Complexity is Not Stable. New Power, Old Power and Balance

A great set of articles by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms , “Understanding New Power”  and a follow up riff on that article from from Michael Silberman on MobilizaitonLab have inspired some noodling around with their work.

In the table below, I remix a similar table provided by Heimans and Timms with a slightly different focus in order to point to the stability of the models used. I am reshuffling the layout by looking at gaps between production of power and value and the degree to which the producers of that value and power share in the governance and benefits of their contributions.

Potentially if a business/model is in different columns in the top row than in the bottom row, it is less stable and open to competition from competing models that are aligned and more stable. In some cases, the shift toward stability will come from revolt and/or organizing from within.



A more detailed response to the articles by Silberman and Heimans and Timms is published on Netcentric Campaigns’ official blog, Netcentric Advocacy. I hope you’ll check it out.

Not all knowledge is evidence, not all good advocacy is evidence based. Disagree.

The title of the clipped article below triggered my response more so than the content. "Not all good advocacy is evidence based".  I have a slightly different perspective on that phrase.

All good advocacy is evidence based. The practice of advocacy itself is built on a historical record that shows advocacy is the necessary requirement for policy change.  Some believe advocacy is more of a dark art than an evidence based approach to creating policy change. Evidence suggests advocacy is required to create any policy change.

This is not really what the riff is about but the discussion of evidence based advocacy is a jumping off point to acknowledge that evidence shows us advocacy is required and necessary. Evidence teaches us how to refine advocacy efforts. Evidence shows us what advocacy works.  If we are committed to creating change based on evidence, then we must commit to effective evidence based advocacy to achieve the desired results.

.image from
 John Snow presented a map to London Epidemiological Society to advocate for the closing of the Broad Street well.  His contribution was more than research and mapping. Not just a great doctor and scientist. He persuaded others to understand and prioritize his evidence. He persuaded policy makers to act.   John Snow made his mark as an advocate.  Would he have been quite as remarkable if he didn't also secure the change, close the pump and stop the cholera outbreak?  He actually developed a water borne theory on early outbreaks but the Broad Street event stands out because of the advocacy.   

Our goal as professionals is to demonstrate that such a perception of advocacy is disconnected from the world of evidence and science is wrong.   As dedicated and disaplined campaign practioners, our work is more in line with E.O. Wilsons vision of great science, "work like a book keeper, think like a poet". Expereince, evidence and knowledge tell us that policy only changes through inspiring action (not just presenting facts).  

otherwise, I like the riff...

Evidence is not the same thing as Knowledge – Evidence is usually taken to mean “hard” demonstrable, measurable things. Evidence comes from direct observations, surveys, experiments and evaluations and the like. Evidence is crucial to advancing scientific learning as well as on an everyday level to know how things are going such as through programme monitoring. Knowledge (i.e what we know) is internalized learning – in this sense we only know something demonstrated by evidence if we have internalized it- i.e. we “believe it”. Similarly there are things we know (and act on) for which we don’t have strong evidence – often this knowledge comes from learning and direct experience – even if this is not documented and measured. Much important learning is not documented as evidence – that’s why we often ask for someone else’s advice – someone who “knows”, someone who has done it before.

Not all good advocacy is “evidence-based” – Evidence-based advocacy has been interpreted by some to mean advocacy that uses data, charts, includes report citations etc. to show the strength of the evidence on which a particular argument is based. However it’s probably fair to say we all know people who are unimpressed by numbers and so even if the argument is made more concrete by using them for some audiences this will be a poor method of persuasion for others. A weaker definition of evidence based advocacy would be that the argument we are using to persuade is informed by and supported by available evidence, and is not contradicted by it – but that the evidence itself is only used if that is helpful in making the case with the particular audience. I sometimes jokingly refer to this as “evidence-supported” advocacy. It’s also worth mentioning that part of effective advocacy is understanding and taking into account the interests, needs and prejudices of the person you are trying to persuade – issues such as the political situation in country, a person’s background etc. in this case you might well stress certain evidence that appeal to the audience and downplay or even omit others. Possibly your whole appeal might be at an emotional level or about values and ideals rather than evidence at all (e.g. all children ought to have a right to free education – beecause it’s the “right” thing to do). This isn’t evidence-based advocacy – but it might be good advocacy. What I think we should not do is advocate for things which are contradicted by available evidence – or where we don’t have some grounding either in evidence or in principle (e.g. in Human Rights principles).

Evidence does not equal truth – An obvious point, but evidence is based on fixed observations that are often partial, and new evidence emerges all the time often contradicting or muddying the conclusions we arrived at from past evidence. Just because we have evidence for a particular model or theory doesn’t make it true. We also need to be aware of personal biases in interpreting evidence – in particular people tend to interpret evidence in a way that is supportive to their existing way of thinking.


 I would add that evidence doesn't equal prioirity.  Assembling evidence on a problem or solution doesn't mean that change will happen. Experience demonstrates that effective change needs to be based on best solutions and best science but experience doesn't demonstrate that development of best solutions and solid science means change will be implemented.  This disconnect is often created because of a clash of priorities. Science, evidence and experience allows us to know guns are the key contributing factor to needless deaths but the advocacy struggle is over priorities to act on that knowledge vs. taking on economy, immigration, debt, etc.  Advocacy helps build intensity, focus attention and elevate priority. Good advocacy is based on a field of evidence about advocacy and campaign work.

P.S. I strongly recommend Ghost Map by Steven Johnson on Snow's work.


What is the word for planning that doesn't create a disconnect with doing?

I am struggling to find the right word or better word for planning.

Good campaign work is adaptive by design.  Effective advocacy is experimental and iterative. Building networks and developing strategy are not opposites but deeply connected. The advocacy network building work we do drives results and our activities and work efforts are the best channels for learning.  

All this being said,  I can't put my finger on the right words to communicate this "better thinking by moving" work we do.  Movement and thinking are connected. We develop advocacy network theory,  campaign theory, organizing theory as we work and through our work.  The real world environment and real users feedback are the most influential drivers that shapes how we think plan network mobilizations.  We are constantly learning by doing and planning while we act.  

I can't find the word for this approach to strategy development in a live campaign  environment. I really need it. 

In our work, we have 3 phases of engagement to support people organizing campaigns. First, we assess the network. Second, we develop network action plans. Finally, we build the network to mobilize on issues and policy change.     

We often get tripped up explaining our work because network action planning is a very active process for us.  The point where theory meets practice is the point for the best planning and forecasting how things will work. I focus on the idea that planning means "working out the subcomponets to a strategy in detail. "  In my work the "working out" can consist of setting up the websites to understand how people will engage with a network, running a few network campaigns to see how otheres interface with network operations, launching services activites to "prime the pump" and demonstrate the ways that the advocacy network will operate as it scales.  Only with the very fine level details and experience gained in this style of network planning is it possible to make the adjustments and prepare for a genuine mobilization.  

My problem is that planning as a term has a bad rap as ivory tower,  think tank and  theoretical.  It is seen as a process void of deliverable other than "the plan". I am not sure I buy into this separation.  

Or am I just failing to get this right?  Any help with this little communication challenge will be greatly appreciated.

Looking ahead; The trends that complement your advocacy strategy.

Here is a thought provoking overview of business strategy ( the ideas ~slide 24 on complements and core business). The focus is on the power of platforms and drives home the advantage to building an "ecosystem" of activity that builds on itself and  in the process drives the platform success. (Think Apple App store)

We are NOT applying this strategy in a social change context. (YET)   We do see some of this in voter registration,, and but very little at the issue or state level.  This trend of networking people together into movements IS the opportunity for the organizers of this generation.  Increasingly, the complex issues we must address can only be solved with successful networked responses. 



