by good management, ownership, hierarchies and “the firm”  to a network-centric world driven by leadership, transparency, reach and sharing (Ny311, government spending dashboard).

Leaders in broadcasting (newspaper) are being replaced by those focused on creating connections (craigslist). Both will always exist, but there is no doubt networks and network organizing represents a transformative trend.

Today, as movements organize they need a mix of both traditional campaign and communications strategy coupled with network strategy. (Obama)

Common Problems that Many Campaigns Face.

Experience demonstrates that these strategies are less effective without complementing each other. (Gates on education ) The interplay of campaign, communications and network capacities influence the planning implementation and success of each.

Coalitions, collections of groups, and crowds of people often lack the clear vision, campaign objectives and communications plans (PDF…although Sunlight stuff is a nice direction) that help identify the critical networks for further engagement, direction and collaboration. However, even when like minded and allied leaders can agree to connect and collaborate without a unified vision the emergent networks rarely develop the functionally collaborating infrastructure (Green Group) so that the participants can self-organize a clear vision, campaign objectives and subsequently develop campaign and communications plans.

In both scenarios, the coalition without clear objectives and the campaign without the functional network, basic levels of network infrastructure are needed to move forward. However, time after time organizers get stuck with little budget and no plan to solve the fundamental dysfunction in the networks the campaign depends on to achieve success.

The lack of budget and plan stems from a mix of both planning and management issues. There is often an unspoken lack of trust of the base and an unwillingness to trust allies. Yet, there is little investment in the systems that would build performance of far flung collaborative team ( fostering trust in the base).

Organizers that don't trust people to be as committed as themselves therefore design processes to get mild users to support the most committed rather than to actually engage and work effectively with the many-many-many less committed activists. There is a lack of diversity in the "committed base" and most effort is focused on recruiting a more diverse set of people into the same mindset rather than diversifying the agenda and the definition of what the movement is committed to achieve. Many leaders are oddly proud to be disconnected from trends in culture, communication and technology.(not at PDF)

The combined effects of these management biases and systemic gaps create a mess and complete lack of alignment between objectives, organizing, revenue plans, budgets, vision, communications, network organizing and technology plans. The resulting tossed salad of tech tools duct taped onto an organizing effort with no intention of listening, learning, serving and adapting makes a mockery of bottoms-up ownership. (thinking PickensPlan Ning)

On the planning side, many groups have even acknowledged that they are now entering a phase of network building, “taking a network approach” or that they are dependent on networks to create change but when pushed they have no framework for even discussing why, how or what are the elements that make an advocacy network functional.

Unfortunately, groups have no process or limited capacity to identify these conflicts and gaps. As organizers, they have limited experience bridging bottoms up discussions with mangers, funders, planners. Their is not enough circulation of the stories and theories of change that could realign the policy, network and communications activities.

Organizers and tech builders don’t have the materials, work process to help staff better understand organizing in the age connectivity and what is developed by foundations is disregarded and by consultants is trademarked.

We can look at all the pretty tools and see all the activity (online and off) but until the network builders and technologists explain the shift in logic that occurs to more of the organizers embedded across our movement most of us agitating for change will remain as we were only with better websites. 

I had a blast in NYC at PDF.  It was great to take time to step back and look at the broader trends and the ways those trends influence work at Green Media Toolshed and the training I do with Netcentric Campaigns. These events like PDF make me realize how fast the technology is moving in shifting the logic and thinking of the technology leaders and the gap that is emerging between that edge and traditional organizers and current leaders of organizations.

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More Network Wisdom from Shack/Slum Dwellers International

I continue to be amazed at the depth of network rituals developed by SDI. In a context of little resources SDInet has made the operation form the ground up based on principals that are very network-centric.  If you look, there are elements of all the key components of the network in the “Rituals”.  Here is an example of network culture, network vision, communication grid, social ties building, management of shared resources, leadership building, and feedback in one program area. 

From their website..

Horizontal exchange, then, is the primary learning strategy of SDI. Participants within the savings networks learn best from each other - when one savings group has initiated a successful income-generating project or has replanned a settlement or has built a toilet block, SDI enables groups to come together and learn from intra-network achievements. The community exchange process builds upon the logic of 'doing is knowing' and helps to develop a collective vision. As savers travel from Khayelitsha to Greenpoint or Nairobi to Colombo, the network is unified and strengthened - not only at a street level but between towns, regions and provinces, and nation-states. In this way, locally appropriate ideas get transfered into the global millieu through dialogue amongst slumdweller partners.

Community-to-community exchanges allow participants to see themselves and their peers as experts, thereby breaking isolation to create a unified voice of the urban poor, reclaiming sites of knowledge that have frequently been co-opted by professionals, and strengthening solidarity to increase critical mass. The pool of knowledge generated through exchange programmes becomes a collective asset of the SDI network - so that when slumdwellers meet with external actors to debate development policies, they can draw from international examples, forcing government and other stakeholders to listen.

Shack/Slum Dwellers International


True Spin: a National Conference on Media Relations for Progressives

I”ll be there. It is always a great event.

A PR Conference for Progressives

Some of America’s best progressive PR practitioners are gathering for two days of panels, practical workshops, networking, and fun.