Do you think your movement has a strategy to build the platform for your work? Are you working in a way that is doomed by the forces that drive a winner take all dynamic? How does your engagement with someone that cares about your issue benefit from others that also work on that issue?  How does your success in recruiting a new member or supporter fuel success of anyone else?

We must start thinking about the network effects of the way that we organize.  Our actions as organizers, policy advocactes, and nonprofit managers have effects that extend beyond our organization.  We must start to organize ourselves to launch campaigns and organizing in a way that each effort drives down the costs of civic participation (not increases the tax on the people we all need to engage).  

As organizers, we must focus on the protocols for better user engagment for the public (not just on our issue). As organizers, we need to focus on winning in the new economy created by the networked world. We must work in new ways to reconnect and invent new ways for large and small organizations to thrive in the age of platforms and networks. 


Story of Change.. Go to the Heart of the Problem

Right On! Another great video from Annie and Freerange.   It will be interesting to see how the quiz results connect audeinces to each other to mobilze work.   Hope you get involved and support the work. 

True power comes from building new power: Cheryl Contee Offers Great Talk at PDF


"True power comes from building new power. " YES!  Cheryl recaps some powerful trends that are worth pondering in tech, organizing and advocacy. She also just does a great job of telling her story. 

I am so thrilled that PDF is pushing speakers video online. The conference has consistently the worst timing for me and although I always want to be there. I highly recommend PDF.


The Agitator Recap on Mobile 2012

Check out the recap and overview of the Neilsen and Pew findings on Mobile over at the Agitator.To apply mobile strategy to social change, I  also recommend following the ongoing great work of the team at

“Some 70% of all cell phone owners and 86% of smartphone owners have used their phones in the previous 30 days to perform at least one of the following activities:

  • Coordinate a meeting or get-together — 41% of cell phone owners have done this in the past 30 days.
  • Solve an unexpected problem that they or someone else had encountered — 35% have used their phones to do this in the past 30 days.
  • Decide whether to visit a business, such as a restaurant — 30% have used their phone to do this in the past 30 days.
  • Find information to help settle an argument they were having — 27% haveused their phone to get information for that reason in the past 30 days.
  • Look up a score of a sporting event — 23% have used their phone to do that in the past 30 days.
  • Get up-to-the-minute traffic or public transit information to find the fastest way to get somewhere — 20% have used their phone to get that kind of information in the past 30 days.
  • Get help in an emergency situation — 19% have used their phone to do that in the past 30 days.”

Activity by age shows the expected pattern


Is Mobile  a part of your strategy? 

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...) 












Maid Serives, Nail Salons, Taxi Cabs, Issue Groups and Complex Problems for Organizing Change.

We operate in a sector that has no profits, no barriers to entry, little overhead and low labor costs.  In every other sector like our own, the dominate model of operations becomes small independent operations or very lightly controlled franchises. The world of issue organizing is joining the ranks of barber shops, landscaping, maid services, truckers, taxis, newspapers and nail salons.   This shift threatens the core business model of important groups but it also gives rise to new models and services.  

The life-cycle of a movement usually starts as an issue emerges inspiring individuals to act and organize. Founding groups in a movement are organized (NAACP, wilderness society, Teamsters, Amnesty International) get formed and grow.  The new groups recruit talent and pulll together power to create change. As staff increase in skills, build personal and professional networks and talents, a percentage of the talented staff, Board members or funders get increasingly frustrated by the decisions of managers (boards, brands, etc) or politics (wrong message, wrong focus, to conservative or to radicle) so these talented staff split off to create splinter operations that compete directly for media, members, attention of policy makers and funders.

 The basic barriers to entry and the overhead with being a political issue group have gone down toward zero.  In the last ten years the tools to organize, collect information and broadcast messages has dropped drammatically.  The overhead of running an organizaiton has dropped so much that new groups start up quickly and can compete with the same tools as the best funded groups.  These new start ups can survive with less money and provide the niche organizing that the public wants.  Additionally, the overhead of running an operation has dropped and is so low that both groups remain in operation and are likely to continue.  

 The trend willnot go away unless there is an increase barriers to entry or drastically increase overhead costs to stay in business (both unlikely). Political and issue organizing is a complex and chaotic environment in which we want many or all organizers to survive. In fact, we care about overall market share of people engaged and growing the base of people that wish to be a part of organizing for change. We know that the new groups often reach new segments and work on new issues so we are always interested in pushing new organizing to a new edge.  We care about growing the overall engagement and overall success not the allocation of interests and members within individual groups.  

 The problem that has emerged is that as the cultural forces splinter organizing units into smaller and smaller factions the issues that must be addressed grow in scale and quicken in tempo.  Issues such as balancing influence of multi-national corporations, climate crisis, human justice and dignity on an international scale, war, natural resource management and child safety have spiraled into global issues requiring extensive power to track, evaluate and promote solutions.  Even in the US, our own government has take to moving prisoners overseas to complicate the extension of ability to address oversight by US activists groups.

Simply, the problems we want to address are getting bigger while the mechanisms working on the problems are getting smaller. Smaller groups are becoming more powerful but the sum of the smaller groups’ power is significantly less than the potential power of the whole.   

Given the transformation this trend represents to organizing, it is essential to actually solve the challenge of enabling a highly fractured network to work together in an advocacy and issue context.  It is essential to invest in the strategy, training, analysis, research, tools and platforms that enable relationship building to occur and it is essential to train a new generation not just of managers but of network leaders.  

Guerrilla Libraries .. The Network Coordination. Old Phone Booths as Network Hubs.

Is there any screening process for the books? For instance, do you try to include great works of literature, or perhaps focus on more accessible and popular novels?

I want everything and anything. I don't have much of a budget, so all the books are donated from people that live nearby and off my own shelves, so everything from Oprah-approved to Jane Jacobs. And obviously as people leave their own books, I'd want the collection to become a record of the interests of that particular site.

A next site I have in mind is near a public school, and I'm trying to get a good collection of children's books.


This is beautiful.  The real human network finding ways to leverage resoruces (love the art angle). This is the "open source" of library organizing.  Find extra capacity or resources built into the basic unit then use network production to leverage it.

Where does it go from here?  

  1. Create a common vision on the future of the open library. (The "leave one. take one" network?)
  2. TXT to sign in an volunteer as a librarian. Text sends reminders. Send photos 
  3. Encourage people to sign the book when they return it so people get a sense of community in the asset. 


What Flows Through the Network Defines It. Twitter, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, School Network, Knowledge Networks, Advocacy Networks

Twitter is Not a Social Network is a really thought provoking riff by Gideon Rosenblatt it also has links to some interesting data analysis of twitter.  I agree with the basic trust of the post and it has triggered some clarity about the nature of designing advocacy networks online and offline. I have riffed before on the concept that advocacy networks are not social networks (people that worked on climate change do not want to socialize with each other and may even hate each other.)  But this post brings that distinction into event more clarity. 

My big take away lies hidden in the way Gideon focus on the differece between networks of people (facebook) and networks that use people to achieve specific ends.  

You could call eBay a social network and you wouldn’t be wrong. eBay does connect people; people who want to sell stuff with people who want to buy stuff. What’s interesting about eBay though – what defines it, really – is how those connections are used. What flows through the eBay network are bids, transactions … and products. That’s because it’s an online marketplace; an online marketplace that rests on top of a network of people.

How about Amazon? One of Amazon’s most valuable assets is its user-contributed product reviews, which are essentially just Amazon connecting people who know something about a product with people who want to know something about a product. Clearly, that’s not all Amazon does, but connecting people is a really important part of what they do. So, is Amazon a social network? Well, yes, you could call it that, but that would be confusing ends with means. While less obvious than eBay, Amazon’s marketplace also rests on a network of people.

This approach line of thinking triggers two responses that are consistent with how I understand networks and yet are really contradictory. (oh well)

Good Networks are flexible: Once networks are built (as they are components of infrastucture) the networks will be LEVERAGED IN NEW AND DIFFERENT WAYS .  Sewage networks to run fiber optic cable, cable to run internet, power grid to run data, work networks for dating, dating networks for business, etc. etc.  I think all smart network designers really try to figure out how to manage that. 

 Facebook is on its way to building a general purpose computing and communications platform with the same kind of power Microsoft held in its hay day.

Getting networks to work together comes from establishing protocols for connections and use of the network, but any set of protocols will be tested and constantly pushed for more flexibility. Good network design (ones that embrace a strategy of growth and nimbleness accept both ).

If Facebook is the social network utility, Twitter is a social network application. It’s a great social network application. You might even say it’s a killer social network application. 

As advocactes, we need to test those protocols and exploit the funcationality of networks to achieve change. In the framework Gidieon suggest, our job is to design "advocacy applications" that exploit the power of networks that others have built.  (campaigns on facebook, , organizing revolutions on twitter, political organizing after a local community group meeting,, leverage facebook, etc. etc. ) However, to do this we need to both understand the functionality and culture of the network AND we must understand how we need to complement "what is"  with what is needed to make a funcational advocacy network.  The lack of mashing together social network (builds trust and communicaitons lines) with the full needs of a advocacy network (feedback mechanisms, common vision, common language, access to shared resources, etc.)  leads to the failure of many advocacy camapaigns run on social networks.  (look at the funcationality differences between and facebook.)

Design of networks DOES influence the character and outcomes that the network will produce. (Here is where the apparent contridictions come in with everything above.) Ebay, Twitter, Facebook,Google, etc. are all networks designed to connect people to do certian things and LEVERAGE what they do as connected to create greater value of the network. 

We can build facebook followers, we can get twitter followers and build email lists but these acts are very important to be able to listen more, and broadcast more. They are ways to open new pathways of communicaiton to users and from users but alone they are not sufficent to say we have build an advocacy network.  Smart advocacy networks are made up of smart advocacy leaders and participants. Without the full set of elements for an advocacy network the network will fail. (see the Nov ananlysis of Occupy network).

When and how we build the advocacy network,establishes the protocols for use, scalability, behavior, and connection (see preventobesity leader registration) this in turn dictates the general parameters of what the network will produce.  The network funcationalities we measure,  the tools we offer, and the feedback we bake into the design are what create the ways the network will get smarter and the capability of what it can do. (for example: ebay seller trust, amazon reviews, facebook likes, googlepage rank).  In a good advocacy network design, we need to provide tools not only for connecting to people (channels and relevant intelligence so people can pick who to connect with) but also tools and services for moving the tageted policy and culture change. We need to do both while constantly developing shared data that informs the network particiapants and the network designers about what is going on, what is working, and what gaps exist.  simply put, building a social network is not building an advocacy network.

Finally, in either case Gideon's conclusion holds true challenge to advocacy network designers as the biggest stuggle in an advocacy context.  

Utility is power and general utility is power squared.

This is the limiting factor of traditional focused advocacy, one off campaigns, single issue groups and the like.  This is the strength of TeaPArty, Occupy, Momsrising, AARP and Moveon. the more fluid they can be across advocacy thier utility power is amplified. These groups established "flexible" brands but we are also testing flexible data policy that encourages sharing the data on individuals that are part of the network in support of the mission.

As advocacy network designers, we want to be as general as possible without loosing the ability to influence the most important elements of direction.  We must disgn networks that provide value and funcationality to "hook" users and manage the connections with those users to the greatest value for them, for the connection to each other and for the network effects. 

I try not to be so late to the conversation but this post by Gideon Rosenblatt has been cooking in the draft pile for a few months. I think his point is looking at utility and the relative strength of Facebook vs. Twitter but teases out something that I think ties up the ways we think about building advocacy networks. However, I have been hoping that I could come up with a solid post  that reconciled conflicts in the way I read the post. 

The networked radar detector:

image from graphics8.nytimes.comThe new feature, Cobra iRadar Community takes the warnings your detector receives and shows them to other iRadar users. Already available for the iPhone, it becomes available for Android phones next month, the company announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show here.


this is a beautiful design. I love the idea of gadgets being able to talk to each other so that even though they are distributed to multiple users they act as a comprehensive grid. This would be very interesting in security alarms, smoke detectors, asthma inhalers, door bells, etc.

If we can connect like products, in the value added and nonintrusive way, the idea of connecting together data to add further value would provide great advantage.

How long will it be before the police seemlessly pass data from radar, and photo enforcement to cars in the street? I am also curious how the radar/phone connection exposes users in states where radar is illegal? Can police ring/txt those phones and remind them of the penalty of using radar detectors?

This is a really interesting space.

Occupy & The NY Department of Education. The Peoples' Mic. Who Structures the Conversation?

The people want to be heard.  It is interesting that the officals are interested in breaking people into 14 rooms for feedback.(You can hear the proposal in the background of the first 30 seconds) However, the people want to be heard (by media and the community) not just the leaders at the table.

Rock On! People without mics still have voice. there is also intersting background thread of discussion on the youtube page.  Democracy is not always smooth but the people in that room must feel empowered and the people at the table not so much. Which is the point. 

Here is the media coverage...


The thugs win again

New York Post - ‎Oct 27, 2011‎
But a group of 200 teachers and Occupy Wall Street backers came out to crash the party. Calling themselves Occupy the DOE, they flooded Seward Park's auditorium and shouted down Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott as he tried to brief parents on the new ...

Protesters Affiliated With Occupy Wall Street Disrupt Department Of Education ...

Huffington Post - ‎Oct 25, 2011‎
"If you want your voice heard, all you have to do is say 'mic check.'" The approximately 200 protesters, loosely affiliated with a new public education committee offshoot of OccupyWall Street, called for increased participation and democracy in ...

What Do You Think of Walcott's Parent Involvement Plan?

New York Times - ‎21 hours ago‎
What do you think of Mr. Walcott's plan? And what services do you think the city needs to provide to get parents more involved? Further, is the parent coordinator an effective resource for drawing in parents? Parent coordinators, what do you need to ...

Department of Education: #Occupied

Our Schools NYC (press release) - ‎Oct 26, 2011‎
And the Occupy Wall Street Public Education committee already has plans for a People's General Assembly on Public Education on Nov. 7th at DOE headquarters. So, for now at least, the People's Mic appears to be winning over an unaccountable, ...

Teachers and Parents Occupy Education Meeting

The Epoch Times - ‎Oct 25, 2011‎
That voice echoed many others that are concerned with the DOE, Chancellor Walcott, and Mayor Bloomberg. The protesters took turns speaking via a "people's mic," in a meeting similar to those in held Zuccotti Park by the Occupy Wall St. protesters. ...

Education Panel Meeting Disrupted By "Occupy" Protesters

NY1 - ‎Oct 25, 2011‎
Called the "People's Microphone," the protesters' call-and-repeat chants, now a trademark of the Occupy Wall Street movement, derailed the Department of Education meeting. Walcott continued to introduce the scheduled speaker, despite the chanting, ...

Protest derails DOE meeting on curriculum after just minutes

GothamSchools - ‎Oct 25, 2011‎
But as Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the standards' architect, David Coleman, took the stage at Seward Park High School, protesters aligned with the Occupy movement launched a chorus of complaints via “the people's mic.” “Mic check! ...