This conference brings together flacks from progressive advocacy groups around the country to exchange ideas and learn new and creative PR tactics.

Officials from giant corporations meet all the time to share their latest and greatest media relations strategies. This is our turn. It’s the only national conference of its kind in the country.

After the conference ends on Friday afternoon, stick around for a weekend in the Colorado high country. President's Day on Monday, Jan. 25, gives you an extra day to have fun in Colorado.

True Spin: a National Conference on Media Relations for Progressives


VizThink Blog >>Creating Powerful Presentations with Nancy Duarte

This is a really good presentation.  Nancy provides a quick overview of strategy, tips and guides that I have picked up giving hundreds of presentation.  It is really solid. If you need to do  presentations on a regular basis I would strongly recommend this.

 

Nancy Duarte, principal of Duarte Design and one of the guru’s behind Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation , took over 135 people through her advice & thoughts on how to create powerful presentations.

Miss it?
You’re in luck! We’ve packaged it up and posted it below for viewing at your leisure.

VizThink Blog » Blog Archive » Webinar: Creating Powerful Presentations with Nancy Duarte


Google Flu Trends

This is interesting. Google Flu tracks symptom searches for flu and normalizes it over all searches. Google Flu shows past years too.

The entire US curve is still pretty consistent with past years.

image 

Mexico is showing an uptick that is different from other years.

image

Texas is showing the same trend as Mexico.

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Google Flu Trends


GroupTweet

Here is the campaign and lobby tool for group of collaborators working on a project.  I am trying to hack out some case studies of people that are using it for advocacy please let me know if you have a story to share.

Group message broadcasting for Twitter

Problem: Malcolm, Zoe, Kaylee, Simon, and River all work together on the same web development team. They are avid Twitter users and want a similar way to broadcast quick messages and updates to everyone on their team. Since these messages may contain confidential information, the team doesn't want them published to their public Twitter timelines or to any followers who are not part of the team.

Solution: GroupTweet allows Malcolm and the gang to send messages via Twitter that are instantly broadcasted privately to only the team members.

GroupTweet


Global Guerrillas: JAMAIS CASCIO ON THE RESILIENT ECONOMY

I continue to enjoy global guerrillas is brilliant, jumping off point for organizing my thoughts about what needs to happen in advocacy movements and campaigns.

This riff that he picked up from Jamais Cascio is exactly the kind of logic that we need to apply to our issue movements.

Resilience means the capacity of an entity--such as a person, an institution, or a system--to withstand sudden, unexpected shocks, and (ideally) to be capable of recovering quickly afterwards. Resilience implies both strength and flexibility; a resilient structure would bend, but would be hard to break.

Global Guerrillas: JAMAIS CASCIO ON THE RESILIENT ECONOMY

How does an issue movement or network of advocates build resiliency? What are the investments that truly create strength, flexibility and a resilient structure that would be bend but be hard to break? 

In our work, we tried to be very deliberate and intentional in prioritizing investments in capacity that in some ways are independent of the person, institution, or system. But by thinking this way we are hedging against shock and surprise (which when you step back should never be shocking or surprising ).  The framework that we have developed focuses on investments in

  • social ties
  • common language
  • communications grid
  • clarifying a vision
  • shared resources
  • investing in network leaders (vs. managers and bosses)
  • feedback mechanisms 

 

Additionally, every time we look at a network.  We can use this framework to pass the right kinds of questions and tease out an understanding of what's missing and what components are preventing the network from becoming more highly resilient and functional.


Netcentic View - Globalism Goes Viral - NYTimes.com

Here is a great riff by Brooks spelling out the case for a network-centric approach to building response systems to mange change in the 21st century. It is the same uncertainty and need for experimentation that makes the case for netcentric change organizing.

the decentralized approach has coped reasonably well with uncertainty. It is clear from the response, so far, that there is an informal network of scientists who have met over the years and come to certain shared understandings about things like quarantining and rates of infection. It is also clear that there is a ton they don’t understand.

A single global response would produce a uniform approach. A decentralized response fosters experimentation.

The bottom line is that the swine flu crisis is two emergent problems piled on top of one another. At bottom, there is the dynamic network of the outbreak. It is fueled by complex feedback loops consisting of the virus itself, human mobility to spread it and environmental factors to make it potent. On top, there is the psychology of fear caused by the disease. It emerges from rumors, news reports, Tweets and expert warnings.

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

Swine flu isn’t only a health emergency. It’s a test for how we’re going to organize the 21st century. Subsidiarity works best.

Op-Ed Columnist - Globalism Goes Viral - NYTimes.com


Ode Magazine : Microjustice: Helping those who are excluded from the legal system

This is another absolutely beautiful example of networks connecting. I love the ideas of Microfinance, now morphing into a microjustice movement.

They share big but not insurmountable upfront costs. They share connections with others (via the micro program to others that solving the problem is trivial. They share a capacity to have the beneficiary monitored cheaply  ( via the internet) and repay the investment over time based on success.

What else can we expect to see….Microteaching, microhealthcare,  micromovement building, microvolunteering, microcopyediting, microinternet development, microjobplacement… 

 

Really brilliant…

When she started Microjustice Bolivia, Van Nispen tot Sevenaer worked with Anne Marie van Swinderen, a microfinance consultant with Triodos Facet, a large microfinance organization associated with Triodos Bank, an ethical financial institution based in the Netherlands. “The similarity between microjustice and microfinance is largely a way of thinking,” Van Swinderen says, “to not look at poor people as victims. Just to be very businesslike serves them much better than to always treat them like poor people who need support. Almost all development programs create a dependency that is not so desirable.”

The Microjustice Initiative may still be small but its approach reflects a big change in the way non-governmental organizations think about poverty, law and development. In the past, policymakers tried to improve legal systems in developing nations by working with national governments on court reform. Now, many say it’s also necessary to empower people directly at the grassroots level. Even the UN is taking note. In 2005, it hosted the Commission for the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, which found that more than 4 billion people live outside the legal framework of the modern state. Without effective legal protection, these people are vulnerable to losing their property, small businesses or income from labor, and remaining trapped in poverty. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is sponsoring microjustice-like projects in 10 countries to address the legal needs of the poor.

Ode Magazine : Microjustice: Helping those who are excluded from the legal system


Power Shift 2009 Connected and Twittering

As powershift is in town. They are going to be one of the more connected movements to organize on the Capital that I have seen. Here is just a little summary of the ways these 11,000 activists are going to swarm together. Here is an interesting step-by-step for how people can plug in.

The 140 character updates you will be able to watch on the projection on site or on the Power Shift ’09 website will be coming from observers both at the youth climate summit and remote commentators via the internet. The fast growing service Twitter.com, which should reach 1 million users by March 1, allows for the sharing of observations as well as conversation between users using event tags such as “#powershift09” or by referencing another user such as “@powershift09” in your posts or “tweets”. Consequently, by simply “tagging” your thoughts or observations with a hashtag (#powershift09) a post becomes searchable for somebody trying to find out what people are saying about Power Shift on Twitter.
However, Twitter is only one component of how the conference will be integrated virtually for people who were not able to make the trip physically. For example, the keynote addresses will be streamed live for people to watch over the internet. Then people will be able to comment either via Twitter or discuss more deeply through the Discussion section of the Power Shift Facebook Fan Page. In addition, through the photo-sharing service Flickr.com, attendees will be able upload pictures to their Flickr accounts, tag them with “powershift09”, and then they will cycled through public projections at the conference and through a Flickr application on our Facebook Fan Page.
So just remember to tag your photos and tweets and you too can be part of the conversation: #powershift09.

Power Shift 2009


DonorsChoose.org Moving money into SC schools like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!

Donor’s Choose is opening a money pipeline into the classrooms in SC.  teachers in these classes want beanbag chairs, rugs for cozy corners for reading, prewriting sets for kids with motor skill problems, etc.  Teacher requests directly from SC classrooms.

Education in the spotlight: Support classrooms like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!

By Katie Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009 at 5:44pm

If you were watching President Obama’s address to Congress last night, Ty’Sheoma Bethea probably stole your heart, like she stole ours. The eight-grader from Dillon, South Carolina was in attendance because of the letter she wrote to Congress, about her school’s terrible condition.

Ty’Sheoma wrote, “As you know, we have a lot of problems with our school.  President Obama has visit our school and were able to see why we should need a new school.  Some of the promblems are, we can not afford anything so we can not go on school trips or do school activities unlike other schools…”

She concluded her letter with, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congress men like yourself and one day president….”  To make a difference in high-poverty South Carolina classrooms like Ty’Sheoma’s, you can start here.

All the best,
Katie & Alex
DonorsChoose.org Carolinas

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DonorsChoose.org Blog: Education in the spotlight: Support classrooms like Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s!


Kyte Offers Branded iPhone Apps for Celebrities and Musicians

This is interesting. Instead of offing $25 for a newsletter could groups offer Iphone apps of custom feeds on an issue?  the model would be to pull a bunch of really great feeds (video, issue briefings, chat)  and actions together onto one app that users download (and pay for as a donation).  Speaking of which, has any group ever offered a briefing, coverage of a rally, etc.  as a downloadable Itune to raise money?


Kyte Offers Branded iPhone Apps for Celebrities and Musicians.

Kyte, the catch-all site for video production, creation, and distribution via Web or mobile phone, has been avidly working behind the scenes to further their monetization opportunities and boost their celebrity content. The site, which has been building up its base of celebrity users and experimenting with in-show overlay advertising, is now moving into bluer oceans. Today, Kyte is announcing the launch of an iPhone application framework that lets partners create and deploy their own fully branded, media-rich iPhone apps in about a week.

Network-Centric & Alinsky

Network Rules for Radicals.... I have been cooking ideas of how to mashup the Rules for Radicals and network-centric advocacy for a few years. The puzzle lies in front of us "the rules" are scattered on one side of the desk and papers the "network attributes and components" are on the laptop sitting on the other side of the desk.

I find myself struggling to combine and remix Alinsky rules to contexts that bridge transnational organizing, extreme poverty, new social networks and digital culture. The scale of connectivity and tempo of life, campaigning, attention cycles and change are different today but the core levers of power are based on the same principals Alinsky teased out over a life time of hell raising.

I look at "the rules", the network culture, the most modern warfare strategy and the traditional gurus that struggle to create our modern movement of NGO's and I can not yet make them meet.