Walcott Pledges Measures to Increase Parents' Involvement

New York Times - ‎Oct 26, 2011‎
New York City's Department of Education will create a parent academy and eventually measure how well public schools interact with their students' parents, Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott announced in a speech on Wednesday. ...


Map of a Movement : Where are leaders working on childhood obesity? Are you on the map?

One of the projects I am working on is focused on addressing the issue of childhood obesity.(learn more about the issue at RWJF) 

During the interviews and assessment phase before the project, we interviewed lots of leaders in the movement working to reverse the epidemic that wanted to know who are the other leaders in their cities.  We heard "If we only had a map".... when we decided to build the map, we wanted to make it so everyone could "own it" this is their map.

We went the extra mile (ok 10 miles) to make it like a youtube video. This map can be embedded on lots of sites (including your own). You can just grab the code (copy) and paste it on any site.

As people join the movement, they are added to totals of supporters on the maps all over the internet. As leaders join the movement, they are added to the map with a way to contact them all over the internet.

There are a few advanced features like the ability to customize the map size, add your logo or change the zoom (if you work on any of the issues related to childhood obesity or want to support those that do please start spreading the map far and wide.)

This map is pretty netcentric. As it creates new pathways for people to connect to each other, it creates a shared resource, and it becomes a feedback tool for showing how and where the movement is getting organized to reverse the epidemic.  

Let me know what you think? How many places will we see this map distributed in 6 months?


Help this #occupy video reach millions of Americans on TV — LoudSauce. The crowd is the communications department.

This is a great example of how a network gets work done with shared resources. I imagine we are going to see lots of use of these decentralized tools to “act”.

What will happen with the video?

When we hit our fundraising goal, we'll be able to put this video on the air during popular cable TV shows (like Seinfeld repeats or Sports Center). It will run just like a normal ad.

If we don't hit our goal, you'll get your money returned to you. LoudSauce uses Amazon to process the payments, so it's super secure.

Help this #occupy video reach millions of Americans on TV — LoudSauce

Loudsauce looks very cool.

OccupyWallstreet is not a brand. Why does Occupywallstreet feel different? The network is occupied. A riff…

didn’t have time to make it shorter yet..late night riff not quite a rant but thinking while tired is always dangerous)

It is not a mistake that the #OccupyWallstreet movement has a different rhythm to other movements, street protest or campaigns. #OccupyWallStreet seems to be shaping up as a good example of an advocacy network. This movement along with the peace movement of 2004, Obama Campaign 2008, Teaparty of 2010, Arab spring, is the latest event suggesting organizers need to recalibrate the ways we think about our work.

“In fact, we are witnessing America's first true Internet-era movement, which -- unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign -- does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint.” --- Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don't get it -

Many organizers are trying to sort out ways to “lead” the movement and the ways to “save it”. Many traditional leaders want to “drive the occupywallstreet bus” but don’t understand what is actually going on, how to participate, what it needs, or what to expect. Their confusion is intentional.

“The exhausted political machines and their PR slicks are already seeking leaders to elevate, messages to claim, talking points to move on. They, more than anyone, will attempt to seize and shape this moment. They are racing to reach the front of the line. But how can they run out in front of something that is in front of them? They cannot. For Wall Street and Washington, the demand is not on them to give us something that isn’t theirs to give. It’s ours. It’s on us. We aren’t going anywhere. We just got here” . (from the occupywallstreet journal…)

People are wondering “what the hell is this?”, Do I drop everything and jump in?” or “is it a waste of time”? Our dreamers and skeptics, don’t know if it is a movement of crazies or will it go away after the first big news story.

Food for Thought

Occupywallstreet is not the brand. The user experience is the brand.

We are a generation that understands “brands” as an experience. Starbucks or Apple Stores the experience of engagement is changing. This is not a single logo, banner, story, camp or occupation. This is the teaparty and the peace movement, this is the new labor, the unemployed, and the artists. Occupywallstreet may or may not stick around. A general assembly may get their demands met or fade into nothing. They may get beat by police or celebrated as heroes. We don’t know.

We do know that tens of thousands of people are being “on ramped” to engagement and leadership without preconditions. We know that lots of people are paying attention and that this loose ad hoc movement is pulling off organizing that some of the best in the organizing business couldn’t imagine possible.

The experience is that the camps assume, people are informed. They are there to be served, encouraged to struggle and to be a part on their terms. People are exposed to sausage making. People are assumed to be leaders and committed. People are assumed to inspire each other without need for “professional spin and packaging”. Everyone can interact with each other. Nobody owns the movement or the people of the movement.

OccupyWallstreet like a few other internet age movements has started from a very different place than any advocacy group. No matter when I show up, or how little or much I give. This movement is “mine” not “theirs”. People own this.

Leader full movements are not leaderless.

Network-centric advocacy is intentionally resilient. Competition among leaders is a feature not a bug. Networks are designed to foster continual experimentation and the network demands adaptability as a feature. Being a “leader full” movement means that change is the only thing that satisfies the movement not co-opting the leaders or creating a few points failure. This design means that cohesion is harder to maintain but arguably less difficult than dealing with centralized leadership that not only fails but also saps the movement the passion of participation.

Movements Diversify to Grow : Focus when power is needed.

When movements are growing they should be diversifying. The open door invites a broad agenda. Many traditional organizers are both wishing that this movement would focus so as to define it. However, the occupy frame and resistance is beautiful in that it encompasses so much and invites more. The real test will not be if it stop accepting new ideas and agendas, but the capacity to deliver solidarity when the “one for all and all for one” comes to the test. In a highly communicative environment and an age of quick alignment, can this new movement deliver power?

When you come out of nowhere, there is a fear you will go back to nowhere.

Ad hoc movements scare both allies and opponents because they don’t know how long you will be around. When there are no barriers to entry, there are no barriers to exits. People can come and go and comeback again. Is occupywallstreet the new Sierra Club or are they the peace movement of 2004? People are afraid to invest in the early days, because they don’t want to be the “fools” that dumped lots of time and energy into a movement that disappeared in the first snow storm. But they also fear being irrelevant if they don’t join. Those fears can be combated with hope and faith in the people they get to know as a part of the network.

In the new age, these old organizing fears can also be combated by knowing that “nowhere is not gone.” Networks have a very low life support cost when they are not active. Do people think the anti-war movement is gone because it didn’t build a new corporate headquarters? Are the resistance in Iran gone? Does it surprise people that after 2008 election progressives experienced a big lull? The failure is not in keeping people engaged when it is dangerous, expensive and not productive. the new challenge is to train and set up operating procedures, and leaders that are geared to support a movement that fosters rapid “out of nowhere” growth, successful rapid organization and also rapidly dissolving with the process and assumption that the movement will reconstitute again and again in new configurations, with new causes to do new actions. Driven by new leaders each time.

Advocacy will always be a high risk business.

High risk business with a known brand or a bunch of victims on the street is still high risk endeavor. Betting on the most trusted names in advocacy has not exactly been a winning strategy. The only difference is our people in the street will be harder to predict and probably cost a lot less to sustain.

Beyond these themes, I also wanted to take advantage of the moment to layout the network-centric advocacy framework, examples from coverage of occupywallstreet and suggestions for a network action plan and guidance on how traditional organizers can engage.

1. The Network Managers Rapid Network Assessment of OccupyWallStreet

Netcentric Advocacy Element

OcccupyWallstreet Example


  • Transparency in planning and communications
  • Listening (the General Assembly)
  • “Camps” – People feeding and caring for each other. Spending the time to connect with each other.
  • Deep respect for all the participants regardless of background.