How do we best help the powerless and pissed be creative find power and voice to demand change. Where do our legacy organizing power meet todays disenfranchised? where is the powerful connective tissue between networks of people? It is not just the churches Alinsky organized but in hidden dark matter of our social space.

Where does the modern body politic connect? How do folks polarize in a world that refuses walls?

When does the new technology and professionalism serve to keep us in "our expertise and not our enemy" and when does it alinate and scare the very base we need to organize? What does constant pressure look like in the world of ADD? This clip may be the first link... Link: Alinsky.

In the closing chapter of Rules for Radicals, he calls upon radicals to "return to the suburban scene...with its PTA's, League of Women Voters, consumer groups, churches, and clubs. Search out the leaders...identify their major issues, find areas of common agreement, and excite their imagination with tactics that can introduce drama and adventure into the tedium of middle-class life."

Many of the 600 posts here are snippits that find the drama and adventure of change and genuinely connect the participants into the struggle. Netcentric campaigns are not point and clicktivism.

This is not make a donation activism ...new strategy is about leaning into the network of people tied together by billions of investments in communications, internet and transportation and asking them to meet, asking them to talk, asking them to participate and lead.

This new organizing in the age of connectivity is about the fear of power that is not pre-assembled but about projecting the fear that power can be built on the fly. This is about youtube ridicule that is fun and viral. This is about making transparent the rules that they must abide by as well as their mistakes being public at a level that Alinsky could not imagine in the 60's and 70s.

There are still strategy struggles before we write the network for radicals guide but we can see the future and I am curious to see how we can build the new movement for peace, new economy, new justice and new healthy planet. peeks at the stories that say there is something new out there... building health networks (here) (here) connecting the homeless The fear of power on the fly (how can you reach half a million people) Staying power of fun campaigns ....The connections between old and new strategy are there. New strategy in a new culture with similar core threats. 


Logistics, Networks and New Intelligence

IBM is on to some really brilliant network thinking.  They are zeroing in on the feedback mechanisms that make all network able to grow smarter.  They are pushing the new energy grid, new health care and new supply chains.  It is exactly this kind of approach that will make a big difference in our movements. We need to be offering the feedback that makes our movement grow smarter (search terms, sign ups, click thru rates, donation success, distribution rates, GOTV, etc. )  we need ways to visualize summaries of massive amounts of activity (www.capitalwords.org) (foreclosure heat) We need to understand our collective sensors and work to refine, standardize sharing (congressional heat index) .

We see an emerging set of this information in twitter apps and facebook apps that analyze  your personal networks, Rapleaf, Raidian6 and Morningside-Analytics our job as advocacy and campaign planners is to first daylight the information, visualize it and then discover the new kinds of knowledge we need to run better, larger and more effective campaigns without centralized management.

Strategically, the study notes that:

“Building this kind of [smarter] supply chain is a strategic undertaking; it implies a different role and set of responsibilities for supply chain executives. These executives must become strategic thinkers, collaborators and orchestrators.”

What will make these webs of production and distribution smarter? Different kinds of sensors and information technologies will make supply networks more instrumented and interconnected. But what’s ultimately required are the analytical resources to extract new, actionable intelligence from such complex systems. What kind of new intelligence do we mean, and what actually is new about it?

“New intelligence” will flow from advanced computing techniques and expertise that can reveal insight from rivers of real-time information. Innovations in data visualization, predictive modeling and simulation software will make new kinds of knowledge possible, and lead to more evidence-based decision making.

A Smarter Planet: New Intelligence for Smarter Supply Chains


Internet access for the Unemployed: Netcentric Recovery Plan

Picking up on a riff from yesterday. I have been thinking about the issue of serving the unemployed and reconnecting the economy after the financial system reboots.How is this recovery going to be different from 1930's?

Unemployment benefits should be bundled with 12 months of Internet access.  It is part of the investment in the transitioning worker. It is a critical part of the modern "safety net". It will create jobs.

Why should we do this?

  • People need to job hunt.
  • the unemployed need to interact with government agencies and services and online access would reduce government servicing costs.
  • It would help nonprofits and food banks squeeze more efficiency in the way the coordinate delivery of services and assessing needs. 
  • It would create an intensive online training program (from basic computer skills (how to email, network and search) to all the free and more advanced training online.
  • employees could stay in touch with previous coworkers (DHL alumni group on Linked-in) and family at reduced costs.
  • it would up our workforces competitiveness and prepare the unemployed to collaborate on projects for new jobs.
  • the new free web services (gmail,google docs, skype, etc.) enable productivity in the cloud. so event thee $39 computer or the web books would meet basic needs.
  • it would open up lots of new self-organizing (laidoffcamp.org) and new business start up. 
  • It is important for the families that are trying to figure out housing availability, stay connected with schools and teachers.
  • the unemployed on the program (using the govt access pages) could be asked to review elements of the recovery activity, congressional budgets, state budgets, etc.(would probably find enough mistakes to pay for the whole program)
  • when companies want to rehire or pull from their former workforce they could easily reactivate the latent parts of our workforce.
  • Emotional support, entertainment, etc.
  • They could cut off other services (like cable and phone) to save money.
  • It would generate a new revenue and industry from states for web businesses that could target reengaging the unemployed. 
  • If it shortens unemployment of each persons by just a few weeks it would pay for itself. (480 per person per year).
  • It would accelerate the use of the stimulus dollars, tax programs, etc.
  • It would shorten the amount of time it takes to find the unemployed and fill new positions (saving business money)
  • It would keep the unemployed a more powerful political force.
  • It is a manageable cost program. (worst case = 40 a month * 4 million unemployed * 12 = 2 billion ).   The faster the unemployed find work and get into positions where they create value others are willing to purchase the faster the economy recovers. 
  • Other ideas?