Common Story

  • The event itself.
  • Crazy culture getting to know each other’s stories.
  • Being “ok” with lack of single demands

Communications Grid


  • Not clear yet…. will emerge from the use of the communications grid and feedback
  • Occupy

Shared Resources

  • Working Committees
    • Medical Care
    • Legal Advise
    • Arts and Culture Tents
    • Hospitality
    • Entertainment
  • Websites
  • Volunteers


  • The size and durability of the camp.
  • the sustained participation of return campers.
  • Size of the walk in crowds.
  • Belief in the general assembly.
  • Morale in the Camps
  • Handsignals (not applause)
  • News coverage
  • Chatter on the communications grid

Network Actors



  • greeters
  • (don’t know how the different camps are cross pollinating ideas and weaving with traditional organizations. )


  • The many people that want to push the camps into actions and to adopt campaigns and causes.


  • logistics and organizers that welcome new people and manage the volunteers.


  • Walk-ins
  • People connected thru organizations.
  • supporters online and offline

My suggestions on a “Network Action Plan”

We should all be careful to realize there is a better way to support networks then to co-opt them. We also need to realize that all networks have a carrying capacity, an ability to carry “load”. Just as you assess how an organization will respond to a big grant, or an individual to a winning lottery ticket, how can a network be fed additional strength without overloading it? What are the investments that will boost the advocacy network capacity of occupywallstreet? .

My riff of organizing supports based on observations online…. suggests that the movement needs more “feedback mechanisms” that are good at showing participants what is working and drawing people toward them. (invest in a welcome and exit interviews) that are published across the network. Such regular reports will help build unity around values. Organizing a daily “morale measure” dashboard with the meetups would be good to identify places that have something powerful going on and the places that need additional support.

The communications grid is effective in camp and online, but I am not seeing enough cross camp and multi-channel communications. Netcentric-Advocacy framework suggests layering in more robust communications grid would be helpful including a clear unified additional radio coverage, live streaming, 800 call in shows and other ways of fostering camp-to-camp suggestions. This would help support the transitions of communications from web, to voice and paper and back again from paper and voice comments to the web.

Develop a process for managing shared resources including better collection, warehousing, distribution and management of resources across the camps. Develop a more robust “starter pack” process so that part of the strategy includes each new occupy effort growing to a set size and then spawning another.

Support staff and others to participate and support the folks in the camps to become part of anchor teams to coordinate trust across camps. Support the development of volunteer weavers to guide the more established organizers navigate getting involved.

What Can you Do as a Progressive Organizer that wants to “tap into” the OccupyWallStreet opportunity?

  • “Tune in” listen. Go. See what this is about. Spend time “owning” the movement to sort out how your organizing fits. Build trust and relationships with a new generation of leaders.
  • Be patient. This is only the first experiment. There will be waves with each applying new lessons, technology uses and organizing techniques. It is going to take time to develop language that works with such a diverse and changing group of participants. Until the common language and values emerge, it will be difficult for large scale coordination to take place.
  • Try to move your issue and talk about it with the people in the camps. How do you relate to their issues and stories?
  • Push more good people to go to participate, network, listen and build social ties. Figure out how they are building internal trust in the local organizing. Encourage staff to at least visit for a day to see what they can learn and to find allies they can support.
  • Blog, post to social media and write about your experience. Add to the communications grid, find ways to facilitate more conversation and communications capacity within and across camps and people within the camps that care about your issues.
  • Encourage your best story tellers and staff writers to go, blog, video and write about their experiences in a way that works to lift up the common language and values.
  • Provide more “shared resources” let your local leadership know what assets you can offer from voter lists, food, printers, communications help, volunteers, policy briefing committees, etc. Start “snowballing” with the activities on the ground building successive waves of activity for example coordinating online and phone activities to add synergistic effects to street actions.

What to expect?

  1. Expect good things.
  2. Find new activism and new leaders. Learn new skills and connect with potential allies in your own efforts.
  3. Expect to find more things to do and more issues to consider and support.
  4. Expect frustration and inspiration at the same time.
  5. It is ok. If Occupywallstreet disappears. Prepare for it. This brand of experience will grow and the mass mobilizations will become more frequent.

The new people are connecting and networking with each other. They are catching a new “bug” of civic engagement . They have a different strand of the virus then the environmentalist, civil rights, labor, organizers of the past. We all need to welcome them into our tribe of people that work and suffer so others they may never meet have better lives.

VW's Darkside on CO2 Lobbying. Great Greenpeace Campaign!


This is very well done. My gut is that it goes viral. Greenpeace has the tempo of campaigns and actions to hook the users and can use this type of creatie campaign to open a relationship with users.

The campaign is

  1. fun & funny
  2. has "an ask"
  3. culturally relevant
  4. creates conversations anong users

Does your Group have the DNA of a dancer or campaign team? MIT management professor Tom Malone on collective intelligence and the “genetic” structure of groups » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism

This MIT study of group DNA is interesting and related to the advocacy mix in a network of people working on a campaign. 

Unpacking the right group DNA for specialized tasks is going to be most useful. I wonder if seqence of how the DNA comes together also makes a difference.  

This group DNA assessment gives rise to an entire classification  and intervention system.  I have been thinking about that in a network/organizational context since grad school (Dave Rosgen's Watershed Assessment) /  the beauty of it is that such systems and assessment tools open up conversations about similar networks. How can 2 people talk about 2 networks and know that they are both looking at a system that is going to behave similarly.

This biggest issue I have with the group DNA isea is that groups change constantly (unlike Dna).
MIT management professor Tom Malone on collective intelligence and the “genetic” structure of groups » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism.  Groups form for all kinds of reasons, but we generally pay little attention to the discrete factors that lead them to form and flourish. Just as understanding humans’ genetic code can lead us to a molecular understanding of ourselves as individuals, mapping the genome of groups may help us understand ourselves as we behave within a broader collective. And that knowledge, just as with the human genome, might help us gain an ability to manipulate group structures. When it comes to individuals, intelligence is measurable — and, thus, it has a predictive element: A smart kid will most likely become a smart adult, with all the attendant implications. Individual intelligence is fairly constant, and, in that, almost impossible to change. Group intelligence, though, Malone’s findings suggest, can be manipulated — and so, if you understand what makes groups smart, you can adjust their factors to make them even smarter. The age-old question in sociology is whether groups are somehow different, and greater, than the sum of their parts. And the answer, based on Malone’s and other findings, seems to be “yes.” The trick now is figuring out why that’s so, and how the mechanics of the collective may be put to productive use. Measuring group intelligence, in other words, is the first step in increasing group intelligence.

I really like this group level thinking.  I look forward to more research in this space. Sandy Pentland 's work is also fantastic.

Are you in an learning community with Crowd, Light, and Desire. ? Dance on.



Those of us organizing political power and mobilizing on the web are in a new ecosystem of rapid learning, improvement and experiementation.  Watch, play and experiment if you are not keeping up with the trends you need to find more dance partners.   They don't need to be working on the same issue, in the same country, or even speak the same language.  Watch them. Learn what works. Inspire each other and bring the voice to your own campaigns to organize new voices.  How can we have major campaigns and fights against injustice within our own movements that are not online. NO MORE. Get your work online.  

Dance or digging a water pipe. Go people!








Network-Centric Success? Read the Health Care Campaign Evaluation

AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, Americans United, Campaign for America’s Future, Campaign for Community Change, Move On, and USAction joined together to build a national coalition whose top priority was health care reform. Dan Cramer of Grassroots Solutions and Tom Novick of M+R Strategic Services (M+R)  provide a fantastic evaluation.