Grid Computing for Our Network?

It would be interesting to see one of these cranked up among the progressive advocacy movement for running mapping, GIS, voter file, blogosphere analysis, voice to text recognition, campaign modeling. etc. Who knows maybe we can even use distributed networks to support VOIP, SMS, campaign emailing and emergency activation phone trees.

We may not need tens of thousands of those computers like the Proteome Folding project but I am sure there are many projects at the network scale that our movement is paying through the nose for.

What kinds of projects do you avoid because the computing costs are too expensive?

The World Community GridHow Grid Computing Works

Grid computing joins together many individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that far surpasses the power of a handful of supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, research time is reduced from years to months. The technology is also more cost-effective, enabling better use of critical funds.

Changing Our World Now
Grid computing is not a futuristic technology. World Community Grid is at work right now applying this technology to exciting research projects that can benefit us all.

Our first project, Human Proteome Folding, is identifying the proteins produced by human genes. With this information, scientists can understand how defects in proteins can cause disease, making it easier to find cures.
In 2003, with grid computing, in less than three months scientists identified 44 potential treatments to fight the deadly smallpox disease. Without the grid, the work would have taken more than one year to complete.

World Community Grid - About Us - How Grid Computing Works

 

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The Agitator – Screening Process for Evangelist : Social Market

This post got me thinking….

How Find Your Missionaries | The Agitator - Fundraising, Direct Marketing and Advocacy Strategies for Nonprofits

How do I find out which of my missionary prospects has the "right stuff"? Until we have a scoring model that can pre-identfy these folks in a donor file (something our partner DonorTrends is working on) I guess there’s no substitute … I have to ask or "test" them!

So, I’d come up with a simple missionary request for my prospects (actually, a few requests over time to really probe my prospect pool) … something that involved outreach — such as passing along a message or sending in a prospect name. The donors who responded would be my missionaries. …I’d then attempt to "graduate" them to some explicit donor-to-friend fundraising promotion. I’d conduct as much of this program online as possible, using the latest viral marketing and social networking tools. And I’d create a recognition program to keep my missionaries motivated.

This is good but I think most groups are missing the deep outreach to new members.  The people likely to be “missionaries” are the “sneezers”  which has more to do with the rank in a social group, the topic area and personality type.  In “grapevine” there was talk that it is the new members that are your most likely evangelist.  They just “found you” and eager to tell friends of the “new experience”.    Social marketing is not about donors and loyalty.  It is about buzz. i don’t think the process outlined really gets at the evagelism you seek.

I would start mining the data of new people that arrive.  Focus on the tools and behavior that the new people engage in and and make sure they have the tools they need to “invite” friedns and keep confident that connecting with your cause or group was a great idea.  

Focus on launching services to as existing base and see how they pick up and open issues and then see if i could get them to perform.   I would focus more resources on the “new customers” that are just coming to you for whatever reason and understand why your group is attractive in the current context.   Getting old members that joined 5 years ago to give you a few nnames is fine but I don’t think it is going to be the approach that will give you the best ROI.

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Food Stamp Search Suggests Hard Times Are Spreading like a Flu.

   

Google Trends and US Department of Agriculture Results are compared in these images. They are different.

 

 I was reading up on trend analysis and the predictive power of Google to "see" trends before the official government agencies. (Google Flu) I started to think about what other things people might search for in advance of "showing up" to file or request government service. These are cultural trends that we might not catch for months in actual surge in request are different that current "search trends". Is it fair to assume that the actual surge next year will include Oregon, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, etc.

 

I don't know much about the economic shifts but I know the housing bubble burst first in NV, AZ and much of our car manufacturing is in AL, AK. Maybe someone can explain the shift more intelligently and we can test how these trends playout over the next year.

 

 

 

 

   


Madoff's Fraud Destroyed my Job and Threatens my Cause: Ongoing Network Failure.

While much of the coverage so far is focused on the investor victims of the Madoff fraud, I am interested in watching and supporting some of the other "victims". The people and organizations that are the on tail end of all those investments. The people that can say "Madoff Fraud Destroyed my job and threatens my life work and cause." I am inspired to look at the reactions these people in the Madoff fraud ecosystem as a early warning of how our broader sector may react to the looming collapse of individual donor, foundation and government revenues in 2009 - 2010. 

The Madoff case must serve as an accelerated case study for the rest of us on the edge of the economic disaster (and by "the rest of us" I mean you, the US, economy, everyone working for a nonprofit, everyone). 

I don't know all of the details but after surfing the Madoff stories, it seems the predominate reactions in charities are focused on responding to the needs of the organizations, grasping for ways to replace the revenue and selling assets.   Here are some of the examples...

  • Jewish Funders Network announced a $5 million loan fund
  • Groups raised emergency money for organizations (to pump revenue into the organizations) MoveOn, Theyeneedusnow.org OSI.
  • Each group is dropping into survival mode to respond (selling assets including art. cutting costs)

I assume there are big layoffs in the works at the dozens of charities but I couldn't find a story that pulled them together.   If it were "one big company" like Enron (linked in group 1000+) or Lehman Brothers, etc.  There would already be big collaborative network of former employee groups and groups. Staff would meet up and support each other, create spin offs, find ways to help each other cope and survive.  But in the nonprofit sector, we are traditionally fragmented, smaller shops and compeditive with each other when in the same space (ironically for the attention of donors and media).  In normal times, the staff, volunteer and work is buffered against collabortive impact by this fragmented, compeditive and redundant model.   However, times are different.  We are seeing entire "clusters" like the Madoff network getting hit at the same time. The next "cluster" will be the broader nonprofit sector.

How will the larger sector react?

In the larger ongoing nonprofit crisis  (assume 50% reduction in nonprofit revenues within 2 years) the challenge seems to that such a traditional reaction strategy will not work. Watching the reaction to Madoff fraud is not a scaleable response.

As a sector, we will not find a way to replace the massive volume of revenue (trillions in foundation endowments, grants, government grant cuts and individual donations) The money is going to disappear and no nonprofits are going to be around to buy or want a share of your 2 year old copier and the empty desk in your office. Mergers are expensive and high risk in good times. The broader sector will not be able to bakesale enough emergency funds.

The cuts are coming and all of our favorite issues are going to be facing a Madoff cluster collapse soon enough.  As hard as it is to think about, the survival strategy can not focus on the fate of each individual group survivor.

Decisions need to be made at the micro and maco-level of what can go. Groups and resources are going away and they are not going to return. People are going to retire.  Orgnaizations and brands, services and campaigns are going to collapse on a large scale.

The question is not if the "winner and looser" group choices are going to happen. They are. The question is how are those choices going to be made?

Do we want the macro level decisions made for us? Do we want government contracts, big donors and foundation program staff to restructure and plan the future of our sector, staff, friends and the redistribution of our assets? OR should we do this differently than other recessions? Should the network of people most effected by the crisis do the macro level thinking from the bottom up to the financial decision makers?  Would Enron employees wait until the collapse if they new it was coming to rethink the way they work?

What could be different?

I am not seeing the staff, boards, foundation program officers, donors and people who received the benefits of Madoff "investments" connecting to each other into open communications channels to figure out their combined response. 

In the Matoff case, I am not seeing new combination of the resources they want to save (Can the arts and museums ..host organizing parties for the human rights groups? Can the groups consolidate a central communications or fund raising campaign? Can the combined staff of the peace groups, human rights groups and  survivor networks find a way to look at the network balance sheet (across all the recipeint groups) and design a combined reaction and a better way to move resources (people, intellectual property and hard capital amongst each other) to achieve something important (rather than collapse int lots of little groups or closing shops)?  Can they establish a lend-lease program among the network of victims whose entire business and campaigns are now threatened by the destabilization of revenue?

Yes, all these are "unconventional" responses. But at the heart of todays culture is a connectivity that unlike the first depression, offers all of the individuals /groups a real chance to share data, insights and informaiton.  A real chance to collaborate on big large scale management projects, and a capacity to build trust and crate collective responses.   

I am not seeing a bottom up plan develop on how to react as a network.  I am not seeing a Madoff lay offs retraining program or ways that all the distributed groups and people impacted can network and reshape the way they react.  The best reponse answer is "there" in the network of people impacted by the fraud. The challenge is finding it quickly, bubbling it up and distributing it for collective action.

I wish them the best of luck and I hope the rest of us can learn from thier answers and solutions. They are a few months ahead of the rest of the economy.

I am currently working with others on (nonprofit reponse to the economic crisis wiki ) for a bottoms up and network based response plan. I encourage anyone that has them to post comments here or visit the wiki with links to other bottom up and peer to peer reactions to the Madoff crisis in the nonprofit sector. (or links to peer groups working on the response to the broader economic crisis for our sector.)

(this is one of the posts the I really like and got me thinking)

PHILANTHROPY 2173.

With all the bad economic news over the past months, the Madoff scandal might seem like long-ago history to some (sort of like Lehman Brothers, remember them?). To whole communities however - communities of donors, of nonprofits, and of individual activists or issues - Madoff's impact is still present and ongoing. As in natural disasters, there are both short-term and long-term needs and responses. The Madoff ripoff, a truly man-made disaster, will require the same kind of timeline and attention.


The New Assumptions : Plans for the Economic Crisis

At this stage, it is clear that nonprofit and advocacy groups are also headed for extraordinarily difficult financial times. The cash crunch for the advocacy movement will be as bad as we can imagine and far worse than we can easily manage. We need a plan for how to remain effective.