They were able to interview the key players (70) and review all the documents and activities of the campaign.   Evaluation: Executive Summary of Findings and Lessons from the HCAN Campaign | Atlantic Philanthropies

It is a great piece of work. I highly recommend reading it.

What I liked?

What was missing from the report in my opinion?

  • A really good budget breakdown.
  • A deep discussion of the effective field operations. What were the staff structures that worked well?  (in the lessons sections this structure is outlined… local organizers > field coordinator on the ground > regional manager > national field director)  Did other staff configurations work?  where there any flatter states that were effective?  What were the job roles and responsibilities at each level ?
  • How did the reporting mechanisms benefit the field operators and local organizers?  Or was everything a report “up” meaning the reporting was not aligned with the network structure?
  • Where was the coalition blindsided? Why? what parts of the risk was the coalition blind to?
  • The types of actions that were effective at reinforcing the common story, motivating the staff, etc.  The report misses the important “human side” of keeping the network together.
  • The details about the communication grid of the network. What worked and what did not? what did the field staff find most valuable in keeping “in touch”?
  • The online /offline issues need to be explained further. 
    • did capacity building in the states focus in local online engagement capacity or was that portion of the campaign centralized?(as report seems to suggest)
    • What was the key differences in the states that did online and offline coordination well ? Are there characteristics of the states that did not leverage offline that can be identified and addressed in future efforts.
    • Which advertising was most important? 20 million in ads to produce 873,000 calls to congress and 600,000 faxes seems like an all online focus could have been a more productive.
  • What tricks did HCAN do to keep the network management and coordination costs to just 9%?   What is included in that?  How much overhead was absorbed by state and coalition partners?  Did they all break even on the contracted work? Does this set an unrealistic expectation of network building work?  Was the strategy and development part of the overhead or project costs? (Even the evaluation at $170,000 is a tiny % of 47 million dollar campaign. Is it sufficient?)


What is worth further discussion?

  • How was trust built in the campaign?
  • How did alignment and common vision discipline get reinforced with partners that were not being funded?
  • Accountability mechanisms and planning.  What were the feedback mechanisms that enabled the network to learn as it operated?  How was reporting enforced?
  • What was the plan to sustain the connectivity in the network after HCAN?  There is discussion of the challenges with sustaining the operations in the field (which is highly unlikely) but there is no discussion of the strategies to maintain the network value over time.
  • Is it at all surprising that any grassroots mobilization this large is not well liked by congressional and administrative staff? (This seems more an indicator of success as the insiders will always feel like they want to control the game)
  • Was the fundraising distributed?  HCAN calls the centralized fundraising a failure but I would expect the distributed nodes to be more effective at that work.
  • Is there any reason to believe the lessons, organizational, campaign and otherwise are scale dependent?   are these lessons only true for really big campaigns or is it fair to say that HCAN is a 47 million dollar network-centric effort demonstrating the complete scalability of lessons that the grassroots leaders have seen play out in a neighborhood campaigns?


I increasingly believe that with an intentional plan. Advocacy Networks can be built and directed.  It is essential that the analysis of these networks be completed with an eye toward evaluating the success or failure of the components of network-centric advocacy capacity.

AARP Online: They can't be different from most nonprofit web strategies.

This article from Online Media Daily gives a brief overview of AARP’s re-designed website.

And here’s a link to AARP’s very useful study of online practices by the 50+ crowd.

Good news: 40% of 50+ internet users consider themselves extremely or very comfortable using the internet. We’ll make online donors out of them yet!

And 27% use social media sites (many learning about such sites from children or grandchildren). However, reflecting their almost genetic preference for print media, when it comes to following the news (a driver of giving, at least in the cause sector), only about 36% look for online sources, and of those 66% chiefly go to the sites of traditional media (cable news, newspaper and magazine sites).


Often groups complain that the online strategies are not a good fit for thier older membership. It is great to see AARP teaching the rest of us how to most successfully engage thier membership and give us real data on what works with that audience and the trends there.

Annie Leonard tells the Story of Stuff. She also describes dependence on networks.

In case it has been a few months since your last peek at the let me continue to encourage you to think about the way is an asset for an entire network of activists.

Watch the interview below to hear about the ways Annie by design has "pushed the power to organize" out to others. 

The resources that Story of Stuff team creates, the stories Annie tells, and the clarity to the vision for so many partners continues to add capacity to a network of allies. Annie's effort is a great example of the ways they are designing to be a network services to a cause. She talks a bit about it as well in the video. 

The story behind 'The Story of Stuff' from JD Lasica on Vimeo.


Museum 2.0: One-Pager: A Simple Alternative to Messy Websites

This must be the new design guide for campaigns, micro-sites and small nonprofits.

Design your site to be super clear, simple and easy maintain. Cut, cut and cut again to to present a single set of value to user of the site and reduce need to keep the content fresh.  A simple site increases value to the user and reduces your headaches.   

If you are going to have a run on and long blog like this go ahead but really take pride in the brainstorming and note space. :)

SO WHAT are the ESSENTIALS of your SITE?

  1. One hook with the user. (emotional is good. timely is good)
  2. A clear promise and a clear ask. (what is the trade?)
  3. A signup form to stay connected to people with zip and social spread tools. 
  4. Basic learn more link. 
  5. Blog and transparency too. 
     image from

One-Pager prioritizes simplicity--both for library patrons who use it and for librarians who manage it. One-Pager isn't meant for institutions with a team of web developers; instead, it's designed for library systems that have little to no capacity to write and design online content. The argument is that instead of offering inadequate, unclear, or poorly-designed online services, it's better to offer users something clear, attractive, and easy to maintain. The site is optimized for speedy use on mobile devices as well as standard web browsers. It forces librarians to pare down their content... like it or not.



Revolutions are not made: they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. Welcome the Age of the Low Motivation Revolutions

Revolutions are not made: they come. A revolution is as natural a growth as an oak. - Wendell Phillips

The basic equations that are at play are the same in each revolution.

Motivation + Network Capacity = Revolution Potential

We can see that the motivation for change builds from hope and despair. Motivation is inspired by crack downs. Motivation emerges from seeing injustice.  The economic pain motivates people as a does history of police abuse. Motivation comes from empathy and fear as well as belief in success.

Network capacity is the only global virus leaking into every corner of humanity on the backs of cellphones, cheap processing power, commerce and information flows.

Network capacity is the ability for the stories to circulate and networks to coordinate. Network capacity includes a common stories, common language, common vision to throw off the oppression. Network capacity is the ability to share, communicate, coordinate and swarm. Network capacity is the ability to see in real time what works in another country or across town. Network capacity is the ability to adapt quickly. Network capacity is the backbone of solidarity and taking actions with other and working together.

As the world pours “free” network capacity onto populations we are arguably not just entering the age of networks but the age of low motivation revolutions.

What does this mean?

  1. Small bands of really motivated people will connect and trigger revolutions.
  2. Large bands of just very mildly pissed off people will connect and trigger revolutions.
  3. Because revolutions take less motivation we will need to do more to keep people happy or we will endure rapid destabilization.
  4. The longer people suppress connections to the free network  services the more traumatic change will be  once the motivated get networked.

Leading in the age of revolutions is 1 part motivation and 1 part network builder.  If you have a motivated public throw more network capacity on them to create change. It is increasingly important to know what makes a network functional and to understand the mechanics of networks. Hope we can help.

Flash Mob Gone Wrong. What if?

Flashmob gone wrong.