We should all begin to operate with new assumptions:

1. We are going to be poorer nation. We are going to have less money to work with and we are going to be paying off debts and expenses for years to come. We must squeeze value out of every asset we have built or purchased.The decline in the national economy is going to reduce the cash flow into the advocacy movement by between 20 and 50 percent. Almost every organization will lose staff. The progressive advocacy movement at the end of 2010 will look very different from the movement at the end of 2008. all the best "recovery plans do not really mean "go back to 2007" they mean avoid 1929.

2. Unlike large, centrally managed corporations, the movement is going to dissolve in unpredictable and erratic ways. The sector’s many externalities, as well as its unregulated and dysfunctional reward and punishment systems, will bring about a rapid, non-linear unraveling of capacity. This means that the most effective groups might not survive, and the least effective groups will not automatically disappear. Nor is there a model to predict which group, partner, campaign staff, or policy wonk is going to be around next month. No one knows what regional offices national groups will close. The groups are not coordinating reductions. The talent and assets that remain are going to be scattered across the landscape. The movement will be left with a bunch of loose threads. The economic crash is going to require a sustained effort to repair and reconnect these threads--the elements of our movement--in order to continue to mount successful campaigns.

3. The deepening recession, environmental changes, political shifts, technological evolution and the ongoing wars will combine to create movement toward rapid change and cultural instability. There will be a quickening of political, cultural and individual behavioral change. For at least two years, the federal government is going to be dominated by Democrats. They are going to be able to move legislation and government action quickly on issues like health care, energy and public works. Opportunities to influence significant events and policies are going to come in tighter and more intense waves.

These assumptions will drive the way leaders in the nonprofit sector plan their organizational budgets. In the advocacy and social change movement, however, we rely on networks in addition to organizations to lead and drive change. Just as managers are creating plans for their organizations, the networks need plans to rationally deal with the reductions in overall capacity while also capitalizing on the opportunities that these disruptions will produce. We need something that is not “more of the same,” only smaller.

If we can ask the energy industry to remake itself, if we can ask health care industry to transform, if we can assume the auto industry will be totally different ...where is the vision for our own sector?

The network plan should take advantage of the technology and organizing tools developed in the last several years to manage a constructive reorganization and establish a new model for organizing that is smarter and more effective than the current model primarily dominated by large silos of competing institutions.

Join the planning discussion over on a wiki I set up to kick start the conversations


Notes inspired by Harold Katzmir (FAS)

I was recently in an amazing session/discussion with Harold Katzmir of FAS research. Harold a started talking about his experience and some of the network theory around "energy" that he has been developing. At one point, he summarized work in one slide where he said to "save a network" you can:

  1. increase the flow
  2. decrease the complexity
  3. increase the networks ability to do aggregation.

   

It is great to look at these three things that need to be done. We can think about ways to increase the flows in the advocacy networks. We can spell out a series of ways to decrease the complexity in our networks. And, we can find ways to increase the aggregation power of our advocacy networks.

   

We have to think about what are the things that flow in an advocacy network. Flows could be money, trust, data, information, reputation, intellectual property, media and multimedia assets, opportunity or vision, energy, time and skills. Those are the good things that flow in the network I would assume that the opposite of those would also flow across the network including hatred, debt, lies, confusion, etc.

   

If we are working to "save the network" and we can not put more money into the network, we can put other flows in like information, trust, reputation, intellectual property, the vision, energy, time, and skills. It is these flows that will sustain our networks through the economic crisis.

   

The second part of his challenge is to look at the things that would decrease complexity. In the network-centric advocacy model, we generally talk about elements of feedback, leadership, shared vision, shared language, better communications channels and resource sharing. The building of each of the elements make a network function. Each serves to decrease the complexity because the rules, the language, the throughput and outcomes, the words and the pathways through the network, become clearer to everyone.

   

Decreasing complexity and increasing aggregation, are directly related to the ability to streamline and organize. If we want to increase aggregation, then we have to have feedback mechanisms to allow the participants in the network to see each other's transactions and activities, we have to have a capacity to harvest resources across the network. We have to have the ability to synchronize intellectual property, synchronize time contributions, synchronize money, and synchronize vision.

 

Much of the work in the coaching and the training and network design that we view as around finding new flows, streamlining network complexity, and aggregating network power.

   

I really enjoy anytime I get to spend with Harold and his team. The theory behind his work is brilliant. (Check out an FAS presentation)


The Network Changes Everything..

The centrality of group effort to human life means that anything that changes the way groups function will have profound ramifications for everything from commerce and government to media and religion. Page 16 Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky

 

This is just one of the many lines that I have made notes on in my copy of Clay's book. I struggled for a while, feeling like the guy with a hammer who sees everything as a nail. I could understand that once I had started playing around with the network organizing principles why it just seems so pervasive. Clay's book does a good job at nailing my perspective. So much of what we do as people spins out from our social nature. We built networks because we must. Networks are our survival mechanisms. We are in some ways like ants evolving over 10,000 years to become highly colonized hives of people colonized living in an ecosystem with other networks of people. These changes in creating and managing networks, the reduction in barriers to participation in the network, and the new scales of networks are changing everything.

 

It is uncomfortable to say that the networks change everything but they do. They are in the process of rebooting our global commerce system, our religions, the way we fight, the way we produce food, the way we manage our security, the ways we do our accounting of our friends, and the way we stay in touch with the people that matter most to us.

 

We are add a transition point in the rebooting process, we still have many parts of the network that have not "migrated" and the role of some of us ants is to get busy connecting and wiring the new system.


Road Runner or Wile E Coyote?

One of my board members recently sent me a note that analogized the financial situation to the “Wile E Coyote Effect.”

You might remember the coyote running along and not realizing that he has run off the cliff.  He keeps running suspended magically by denial. He stops, feels around his feet for the ground, and then looks down to find the ground has disappeared beneath him.

As nonprofit leaders, here we stand. Some of us are stopped on the edge of the cliff, some have kept running and are suspended way out over the cliff, and some of us are holding the anvil over our heads. 

Our movement has received a lot of our 2008 budget that has the Economic Crisis hit us so late in the year it is difficult for us to act fairly project 2009 budgets.  additionally there is a lot of confusing information circulating out there on how philanthropy changes in an economic crisis.

The big overall studies are misleading to people in the advocacy and campaign space. In 2001, the last big recession the crash was created in part by terrorism. The philanthropy and overall numbers of giving stayed neutral or went up because people gave more to 9/11 relief funds and they started going to church in huge numbers again.   I would be interested in more studies that tease out the type of giving targeted at anything except advocacy and campaign related donations during previous economic downturns. 

I'm focused on this because I believe it is really important to networks.The entire movement is not going to go out of business. Many of our groups are not go out of business. There may even be a growth in the number of groups that are formed as people with the skills get laid-off from larger groups, and there are very low barriers to starting groups, and the tools that they have in a new start up are identical to the ones that they had in the large institution. The movement may go the number of groups engaged in the advocacy. In places where there is money, we will see a swarming towards it. Some of that swarming will come from large institutions that shift message or mission or creep over to grab market share of the money that exist or the available people who are laid off from these other institutions will set up new brands in the niche to compete for money. 

Focused on the aggregate number because there will be a network effect associated with the economic downturn. Most managers can handle a reduction from 20 up to 40%. It is hard, but with focus on the books and asking everyone to contribute a manager teams really squeeze an organization on travel budgets, new purchases, staff layoffs, benefit reductions, meeting cost, new initiatives and cut program expansions.  It is painful but it is manageable. just like the American banks were able to hold back money, reduce their exposure to risk, and cut costs.

The problem is that if everyone goes through this at the same time within a particular network you can create a network collapse which exacerbates the problem. if you are running a national campaign on park funding and you work with it coalition or network of thousands groups, or 100 groups. With each one contributing several hours of staff time per month to the campaign, how do you manage a reduction of 20 to 40% when you are not in charge of which resources stay and which ones go? how do you manage when you don't know which of the 40 people out of the hundreds that you work with, are not to be here next month for your big campaign? 

These are the network effects of a downturn and the overall numbers are the numbers that matter when you're thinking about network planning.

There are going to be great opportunities for change in 2009. In the economic crisis will create opportunities and create problems. It will create these problems and opportunities for groups and for our networks.

On the network level, are we prepared to take advantages of the opportunities that will emerge for our advocacy networks because of the downturn?   On the network level, do we have a plan to avoid the obstacles that this crisis will create?

My sense is that there is a lot of thinking around how to take advantage of the network opportunities but there is little planning or thinking around mitigating the network effects of the downturn.

join the planning conversation. (it is a wetpaint wiki site)



Forget a Rerun. Watch Clay Shirky tonight.


Clay is a great thinker in this space and the impact of the culture revolution on organizing. Clay lays out a nice summary of the shifts and what they may mean to group expression and advocacy.

It is through immersion in this type of understanding that drives us to start to think of an Advocacy2.0. Stop asking how does the network help me do what I am doing today better. Ask how does the network change the strategy to get what I want?


The First Discussion Of "Brand" I like.

The Brand Gap
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: design brand)

I normally can't stand the way that nonprofits and campaigns think about brand.  I think this presentation lays out a few of the key concepts. I agree with...

"Brand is not what you say it is. Brand is what THEY say it is." ..Ding.  Experience shapes what they say.  Are you creating experience that reinforces the brand you are building?

Progressives Move back to DC

Interesting note in the shift that is in the pipeline among many foundaitons to move the game back to DC. 

Many foundations shifted the organizing and capacity to the states during the Bush years. Now there is a HOPE that the progressives can go on the march in DC and fix many of the things we have been blocked on for 8 years.

The result will be an increased push of resources back inside the beltway to move policy.

I am not sure that that is a wise move. The landscape for influence is not going to be geographically confined as it was in 2000. The networked Obama/Biden administration may be just as influenced by conference calls and emails conversaitons across the country as they are form across town.   Adddtionally, abandoning the state capacity in the middle of this economic downturn will amplify the crash of the distributed network in the field.

I expect there to be a stuggle for the old guard to reposition old politicing in the DC power halls as the answer but I also expect the connected campaign culture and operatives that are going to be coming to town to be less influenced be glad handing in the halls.

Change is not just the campagin slogan and I am not hearing lots of advocacy and campaign groups really listening and reassessing strategy with the new administration.  This is not 1992.

Hopefully, the funders don't lock into a strategies prematurely as all the DC groups lobby for bigger slices of the pie.