This is interesting food for thought  in 5:40 seconds.  We know there have been flash mobs that lead to vandalism and muggings.  We have seen international networks work to rescue people or foster hate crimes. We need to be thinking about the shifting ways people behave , the way people consume information and the complete distortion of time and scale that networks operate on.   How does this change your thinking at the US State Department? How does this change the way you organize as a teacher in Wisconsin?  What does this online and offline mixing mean to groups with 10,000 followers and friends? How do you convert attention to action? How is that engagement ladder changing in a world of flashmobs gone wrong?

Engagement Unpacked and Debated

Gideon Rosenblatt is enjoying “retirement” digging into some important concepts that feed social change.  His riffs are must read content for serious organizers (online and on land). I like his focus on teasing apart the spectrum of “engagement”. I love his work.  I enjoy debating with him via blog post to sharpen my thinking and figure out what he is saying.  These posts are thought provoking. 

Engagement is important to define. However, I don’t think I like the way it is defined here. I don’t like the way he set up the word engagement to be tied to productivity. I also react negatively to the idea that  to the idea …

“The art of engagement centers on knowing when to invest in relationship building and when to tap relationships to get work done.”

In this framework, you are not engaged if you are in a relationship (connection of ideas and discussion) and you are not engaged if you are doing weekly tasks for someone.  It is only engagement by connecting the relationship to tasks.Or as the Church used to say “faith without works is dead”

“Engagement is what brings tasks and relationships together. Engagement is the process of building relationships with people and putting those relationships to work to accomplish some goal.”

In this model, unless we use some really loose definitions of task and relationship then solidarity, alliance, alignment and accompaniment are not engagement. Learning from another (is that a task or transactional?) This definition makes “issue engagement” focus on a defined set of relationships and tasks.  I don’t think that is consistent with my experience.

Getting work done with other people is hard. Getting work done by people that you don’t pay is harder. In this framework, engagement is a proxy for making people work because they like you. Again, I disagree.

It is hard to work with people when you don’t pay them. However, there are lots of reasons for failure outside the relationship/task balance. When you are not paying them, they need to either like the work (you don’t matter) or they like you, or they expect rewards in the future, or the do it because they hate who you are also working against. Are you “engaged” with other people when you are at a rally together but don’t know each other?

Finally, this framework of engagement also seems makes engagement “scarce”.  I am struck that engagement in the model is not regenerative. You “discharge” relationship points to get things done and when you are “broke” of relationships you have no capacity to get tasks done together and still be “engaged”.

Engagement is about promise and entanglement. Like one of captains on Star Trek “Engage”. Engagement comes from the “engagement period”. The groups that are great at engagement are the groups that know how to create promise. These groups entangle their allies together close and far with attention and listening and excitement.  Those that excel at engagement often align people into action but it is important to unpack and tease farther apart failure to effectively “work” an engaged public in a productive direction and the failure to be successful at engagement. 

If you want to build engagement create promise and entangle with your audience (listening, work, learning, accompaniment, campaigns, actions, etc). If you want the engaged group to be productive empower your network leaders to get things done, and invest in the network capacity of the engaged group to share, collaborate, adapt, and act collectively.


Cultures get what they celebrate!

Clay is on fire. Cultures get what they celebrate! What does your campaign and movement celebrate?  Are you setting up a movement culture that celebrates sharing, collaboration, collective action and trust? Or are you celebrating donations, staff size, media attention and individual credit? What are the metrics you celebrate in movement building? Are those different than when you focus on legislative outcomes?

There are tons of good riffs in his talk and book. Ways we network the movement will directly position (or not position) civic change leaders to leverage these dynamics.  It never happens by accident. In each case it took leaders to build the network, support the network and drive the network to produce.  Usually, they were different leaders and each had different skills and focus.

How to lure people to your startup with analytics

If you are interested in that approach, here's a couple of tips. First, try to show users something as soon as possible. In an ideal world they arrive at your page and immediately see a graph that tells them something interesting about themselves or something they relate too. Typically this isn't achievable, but at the very least have a single step where they enter an email address, twitter name, etc and then within a few seconds get some information. You should also show an example of what they will get on the landing page. These techniques reduced my bounce rate massively, never overestimate people's patience, you constantly need to be convincing them to spend time navigating your site.

The second key is presenting your statistics in an actionable way. If you can not only tell a user something interesting, but cause them to do something based on that information, then your chances of a repeat visit shoot way up. Feedburner has an 'Optimize' tab that guides you through ways of increasing your traffic. I found that changing from just showing your most-frequently-contacted friends to sending a report of the people you used to talk to and haven't for a while ('Losing touch report') and giving them a link to email each person alongside the list turned it from an 'oh, that's nice' to a must-have.


This is smart.

Your data strategy must a.) provide value to the user immediately. b.) data and visualizations in an actionable way.

In an advocacy context, I would suggest that good data visualizations create a common focus point (inspire discussion), set a common language (visually based on what data you display) and give them options to engage each other because of common or opposing understandings of the data.  

Oil in the Gulf Widget

I like these tools to help tell the story. This widget misses a few important tweaks that would make it more valuable for both the user and PBS.

1. Sign up for updates on this story. (Name recruitment for PBS). Thank you emails should have links to charities and actions in them.

2. Donate to news coverage of the gulf coast spill. (short video talking about the cost of covering the story)

3.  The logo link to news hour should be all the Gulf spill coverage NOT the homepage.

4. Tell your story of the Gulf like 

5. Watch the Mos Def the Gulf Aid track, 'Ain't My Fault.'

 Oil in the Gulf.

Social Media Campaigns are Data Driven

9 Tips on How To Run (And Not Run) Social Media Campaigns

This is an interesting look into the role data plays in scaling social listening and being attentive to those that you are interested in sustaining the conversations.

View more presentations from Rapleaf.

A Network Haiku. Palin and Discovery. Dark Clouds. Boo. Boo.

Here is an interesting contest of user voice. It generated 1600 Haiku's about Palin getting a million dollars from Discovery. I wonder if twitter and txt culture makes for better Haiku contest?

We thought Discovery Communications' decision to give Sarah Palin a "nature" documentary series about the state of Alaska with a paycheck of a cool $1 million per episode deserved a tongue-lashing.

So we invited you to join us in delivering Discovery an unconventional response. And we've received an overwhelming response, with more than 1,600 haiku submitted by you in just the last week!

Now, we need you to vote for the top haiku.

Friends of the Earth staff have culled through thousands of your haiku to bring you the best of the best. These haiku help show how ridiculous the notion of a Palin "nature" show is.


Pug Meetups around the world. Why?

This is a social club for pugs & their humans! We love our pugs- all ages, all kinds and we want to meet you and yours.

The club holds monthly meetups that generally fall on the first Saturday of every month (barring holidays) at Austin local dog parks. We are usually at Bull Creek, but in the winter months we take field trips to other local dog parks! We also host bigger events like The Great PUGkin Fest, a halloween costume contest for pugs in October, the Valentines Day PUG Tuneup in February, the Spring Luau in April and the PUGtucky Derby in May. Some of these are fundraisers for pug rescue, and some of these are just events held to play some games, laugh at our pugs and have a good time.

We would love for you to come out and join us- after all, we are all pug people!


They want to talk to each other. They use technology to cluster. Coordination takes little cost.

What things have they done that have nothing to do with Pugs? Are they green space advocates?  Did they raise money for a disaster? Discuss politics? March at a Tea Party? Is there a strict "pug only" discussion moderation or is this an example of something much more complex?

Saving Money With Smart Research and Smarter Defaults

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness have articulated the benefits of default choices in encouraging positive behavior for workers and organizations. Though those books talk about default choices in the context of retirement choices for workers, the key lesson that's been learned is how efficiencies can be gained simply by offering smart defaults.


What are the defaults that you have set the wrong way at your organization?   What does making it easy mean in the world of activism?

Orgs with email list of under 10,000 grew online revenue by 26% YEAH!

Great service from Convio for sharing this summary and Michael Stein for his work.

There are some really interesting trends in here. What do they tell us about the future?  How do these trends shape the movement? 

  • Online giving grew 14 percent. 69 percent of organizations raised more in 2009 than 2008, while 31 percent saw declines in their online fundraising.
  • 61 percent of all organizations saw their average gift drop in 2009.
  • The average online gift was $80.81,
  • the online revenue per usable email address in 2009 was $11.68.
  • Small organizations grew fastest. Organizations with fewer than 10,000 email addresses on file grew online revenue by 26 percent, and gifts by 32 percent.
  • Email files continued to grow strongly. The total email file grew 27 percent in 2009 to 39,100 constituents.
  • The open rate for email fundraising appeals was 19%.  The click-through rate was 1.7%, down from 2% in 2008.  The overall performance of online fundraising appeals was 0.15%, a slight rise from the year before.
  • Web traffic growth continued for most, but at a slower rate. 60 percent of organizations grew their website traffic from 2008 to 2009. Web traffic growth in 2009 was in the single digits at 6 percent compared with double digit growth seen in previous years.
  • Web traffic was strongly correlated with email file growth. 38 percent of an organization’s success building large email files could be directly attributed to the amount of traffic to the organization’s website.
  • Registration rates dropped. The rate at which organizations converted website visitors to their email file declined to 2.12 percent in 2009.
  • Constituents were more reluctant to open emails and click-through. While open rates for both fundraising appeals and newsletters remained around 20 percent, the click-through rates for both types of online communication declined in 2009.
  • About 7% of online activists also donated money online to the organization they took action with.  Conversely, 8% of online donors also took an online advocacy action with the same organization.


Growth in small orgs. Growth in those that invest in generating web traffic. Growth in depth of connections with the membership. 

Traffic Flow by Data Points: Look at the pulse of a city.

What is the data you want to see? What is the traffic and transactions in your work that reveal patterns? What do you learn from this as a Taxi driver? Police? Mugger?

What data services and "maps" should we be thinking about as a movement that will inform our organizers, policy people, communications staff and fundraisers? 

What is going on at 3am on Friday?

The Other Side of Network Success. Culture of Adoption

I just read an interesting paper called measuring user influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy (Miyung Cha , Hamid Hadadi , and Franbrecco Benevito )

The most interesting thing in the article was the theory that the strength of influentials came from two areas...

1. The interpersonal relationship among users. (Which is consistent with work and planning we do in Network-Centric Advocacy)

2. The readiness of society to adopt innovation. (Which is not something I have really focused on in the past)

The first idea is not radical, the idea that relationships among users really dictate the influence of each user. But the second concept, that the "readiness of the society to adopt innovation" is a large driver of the power of influentials, is something worth thinking more about.

You could be the most connected person among a group of stubborn and entrenched individuals and you will have very little influence. You could be a very loosely connected leader among a group of early adaptors and you will have great influence.

This begs the idea of what activities can you do consistently to enhance your networks willingness to adopt innovation. What are the steps you need to plan to drive up the influence of leaders?

Not only do you have to build relationships among the users, but you have to drive up the readiness of the users within that network to adopt to change. Any change.

Network builders must consistently feed this readiness to adapt innovation so that leadership can emerge and leaders and new ideas hold more sway over the overall network.

Do You Care about Communicating with Each Other?

I was asking the twitterverse about the use of online tools (yammer) and adoption rates and Howard Rheingold flipped back this nugget. 

Latest: RT @hrheingold: "Success depends on ppl involved care about communicating w/ each other" great metric for network building too. via

I am inspired to think about lots of the work of network building and creating advocacy networks.  Is it possible to nudge people to care about each other?  What does that mean? Communicating involves exchanges and listening. It involves connection and sharing of ideas and information.

 If you are building a network how do you make it easy to make people "care about communicating with each other"? 

To varying degrees, face to face, meetings, community spaces, get people involved because they lower the "care" threshold among people that might not normally care to communicate with each other. If it takes little effort then I only need to care a little to communicate. If it takes lots of effort to communicate, then I need to care lots.

Do emails, twitter, facebook, status updates etc create "care"?  Do they lower the threshold so much that they are so easy to use that people that don't normally communicate start to chatter? Does that chatter and exchange mean that they "care"? Yes. It does in some way.  

So, the question for the network strategists is to both make it easy to communicate AND increase the reasons that people would want to communicate.  Network building is a mix of building the participants (or leveraging the participants) care for each other  and decreasing the barriers to communication.

To look at the challenges this way, lets unpack how the seven elements of network building fit into those 2 challenges...

Build the participants care for each other...

  • show them how they SHARE VISION
  • build SOCIAL TIES
  • LEADERSHIP to weave ties

Decrease the barriers to communication...

  • support a dense COMMUNICATIONS GRID
  • spread a COMMON LANGUAGE
  • capture and share network FEEDBACK
  • LEADERSHIP to maintain the network infrastructure and train participants.

The other network elements complement the network once it is communicating and tied together...

  • SHARED RESOURCES to get things done.
  • LEADERSHIP to drive direction 
Network success depends on getting people to care deeply about communicating, collaborating and acting together with each other. It depends on developing an intentional strategy to increasing "care".

by not having "contol" of brand maybe we become better brands rather than better at spin.

This is an interesting. I like the riff on transparency and the clash that transparency will inspire us to be better as reviewers, readers and brands.  This transparency vs. control and history and trends vs. spin is interesting. 

Echo Creator Khris Loux on the Ties That Bind the Real-Time Web from ReadWriteWeb on Vimeo.

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

Human Nature Doesn't Change: Human Behavior Does.

This is a good presentation. Great line and introduction to the shifts in technology producing changes in behavior.  The goal of human nature is hard wired in people.  Somewhere in our bipedal mammalian evolution, we picked up socializing and connecting with each other as a species characteristic. 

The real evolution of the internet is not about the content, marketing, philanthropy, product placement, etc. etc.  The core of the network is connecting people to learn and share with each other, to collaborate, to evolve and to be.   Our survival in the ecosystem is dependent on communication and collaboration, it always has been and now it is just scaling with the people on the planet.

People increasingly turn online to find people who know, people to care, and people to accompany them while they are experiencing life. Those connections are evolving human behavior to a scale and tempo that is not comfortable for many.   What if people do get more value and reward from 5000 friendsters than 5 close friends?  What if "fame" online is as self-rewarding as fame offline?

The buzz about the collapse of social fabric is wrong. The "wisdom of the crowd", "wisdom of the market"  suggests that people are making daily choices all the time to connect via phone, email, FB, etc. about every topic and covering the entire range of human experience.  The experiences are all different but also very much the same. 

How does technology scale the best and worst of human nature?

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.   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)?

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. and now his lists…


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

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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Benkler Channel: Remove the Planner without removing the capacity to plan.

Benkler is amazing.  He says things that most of us spend time trying to argue. Complexity and Reach make planning impossible. (BOOM) It always has been but now it is more clear and more important to accept (BOOM). (min 20+...he is on fire)

This is a really rich talk with important nods to the role of motivated people, fairness and group identity in these network models. I see his work as much less related to workplace economics and more related to advocacy and social planning.

I still see the reflection of the seven elements of network functionality in his work. I really like the idea that common language and negotiating "fairness" in the network are linked.

"Life is to complex to settle on the simple model".  He is going after the economic tracking and design model for assessing output capacity and deviation without a centralized planner. Congratulations!  

The rest of us should be working on this in climate change work, agriculture policy, health reform, and the rest of the progressive agenda.